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The Depot’s Favorite UNC-Duke Moments

Posted on Mar 6, 2015 by

You can tell a lot about a person when you ask what their favorite sports memory is. Sometimes, it relates to the people they spent that experience with, where they spent said experience, or what was happening in their lives when it occurred (some people will respond that they don’t watch sports, which is equally telling). Undoubtedly, the anecdote will provide you an interesting, sometimes intimate, look into their life.

We here at Tar Heel Depot (and some of our friends from the greater UNC community at large) thought it would be an interesting opportunity to share our favorite UNC-Duke memories before the big game on Saturday and what made them so special for us. Michael Hardison, Jones Angell, Brett Thompson, Adam Lucas, John Tobben, Sherrell McMillan, and Bryan Ives have contributed below. 

Feel free to share your beloved UNC-Duke memories in the comments; we’d love to hear your favorites.


Michael Hardison, Tar Heel Depot Contributor

February 20th, 2014

I can say without embellishment that the Duke game in February of my senior year isn’t just my happiest sports memory, but one of my favorite ever.

I’ve lost count the number of games I’ve stood the first few rows of the risers in the Smith Center throughout my undergraduate career. I can tell you about my first experience (against Kentucky in December, 2010), my first Duke game (UNC’s ACC-clinching victory in March, 2011), and a slew of other memorable ones (several NC State games, an upset of Wisconsin in the ACC-B1G Challenge, etc.), but heading into my last UNC-Duke game, I knew that it was arguably bigger than any game I had attended at Carolina.

Unfortunately, UNC’s ticket lottery dealt me a Phase 3 ticket–not terrible, but not one someone accustomed to the risers could accept. I knew that if I was going to make this game special, I had to find a way to acquire a Phase 1. So I turned to social media, I texted half the senior class, and I publicly pleaded for the chance to trade anything for a Phase 1.  I refused to let UNC’s disappointing showing against Duke in 2013 be my last game in-person against the Blue Devils as a student.  With some luck (and the kindness of friends), I traded from a Phase 3 to a Phase 2 and then, from Phase 2 to 1.

The day of the game, I arrived at 12:15 PM for a 9 PM and still had roughly 100 people in front of me. I had fully planned on waiting all day for the game, but as fate would have it, this was the day of North Carolina’s biggest snow storm in years. UNC moved us inside and we continued waiting as the snow built up around us outside. Around 4 PM, the first rumors started swirling of Duke’s unwillingness to travel.

At 5 PM, the Triangle media reported that the game was most likely going to be rescheduled. The students inside, who had been waiting for roughly five hours at that point, still refused to believe it until we heard it from someone we trusted.

At 6 PM, Coach Roy Williams came out and explained that the game wouldn’t occur that evening. Needless to say, we weren’t happy.

Roughly a week later, we lined up again, several hours early and began the wait anew. They honored our spots in line from the first date, but we still ended up waiting another five hours. And it was entirely worth it.

The Tar Heels rallied from a 7-point half-time deficit and ended up pulling away from Duke in the waning minutes of the game. With 25 seconds left, and UNC up 8 points, it fully sunk in that we were going to win “the big one.”  I remember turning to my friend, screaming at the top of my lungs and not hearing anything. When the clock struck zero, we rushed the court.

I remember “Jump Around” coming on. I remember walking up the stairs and turning around to take in the full view of thousands of students in the middle of the Smith Center. I remember scrambling to locate the rest of the friends I came with.  The rest of the night was a blur spent on Franklin Street, singing the alma mater on the tables at He’s Not Here, and generally spending one of the best nights of the year with the people that made my college experience special.  I wouldn’t trade that night for the world.

Video via Bill Collette


Jones Angell, Tar Heel Network Basketball and Football Play-by-Play Announcer

March 4th, 2006

My favorite Carolina/Duke memory as a broadcaster goes back to 2006 when the freshmen class of Bobby Frasor, Marcus Ginyard, Danny Green and Tyler Hansbrough picked up a win on Duke’s senior night in Cameron Indoor Stadium (I was in my first year as a full-time member of the broadcast team with Woody and Eric that year). Duke was No. 1 in the country and the Tar Heels were talented, but very young. Duke was understandably a heavy favorite, but Carolina played a tremendous game and won, 83-76, with the freshmen scoring 55 of the 83 points. I’ll never forget how emotional David Noel, a senior and the team leader that year, was after the game. He told me that freshman class they probably didn’t even understand the magnitude of their victory. Of course, that group wouldn’t lose in Durham in their four years.

February 5th, 1998

As a fan, the 1998 game in Chapel Hill has always been one of my favorites. Duke was No. 1 in the nation and Carolina was No. 2. The Tar Heels, led by Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Shammond Williams and Ed Cota, dominated the game and won 97-73. That was the game which had one of the biggest “what could have been” moments in Carolina history when Cota tried an off-the-backboard alley-oop to Carter. The pass was perfect, but Vince missed the dunk. I’m not sure the Smith Center would have survived if he had made it!

