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And one: Duke men's basketball falls to North Carolina in the Final Four

Freshman guard Trevor Keels had one of his better games of the season Saturday, but it was not enough as Caleb Love's Tar Heels bested Duke to end its 2021-22 campaign.
Freshman guard Trevor Keels had one of his better games of the season Saturday, but it was not enough as Caleb Love's Tar Heels bested Duke to end its 2021-22 campaign.

For the final time this season, the Blue Zone breaks down the Blue Devils latest game, an 81-77 loss to North Carolina at the Final Four in New Orleans:

One player: Trevor Keels

Coming off the bench this entire tournament run has been an interesting change for the freshman guard. But that did not make his confidence waver remotely. Against North Carolina, Keels finished as the second-highest scorer for Duke, putting up 19 points playing as the sixth man. Keels had some impressive drives into the physical North Carolina defense and hit two 3-pointers as well. He also came away with two rebounds and a steal and he did not turn the ball over in his 29 minutes of play. 

Keels was an integral part of the Duke defense as well, as the team was forced into a small ball lineup for an extended time with bigs Mark Williams and Theo John each racking up fouls early. The adjustments were difficult, but Keels played well on that end, only fouling one time and forcing a turnover. Memorably, it was Keels who got caught on a physical screen before Caleb Love hit the dagger three. It is unfortunate for a defensive player of his caliber to get caught out like that, but it should not take away from the rest of his performance. Keels started the season with a bang coming out big against Kentucky, and it was only right that he would play such a pivotal role in keeping Duke hanging around in the last game of the season, too. 

One word: Love

Starting very slow in the first half, the inconsistent yet dangerously explosive Caleb Love's confidence never wavered. He would continue to toss up shots in the second half, ending the game playing all 40 minutes with an impressive 28 points and the dagger three to end the season for the Blue Devils. This game was vintage Love, a picturesque example of the player he is. No matter what, he will continue to force offense, and it paid off big time for the Tar Heels.

But Caleb is not the only Love that should be talked about. While the game did not end the way any of them planned, there was never a doubt in minds that each Duke player gave it their all. The emotion attached to this game should not be underestimated—and the Blue Devils really did follow through. Each player played tough. They played hard, creating 10 North Carolina turnovers, fought their way to the rim, and never looked afraid to go after a loose ball. This was a group that truly loved the team they played for and coached by someone who loved coaching them, and fans should be excited to see where all of these incredible talents go in the future. 

One stat: 22.7% from 3-point range

It is really hard to win when you have a shooting performance like Duke did against North Carolina. Taking 22 threes and only making five puts much more pressure on your defense, especially when North Carolina was shooting the way it did in the second half. AJ Griffin and Jeremy Roach went a combined 0-for-9 from beyond the arc, something that is hard to overcome. The Blue Devils really struggled to hit from deep, the same type of performance that made hanging around with Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game much more difficult. It is truly unfortunate to lose such an important game, but hanging around the way the Blue Devils did shows just how much this team has grown since the start of the NCAA tournament. But with that, the season comes to a close, and the team must begin again in a new era of Duke men's basketball.

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