NCAA Tournament Men’s Final Four Semi Finals: Coach K’s 42-year career ends in his 17th Final Four as Duke loses to North Carolina in an 81-77 thriller


NEW ORLEANS – No. 2-seeded Duke held a one-point lead with just over a minute left, but a pair of RJ Davis free throws followed by a three-pointer by Caleb Love lifted No. 8-seed North Carolina over the Blue Devils, 81-77, Saturday night in the national semifinal at the Caesars Superdome.

Duke, which won the program’s 20th ACC regular season title and advanced to its 17th Final Four, ends its season with a 32-7 record. Saturday’s game was the final in head coach Mike Krzyzewski‘s legendary career. Coach K retires with a college basketball-record 1,202 wins, including a record 101 in the NCAA Tournament.

The Blue Devils and Tar Heels (29-9) went back-and-forth in front of a Superdome crowd of 70,602. The game featured 12 ties and 18 lead changes, with the outcome hanging in the balance until the final buzzer.

“We would have liked to have been on the other side of it, but I’m proud of what my guys have done,” said Krzyzewski. “And they’ve been an amazing group for me. The youngest team I’ve coached. And we had our chances tonight. And they made a couple more plays than we did. But our guys played their hearts out. But I’m proud of them. I love my team. And my staff loves them. And they’ve been just a joy for me to coach.”

Freshman Paolo Banchero led the Blue Devils with 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting to go with 10 rebounds. His classmate Trevor Keels added 19, including a clutch three with 2:07 left that put Duke ahead by one.

The ensuing two possessions were action-packed, starting with a Brady Manek triple from the corner that reclaimed the lead for the Tar Heels. Wendell Moore Jr., answered on the other end with a three-pointer of his own, making it 74-73 at the 1:20 mark. Carolina would close the game on an 11-3 run, highlighted by Love’s dagger three.

Love paced North Carolina with a game-high 28 points – 22 coming in the second half. Davis put up 18, and center Armando Bacot posted 11 points with 21 rebounds, largely contributing to 22 second-chance points for UNC.

Moore had 10 points and eight boards for the Blue Devils. Sophomore Mark Williams and graduate student Theo John, who were effective in the paint offensively, were both plagued by foul trouble early in the second half.



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