Video via ESPN and bobpowers1


Brett Thompson, Tar Heel Depot Editor

February 20th, 2014

Being one of the youngest (THE youngest?) writers on the site, I’m going more recent with my pick. Until last year, my favorite Carolina/Duke game in my lifetime was the 2011 contest in the Dean Dome (Marshall spin-move, Dexter dunk), but in February 2014, I was #blessed enough to go to the Carolina/Duke game as a freshman. Not just that, but I got to be in the risers for the Carolina victory.

The game itself definitely wouldn’t be described as a technical masterpiece.

For nearly 10 minutes in the second half, each team struggled to mount any offense whatsoever, which built toward a dramatic finish; the Tar Heels got stops, but couldn’t make them count on the offensive end. I’ll never forget Leslie McDonald putting Carolina ahead with a jumper, or Paige hitting on the next possession from nearly the same spot. I’ll never forget Paige saying “nah, I got this y’all,” and hitting his signature crossover/arching layup. I’ll never forget Nate Britt, freshman on a team that struggled from the line, hitting his free throws when it counted the absolute most. And no, I’ll never forget rushing the floor of the Dean E. Smith Center, nearly trampling then-commit Justin Jackson in the process. (Sidenote: If you’re upset about a court storm, get over it. No regrets.) So while most wouldn’t say the 2014 win was the greatest game in rivalry history, it was easily the most special for me.

Video via UNCTarHeelAthletics


Adam Lucas, GoHeels Columnist

March 12th, 1989

The best, angriest, fiercest Carolina-Duke game I ever saw was the 1989 ACC Tournament final. This was before the players were friends and would finish each game with hugs and handshakes. This was when the players hated each other. Like, really hated each other. Carolina had J.R. Reid and King Rice, two players who didn’t exactly make a lot of friends with opponents. Duke had Danny Ferry, who was Christian Laettner before there was Christian Laettner, plus the always-unlikable Quin Snyder. This was also in the era when Dean Smith publicly pointed out (after being angered by a sign at Cameron that read “J.R. can’t Reid”) that the combined SAT scores of Reid and Scott Williams were higher than those of Laettner and Ferry.

The Tar Heels hadn’t won an ACC Tournament title since 1982, or, in my world, since I had been going to the Tournament. I was convinced I was somehow jinxing them. I remember riding the MARTA to the game with my dad on Sunday morning and legitimately discussing whether I should wait outside the Omni in case I was a jinx. However, we eventually decided that leaving me alone outside in downtown Atlanta was not a good idea.

Good thing, because the game was great. Duke had just won at the Smith Center a week earlier. Reid requested to guard Ferry and harassed him into a 6-for-20 game (0-for-7 from three-point range). Reid, who was eventually named the tournament’s MVP, was part of a Carolina team that in hindsight wasn’t overwhelmingly talented–key plays were made in the title game by Steve Bucknall and Kevin Madden, names recent fans might not know–but they were tough when it mattered. Tougher, on this day, than Ferry, Snyder and Duke.

February 5th, 1992

By far, the loudest I’ve ever heard the Smith Center was when Marvin Williams sank the follow shot to complete the comeback against Duke in 2005. It was so loud that I never heard the official’s whistle; I didn’t know a foul had been called on the play until Williams walked to the free throw line.

But my most vivid UNC-Duke memory in the Smith Center remains the Bloody Montross game in 1992. Duke came into the game the defending national champion–and to make matters worse, Carolina had been in Indianapolis and with no way to get out of Indy, I’d been forced to sit at the Hoosier Dome and watch them win the 1991 title (don’t worry, I left well before the end of the game to avoid having to scar my retinas)–and undefeated. Carolina was 15-3, but already had two ACC losses and was still building the chemistry that would eventually lead to the 1993 national title.

As you’ve no doubt seen on ESPN Classic, Eric Montross suffered a cut during the course of the game and had to leave the court. At the arena, we didn’t get that vivid TV shot (no Smith Center video boards in those days, kids) of Montross at the free throw line with blood streaming down his face. We knew he’d been cut, and knew he angrily left the court to go to the locker room. And in 1992, when Montross was cut, we were all cut. The fact that he came back to play, in my mind, proved that Carolina was everything Duke wasn’t. Duke was pretty boy Laettner. Carolina was tough Montross. Duke was foul-mouthed Krzyzewski. Carolina was calm and cool Dean Smith.

Carolina was also, on this night, a 75-73 winner. Dick Vitale had gone on ESPN earlier in the week and predicted a Duke victory. As fans stormed the court–and it was a quick court-rushing, not a “Well, we should probably storm the court since that’s what people do after games like this”–my friend Robert Mooney and I ran to the back of the lower level, which was the TV broadcasting position in that era. We gleefully found Vitale, informed him he had missed the pick…and then asked him to autograph our Carolina blue “Beat Duke” signs that had been handed out at the game. I still have mine, a great reminder of an unforgettable night.

