March Madness: North Carolina tops Duke, will meet Kansas in title game

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North Carolina edged rival Duke 81-77 in a Final Four game Saturday in New Orleans to advance to Monday’s men’s basketball national final, in which they’ll meet top-seeded Kansas.

Sophomore guard Caleb Love scored a game-high 27 points, including a dagger 3-pointer with 28 seconds remaining, in the Tar Heels’ win at the Caesars Superdome.

“This has been a group of perseverance, toughness and resiliency,” Tar Heels coach Hubert Davis told TBS in a postgame interview.

“This group is so together. I’m just so proud of them.”
The Blue Devils used their size early on to dominate inside, outscoring the Tar Heels 26-14 in the paint in the first half. They also outscored the Tar Heels 14-0 in first-half bench points for a 37-34 edge at halftime.

The Blue Devils scored the first four points of the second half, but the Tar Heels responded with an 13-0 run to take a 47-41 lead. The Blue Devils later answered with a 10-2 run to take back the lead midway through the second half.

The lead shifted hands several more times down the stretch, but Davis sank two free throws for a 75-74 Tar Heels lead with 1:01 remaining and his team never trailed again.

The first-ever tournament meeting between the rivals featured 18 lead changes. The No. 8 Tar Heels (29-9) outshot the No. 2 Blue Devils (32-7) 42.2% to 41.7% and held a 50-41 edge in rebounds.

Love totaled 21 points over the final 20 minutes. Tar Heels forward Armando Bacot posted 11 points and 21 rebounds. Guard R.J. Davis scored 18 points for the Tar Heels.

“I wanted it bad, playing Duke with a chance to get to the National Championship,” Love said. “I’m blessed and glad to be with my teammates.”

 

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