Back in November, I gave you the five most memorable games of head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s tenure with the Blue Devils. As Duke and North Carolina prepare for their 234th meeting on the hardwood Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium, let’s take a look back at some of the top moments in the rivalry’s history that have taken place here on the Blue Devils’ side of Tobacco Road.
5. February 24, 1979—DUKE 47, Carolina 40
This game gets notice for the absurdity of the 7-0 halftime score, which prompted one of the more famous quotes in the rivalry’s history. The game was Jim Spanarkel’s senior night in Durham, and in the first half North Carolina head coach Dean Smith essentially refused to play against the Spanarkel-anchored zone defense of the No. 6 Blue Devils. He ordered his team to retreat into the ‘four corners’ offense, where they proceeded to pass the ball around the perimeter for up to twelve minutes at a time in the pre-shot clock era. The shots the No. 4 Tar Heels did take in the first half didn’t even manage to hit the rim, prompting the students at Cameron Indoor Stadium to use the “AIR-BALL” chant for the first time. Things opened up in the second half with both teams scoring 40 points, but Duke coach Bill Foster couldn’t help but take a jab at Smith the next day, saying, “I thought Naismith invented basketball, not Dean Smith.”
4. March 6, 2010—DUKE 82, Carolina 50
The last time College GameDay came to Durham, the soon-to-be national champion Blue Devils treated the national audience to the largest margin of victory in the rivalry’s history. Duke’s victory was so lopsided, the No. 4 Blue Devils outscored Carolina’s total output with 53 points in the first half. The ‘Big Three’ of Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith each scored 20 or more points, and Brian Zoubek pulled down 13 rebounds in the final home game for Scheyer, Zoubek and Lance Thomas. One month later, the benches burned again.
3. February 28, 1981—DUKE 66, Carolina 65 (OT)
The first time head coach Mike Krzyzewski faced the No. 11 Tar Heels in Durham was senior night for the Blue Devils’ Gene Banks, who threw roses to the crowd during player introductions. Coming out of a timeout, down two, with two seconds remaining, Banks nailed a jumper at the top of the key to send the game to overtime. Banks then scored the game-winning layup off an offensive rebound in the closing seconds of the extra period to snatch Krzyzewski his first victory over Dean Smith and North Carolina.
2. February 4, 1961—DUKE 81, Carolina 77
Cited as the game that sparked a new level of hatred between the two schools, the No. 4 Blue Devils’ victory was overshadowed by a brawl led by Duke star Art Heyman. As the Tar Heels’ Larry Brown drove baseline, trailing by 5 in the waning seconds, and was grabbed by Heyman as he attempted to shoot. Brown immediately went after Heyman fists-first, and several other North Carolina players, including Donnie Walsh and Doug Moe, joined in. Heyman was ejected but fouled out on the play anyway, and Brown was surprisingly allowed to continue the game and shoot his free throws—though the Blue Devils held on to beat the No. 5 Tar Heels. Ultimately, the fight led to the departure of North Carolina coach Frank McGuire and the promotion of his young assistant—Dean Smith. The game was such a monumental event in the rivalry that Art Chansky spends an entire chapter on the fight and events leading up to it in his book, Blue Blood.
1. February 28, 1998—DUKE 77, Carolina 75
Steve Wojciechowski’s senior day pitted the No. 1 Blue Devils against the No. 3 Tar Heels. Freshman Elton Brand had just made a surprising return from a foot injury and scored 16 points while carrying Duke back from a 17-point deficit in the second half. The victory was Krzyzewski’s 500th as a head coach, and produced one of the most notable images in Duke Basketball history, as Wojciechowski and Krzyzewski embraced after the game.