Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS
Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS

ACC champ to be determined in season’s final week

The game of the week definitely lived up to high expectations. This year’s playing of Duke-North Carolina was one for the ages, as the two blue bloods put on a back and forth show for the entire nation to enjoy last Wednesday night.

Taking place in the Dean Dome, UNC looked to further enhance their standing in the eyes of the NCAA tournament committee as a potential No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament next month.

The Tar Heels had all the momentum going into this game, and it was only going to get sweeter as they were taking on their fiercest rival, Duke, possibly the worst Blue Devil basketball team in years.

Coach K and his Blue Devils were finally back in the top 25 after being booted only several weeks earlier, and they were still without veteran Amile Jefferson.

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As expected, the first half was an offensive barn burner, as the Tarheels took a 46-42 lead into the halftime. While the lead might’ve been a little small for some UNC fans, it wasn’t surprising as it’s expected that rivalry games are always close — no matter the circumstances.

As the second half got underway, UNC pulled ahead by nine, but Duke answered and pulled the game close to a single possession. This trend continued as it looked, several times, as if Carolina was going to finally pull away and close the game out, especially after Duke senior guard Matt Jones’ ankle injury left the Blue Devils with  only six players Coach K could utilize.

But it never happened, Duke answered UNC’s runs every single time. Star sophomore guard Grayson Allen hit two free throws with a minute left to put the Blue Devils up 74-73, and from there, Duke never looked back.

Against all odds, Duke stole this one from right under the nose of their fiercest rival in their own stadium. Duke was led by the usual duo of Allen and Brandon Ingram, who had 23 and 20 points respectively, but perhaps Mason Plumlee played the biggest role of any Duke player last Wednesday night. Having to fill in for Jefferson and try to defend the paint against perhaps the most talented frontcourt player in America Brice Johnson, Plumlee was the key to Duke’s win.

Johnson, scoring most of his points in the first half, was all but quiet in the last five minutes of crucial game play. North Carolina will have its shot at revenge as the teams are set to do battle again on March 5 in Durham, N.C., at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The player of the week from this past week of play is Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame. In his efforts to keep his Clemson Tigers on the NCAA Tournament bubble, the junior had 23 points and four rebounds against Boston College on Wednesday, he had 33 points and eight rebounds against NC State on Saturday.

While it won’t mean much if the Tigers don’t make it to the tournament, Blossomgame is putting together a quietly spectacular season thus far. Besides the impending conference tournament, the only real potential resume building game Clemson has left is against UVA on March 1. It will take a giant performance from Blossomgame to win that one.

If Clemson can get hot and in fact make the field of 68, that would be a huge positive for the ACC as the conference is close to having the most tournament teams ever in a single season.

A game to look forward to for the upcoming week is No. 5 North Carolina against No. 7 Virginia taking place this Saturday in Charlottesville, Va.

This game will ultimately decide who wins the regular season title as well as who gets the number one seed in the conference tournament.

Within the game, look for the low post matchup of Brice Johnson against Anthony Gill as both players are two of the best power forwards in the nation.

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