Video via TheACCLive


John Tobben, Tar Heel Depot Contributor

February 11th, 2009

There have been plenty of iconic dunks by Tar Heels against Duke throughout the years: reverse dunks, putback dunks, absolutely-not-a-charge dunks, Sheed dunks, and completely emasculating dunks. Only one dunk, however, completely encapsulates an individual’s career against the Blue Devils — Ty Lawson’s dunk at the end of the 2009 game in Cameron Indoor. Ty Lawson owned Duke. In his three years at Carolina, the Tar Heels lost to the Blue Devils once — in 2008, when Lawson was out with an injured ankle. In 2009, the Heels’ trip to Cameron Indoor carried a special significance: the chance for the class of Hansbrough, Green and Frasor to go a perfect 4-0 at Cameron Indoor. As it turned out Duke wouldn’t go down easy — the Blue Devils held an 8 point lead at halftime.

What followed was a thing of beauty. For the next 20 minutes, Ty Lawson repeatedly attacked the rim with impunity, leaving Duke’s guards in the dust time after time. He scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half of the game, but it was the last two that punctuated his dominance of the Blue Devils. Following a missed three by Nolan Smith, the ball was pitched ahead to Lawson with less than 30 seconds remaining on the clock. Rather than opting to run out the clock, the 5’11” Lawson pushed Carolina over the century mark by rising up to dunk the ball, hanging on the rim just a split-second extra to let the moment linger. Was it the polite thing to do? Probably not, but then again there was nothing polite about what Lawson did to Duke in his three years in Chapel Hill. Other dunks may make the annual highlights, but Lawson’s wound-salting slam will always be my favorite UNC-Duke memory.

Video via ESPN and h00pfever


Sherrell McMillan, InsideCarolina Staff Writer

February 5th, 2004

For me, the moment that best encapsulated the rivalry as a student was Roy Williams’s first game against Duke in 2004.

A talented North Carolina team (one that, with the addition of Marvin Williams as year later would win a National Championship) was out to prove the program was officially “back.” You have to remember, Roy Williams was fresh off consecutive Final Four appearances at Kansas and inherited what many thought was one of the most talented teams in the country.

More than that, 2004’s Duke game in the Smith Center was, in my opinion, when big-time college basketball returned to Chapel Hill after a long absence. Sure there were big wins along the way, but that game was just… different.

A fractured fan base had been reunited the previous spring when Williams announced he was leaving Kansas to return to Carolina. But, the game itself served as a catharsis of sorts after a NIT appearance, the season which shall not be spoken of, Matt Doherty’s troubled tenure over the program, and only two victories over Duke in a four-year span.

The atmosphere was electric. The energy was palpable. Students lined up outside the Smith Center beginning almost 12 hours before the 9 p.m. tip. There were stars in the audience, famous alums on the baseline and the full muscle of ESPN’s hype machine was display.

And UNC fans felt they finally had a chance, because Williams was on the Carolina bench.

The game didn’t disappoint. It went into OT and Carolina nearly upset the No. 1 Blue Devils. The level of hurt many fans felt after the game told me everything I needed to know. For the first time in a long time, UNC expected to beat Duke. That was a big mindset change. UNC would go on to lose two more games to Duke, before Marvin Williams’s tip-in and an 11-0 run ended Duke’s dominance over UNC the next March.

But that game in 2004, to me, was the turning point and probably my favorite (worst) Duke-UNC moment.

Video via TheACCLive


Bryan Ives, Tar Heel Depot Contributor

March 6th, 2005

I’m taking the easy way out because, for me, it’s the only way out when asked to discuss my personal most poignant North Carolina – Duke memory. I’m not alone in this, but the 2005 matchup between the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils in the Smith Center was one I will never forget. Not only because of the classic nature of the game itself but because of what the win meant in the grander scheme of the rivalry.

Everybody knows what happened but I’ll briefly recap. I personally watch the final five minutes of the game at least once every month. In a word, it was glorious, yet not that dissimilar from what transpired in Cameron Indoor a couple weeks ago with the roles reversed. A Lee Melchionni three-pointer gave Duke a 73-64 lead with just over three minutes remaining. A plethora of North Carolina offensive rebounds and five straight Duke missed free throws helped pull the Tar Heels within two with 30 seconds game with Duke in possession of the ball. David Noel, one of the most underrated players in program history, then made one of the most underrated plays in program history by forcing a jump ball giving the Tar Heels the ball back with a chance to tie or take the lead. Raymond Felton managed to get fouled on a floater. With his father looking on from the stands in Doug Collins-esque agony, Felton nailed the first. He missed the second, but what followed made the Smith Center louder than it’s ever been before or since that game. Carolina won.

Marvin Williams was only in Chapel Hill for one season but offered up a national title to go along with one of the most iconic moments in North Carolina-Duke history. Williams liked Chapel Hill so much that he came back every summer for nearly a decade to become the first one-and-done player to earn their college degree.

This game was special because it got the Carolina program over the Duke hump. The Tar Heels had lost 4 straight and 15 of 17 to Duke, including a very frustrating game earlier in the season that left Felton and Rashad McCants staring at each other in disbelief. It was Roy Williams second year back in Chapel Hill and this game put the recent Duke domination behind the Tar Heels, clearing a path for a national title.

Video via CBS and gufccruisers

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