Rashad McCants - McCants played perhaps his best game since November by scoring 26 points and grabbing five big rebounds. But his composure, confidence, and ability to get off tough shots around the basket combined with an amazing perimeter stroke was one big reason why t he Tar Heels pulled off the upset. Mat Doherty said he felt McCants would have exploded before the game, as did the freshman from Asheville. He also had a solid defensive effort, and drew a courageous charge late in the first half. (Note, a typo was edited)
Raymond Felton – Another amazing effort by a player with remarkable potential. Felton scored 18 points, handed out 10 assists, grabbed eight rebounds, played solid defense and was a warrior on the floor for the Tar Heels. He responded to the bloody cheek (three stitches) extremely well, and nailed three of four key free throws in the last half-minute to seal the deal. It's too bad more athletes don't play their sports with as much passion as Felton.
Jawad Williams – Williams had another gritty performance, scoring 15 points, pulling down five rebounds, and dishing out three assists. He hit big shots in the first half to keep the Heels going, especially on a few possessions when nothing else was available. His mid-range jumper has really improved, and with his height (6-foot-9) and arm length he is developing into one of the more dangerous shooters in the nation between 10 and 15 feet from the basket.
Jackie Manuel – Manuel had one of the more error-free games of his career offensively, giving the Heels some stability when they had the ball. He finished with just nine points and only three rebounds, but he simply didn't make many mistakes. Defense was a challenge, but that was the case for everyone in the game, regardless of their shade of blue.
Matt Doherty – You've got to hand a few things to Doherty. This club doesn't get down after a loss, they are usually prepared well, and they play with energy most of the time. Considering everything that has swirled around the program, it's a testament to the coach, his staff, and the players to continue to plug away despite the vast number of naysayers and whatever might be going on behind closed doors.
Doherty's game plan worked well offensively after the Heels got out of their no-direction offense of the first eight minutes or so. His defensive plan had decent results as well. Duke didn't get a ton of the shots they desire, and Carolina did shut down Dahntay Jones in the first half, which helped give them a six-point halftime lead and a great deal of confidence. Doherty also showed his fire by sticking up for his players, most notably Rashad McCants, during a scuffle near the Duke bench. Criticize Doherty as he justly deserves in some areas, but also respect his desire, intensity, and passion for the game.
Rebounding - For a change the Tar Heels weren't throttled on the glass. Duke did outrebound them, 35-34, but the Heels will take a one-rebound difference any time. The Devils did grab 17 offensive boards, but had only 18 second-chance points, a solid but not great number. Again, this was another area of encouragement for the Heels.
Bench scoring – Rarely does the Heels' bench outscore an opponent, but on Sunday it did. However, there is a twist. Being Senior Day, Jonathan Holmes and Will Johnson started, thus leaving David Noel (eight points) and Jackie Manuel (9 points) to come off the bench instead of starting. Melvin Scott added a pair of 3-pointers for his six points off the pine.
Byron Sanders - Sanders gave Carolina a great effort. He didn't score, but grabbed three rebounds, had a blocked shot, an assist, played with decent poise, and despite having trouble with Duke's Shelden Williams, did enough to justify a mention here.
Rumble – The scuffle in front of the Duke bench with 8:17 left in the game brought the Tar Heels even closer together. McCants stuck up for Felton, and Doherty stuck up for McCants and his team. This club does have fire, and certainly did before that incident, not to mention before hand.
Free throw shooting - The Tar Heels converted eight of nine in the second half – eight in a row before Felton's miss with three seconds left. Nearly two weeks earlier they shot a wretched 7-19 in an overtime loss to N.C. State. The players said after Sunday's game they have been working extensively on their free throw shooting lately. Looks like it paid off in the final 20 minutes.
Field goal percentage – The Heels shot over 50% in both halves: 62.3% (19-31) in the first half and 50% (14-28) in the second - the first time this year they have done that. At 55.9% (33-59), it was also UNC's highest shooting percentage from the floor since last season's road victory at Clemson.
Perimeter defense - Duke made only five of 23 (21.7%) shots from beyond the arc because the Tar Heels did a pretty good job of extending their man-to-man defense, especially on Blue Devils' sharpshooter J.J. Redick, who was 4-13 from the floor overall and 4-11 from 3-point range (not a terrible percentage at all, but considering when he missed, UNC excelled here).
Fans – Carolina's fans have been outstanding this year. Despite rumors swirling around the program and obvious on-court disappointments, they have been there for the home games and been loud and supportive. They are certainly a lot more into the games now then they were a few years ago when wins were taken for granted.
16 wins – The Tar Heels have doubled last year's win total, which can only be deemed as a positive, especially considering the fact that Sean May was lost for the season in the 10th game.
Postseason - The Heels guaranteed themselves a spot in the postseason if they chose to accept an NIT bid if they don't win the ACC tournament next weekend and go to the NCAAs. Considered where this team was a year ago, its youth, and the loss of May in December, this is an accomplishment.
Open looks – Duke got way too many open looks all over the floor, but certainly more so in the mid-range level. The Blue Devils didn't always take advantage of such opportunities, but had they, the result would have likely been different. Carolina's perimeter defense was solid, but otherwise wasn't consistently great despite Duke's FG%.
Interior defense – Shelden Williams dominated UNC inside. He finished with 20 points and eight rebounds. He had his way with the Heels inside, getting almost every shot he wanted. He could have been whistled for a few more fouls, but nevertheless, the Heels could have used their feet better to give the officials more of a reason to blow the whistle the other way.
Also, Casey Sanders had six points and seven rebounds in just 12 minutes of action. It's a mystery as to why Coach K did not play him more, he wasn't in foul trouble.
Checking Dahntay – Duke's Dahntay Jones was 0-5 from the floor in the first half, but finished the game 8-20 with 22 points. He abused the Heels (Manuel, David Noel, whoever…) in the second half, and darn near won the game for the Blue Devils. Jones' first step was essentially indefensible in the final 20 minutes.
Free throw shooting – The Tar Heels made only two of six in the first half. Okay, this is being a bit picky, but that's still bad. The second half was much better, as earlier noted.
Officiating – It boggles the mind that the officials claimed they did not see any Duke player leave the bench. It's clear that one Blue Devil did, and he went after UNC coach Matt Doherty. By giving each team a bench technical was a cop out. It's clear not just from watching the incident in person, but on video tape as well, that they should have handled the situation better.
They also badly missed a handful of Shelden Williams offensive fouls in the paint, especially in the second half, and also missed a couple of Jackie Manuel fouls on the perimeter, one on each wing within a two-minute stretch. Both fouls would have resulted in three fouls each.
Students – Carolina's students chanting "No means no" at Duke's Williams, who was the subject of controversy surrounding accusations from a woman last year sexual in nature, was disgusting. UNC fans love to talk about how Duke's student show little class, well, this was as classless as anything the Cameron Crazies have said in the last couple of years.
The Tar Heels open up ACC tournament play Friday night at 7 p.m. as the No. 7 seed against Maryland, the No.2 seed. The game will be televised regionally by Raycom and nationally by ESPN2.
Senior writer Andrew Jones is in his seventh year with Inside Carolina. He also covers the ACC for the Wilmington Star-News/Morning Star and can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.