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Duke-UNC Rivalry Delivers Thrilling Spectacle for Fans


Electric. Energizing. Enthusiastic. Three words describe the greatest rivalry in college basketball–North Carolina vs. Duke. The atmosphere at The Smith Center last Saturday night was out of this world, and the crowd was hanging on to every moment of the action.

Saturday's game was the 100th anniversary of the rivalry, and UNC entered it with a 138–113 series lead. For most fans who attend these games, it's the highlight of the season.

Jim Copeland, the former associate dean of UNC's School of Medicine, shared his experiences from the matchups he's seen over the years.

"It's bedlam! The week leading up to it, is bedlam. The night in the Smith Center is so loud you can hardly hear yourself think."

The arena was so loud and crazy. Students were cheering their hearts out and singing along when the band played UNC's fight song "I'm a Tarheel Born." Majority of the crowd was dressed head to toe in Carolina blue, and many students wore UNC legend Michael Jordan's No. 23 jersey. A group of students even painted their bodies blue to spell out "Carolina."

Duke fan Kelly Powers celebrated her 50th birthday by attending the rivalry game. She's followed the Blue Devils for over 20 years and said the game is "always unpredictable."

"You don't know who is going to win. Even though Duke is ranked this year and North Carolina is not, it's still anyone's game."

The fans were hyped up throughout the entire game. Students were standing and cheering their hearts out after every point was scored by their favorite team. Carolina fans have not had many wins to cheer for this season. The Tar Heels entered Saturday's game with a 10–13 record. Despite their previous struggles, they led almost the entire night. 

However, Duke made a historic comeback win with two buzzer beaters in the same game. When Vernon Carey fouled out with half of the 2nd quarter remaining, the Blue Devils had to come together and find a way to win. Tre Jones hit a buzzer beater at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime, and the Dean Dome fell silent. With only two seconds left in overtime, Wendel Moore Jr. made the game-winning shot to defeat UNC 98–96. Crushed Tar Heels fans reacted in a deafening silence.

Amid his disappointment over the loss, UNC forward Armando Bacot shared how fun and special it is to play in this rivalry. 

"It was crazy. It was like nothing I had ever played in," he said. "The fans were all in it. It was a great game. Probably the best game I have ever played in."

Duke's Coach K compared Saturday's game to previous ones he has coached. 

"We are both blessed with amazing fan bases that support our teams in a crazy manner. This is as tough a place for us to play in, and I would hope for them that we are as tough a place for them to play in. I think the fans and the locations are two of the reasons why it's one of the most storied rivalries."

The intensity and energy between these two teams is like nothing else in college basketball, and UNC-Duke is arguably the greatest rivalry in college sports. The enthusiasm of the fans will carry both teams all the way to their next matchup on March 7 at Duke's legendary Cameron Indoor Stadium.