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Machine Gun Funk: Duke and UNC Go Hardcore

You can't really define funky, you just know it when you see it.

You can’t really define funky, you just know it when you see it. I’m not talking about the musty odoriferousness of a Flatbush Avenue dollar van, but that unquantifiable quality of cool, magnetic, hypnotizing brilliance that only a true artist can conjure.

The funk drips from a DJ Premier beat, a Patrice Rushen arrangement or a Vaughan Mason and Crew bassline, as it does on a Dr. J rim-wrecker and Pistol Pete’s college mixtape.

You simply know it when you see it, and the Duke vs North Carolina game offered up some serious Machine Gun Funk with numerous outstanding performances last night.

Yesterday, before tip-off, we examined the greatness of what many consider to be the best rivalry in all of sports, and took a quick look at our Top 3 Moments in the Duke vs North Carolina pantheon.


And as if on cue, last night’s one-point win for Duke added another chapter in the continuing saga.


UNC’s Brice Johnson continues to demolish opponents down low, and his 19 rebounds and 29 points, while connecting on 13 of his 19 shots, practically carried the Tar Heels.  Johnson is the clear frontrunner right now ahead of Duke’s Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram, N.C. State’s “Cat” Barber and UVA’s Malcolm Brogdon in the ACC Player of the Year race

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Duke was supposed to be the shorthanded squad, but other than Justin Jackson’s 13 points, Brice was practically a one-man wrecking crew as the starting backcourt of Joel Berry and Marcus Paige struggled worse than Slumdog Millionaire brothers Jamal and Salim as kids in the Mumbai slums.

Despite losing another starter, Matt Jones, to injury, Duke has made their three-game losing streak earlier this season, which dropped them out of the AP rankings, look more and more like a distant memory. 


Over their toughest four-game stretch of the season, they’ve beaten three ranked teams in Louisville and Virginia, and now North Carolina after last night’s thrilling 74-73 win in Chapel Hill. Despite having no production off the bench once Jones severely sprained his ankle, the Blue Devils rallied from an eight-point deficit to secure their most memorable win of the year. 

Duke’s sensational sophomore Grayson Allen continued his magnificent play with 23 points, seven rebounds and two steals, while the freshmen Brandon Ingram and Luke Kennard caught wreck.


Ingram, who is as versatile as Christian Bale’s acting range, struggled through a 2-for-10 shooting performance in the first half to finish with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

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Kennard, one of the best pure scorers in the country who possesses a sinister jump shot, came off the bench to hit 3 of his 4 three-point attempts while scoring 15 points. Duke took its first lead of the second half, 72-71, on his deep ball conversion with 2:39 to play.

North Carolina controlled the majority of the game, but Duke earned it in the end with their defense. It was classic Tar Heels vs Blue Devils magic. Both teams, at various times, looked like Final Four contenders, which is exactly what you get whenever they play one another. 

It was a game with two separate personalities as UNC outrebounded Duke 24-15 while accumulating 10 offensive boards before halftime. But the second half was a different story with the Tar Heels being limited to 27 points on only 34 percent shooting, including 0-5 on three-pointers.

While Brice Johnson looked around in vain for some backup, Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram tagged UNC like Gennady Golovkin.



Stay tuned for the next round of fireworks from these two when they wrap up the regular season on March 5th before heading towards the greatest of expectations in the postseason. 


Ali

Alejandro “Ali” Danois is the Editor-in-Chief of The Shadow League. His features “Humble Beginnings”, and “Rocky Flop” were mentioned in the Best American Sports Writing Anthology as among the country’s most notable stories of 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Ali is the author of the critically acclaimed book, The Boys of Dunbar, A Story of Love, Hope and Basketball, and he served as a Producer on the ESPN Films 30-for-30 documentary “Baltimore Boys”.

Follow him on twitter @alidanois