Fans flood Franklin Street as UNC beats Duke at the Final Four
One of the biggest showdowns in men’s college basketball is in the history books.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill beat Duke University on Saturday night at the Final Four in New Orleans, making it the last game for legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Blue Devils.
Carolina Tar Heel fans flooded downtown Chapel Hill after the big 81-77 win over Duke. There were parties on every corner with fans chanting: “Tar! Heels! Tar! Heels! Tar! Heels! Tar! Heels!”
One of the loudest fans was UNC freshman Audrey Xie, who was about to lose her voice from cheering so hard.
“It was so close and yet, we did so well,” Xie said.
Caleb Love’s three-pointer with seconds left in the game solidified UNC’s win.
“I couldn’t do it without my guys and my coaches. And so, I give all my credit to them,” Love said after he scored a game-high 28 points. “They put me in position. It was a team effort. And so, one game away from a national championship, what else can you say.”
This is Hubert Davis’ first year as UNC’s head basketball coach. He played in a Final Four as a Tar Heels’ player in 1991 under Dean Smith.
Davis said his team deserves to celebrate.
“All I’m thinking about are these kids, these players,” Davis said. “And I told them that – how happy I am that I get a front row seat… For them to go through this season and go through these experiences. It’s a blessing for me, it’s a privilege, it’s an honor. Those are the things I’m thinking about.”
The hype surrounding this showdown was enormous. Earlier this week, Gov. Roy Cooper proclaimed North Carolina the “Center of the College Basketball Universe.”
And in all these years that the UNC and Duke men have made it to the NCAA Tournament, they had never played each other in the postseason, until Saturday.
“And tonight was a battle,” Krzyzewski said. “I mean it was a game that, the winner was going to be joyous and the loser was going to be in agony.”
Krzyzewski – the 75-year-old Hall of Fame coach for Duke – addressed how emotional his team was after this loss. He knows they wanted to win for him, his last season and his last game as the leader of the Blue Devils.
“I wanted my seasons to end where my team was either crying tears of joy or tears of sorrow, because then you knew that they gave everything,” Krzyzewski said. “And I had a locker room filled with guys who were crying.”
“There were also tears at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Duke’s campus in Durham, where thousands of students watched the game on a huge screen. And then they silently walked outside, huddling in groups to talk. One of them was Chloe Abi Zeid Daou, a graduate student at Duke.
“To think about the fact that Coach K’s final moment doesn’t define his legacy. Look at me writing an essay,” she said. “It sucks, but I mean, his career was great. So, that’s something to celebrate, I guess.”
Monday night, Carolina will see if it can go all the way, when they face the University of Kansas in the championship game.