Occasionally here at Blue vs. Blue we’ll feature guest posts from all varieties of friends, fans and basically anyone who wants to write for us. Today Beverly Rudolph brings us a little recap from the women’s basketball showdown two days ago in Chapel Hill.
Another ugly Duke-Carolina game, another elbow to the face, another ejection. Sunday’s regular season-ending game between the Women of the Blues looked oddly reminiscent to this year’s mens game in the Dean Dome, with one key difference: the Heels managed to win this one 64-54.
Duke came into the game a heavy favorite, having embarrassed UNC in Durham 79-51 on February 8 and running off 5 straight wins over ACC opponents, netting them a #6 AP ranking. Carolina, on the other hand, had been going the way of the men’s team, losing 4 of 5 games (the lone win at Wake…hmm…sounds familiar…) and dropping completely out of the poll.
The game had all the typical energy of a rivalry matchup, but the sloppiness was eerily reminiscent of the ugly Duke-UNC slugfest between the mens teams a few weeks ago. The ladies combined for 52 turnovers (22 from Duke, 30 by UNC) and neither team was particularly hot-handed in field goal percentage (editor’s note: that was a bit of an understatement. Duke shot a miserable 26.4 % and UNC was only a tad better at 38.3%. Yeesh.).
What made the difference for Carolina in this game was their scrapiness on defense (the Heels blocked 11 shots and had 13 steals) which probably led directly to the aforementioned elbow and ejection. Freshman Cierra Robertson-Warren, who fired up the crowd with 4 big blocks, got tangled up with Blue Devil Karima Christmas going for a rebound and delivered an elbow to the throat. Silly foul? Sure. Intentional? Maybe. Enough to get her ejected from the game? Apparently, as Coach Hatchell was incredulous as the refs signaled a flagrant foul that tossed Robertson-Warren from the arena.
The ejection did seem to fire up both the home team and their crowd, as Carolina fought off a 7-point Duke lead thanks to two elements that UNC’s mens team sorely lacks: a player step up and make big plays at the most crucial moments, and then seal the deal with solid free throw shooting down the stretch. Cetera DeGraffenreid had 5 steals during critical points late in the game, and notched 22 points on a 15-of-17 night at the free throw line. I’m sure Sylvia Hatchell could have lived without DeGraffenreid’s 9 turnovers, but her clutch play down the stretch redeemed a sloppy ballhandling performance, and her defensive pressure was a big part of the Heels shutting down Duke’s offense for the last 6 minutes of the game.
In the end, this game came down to what most Blue vs. Blue rivalry games come down to: the sparks. The one or two players whose drive and desire, combined with skills and talent, makes the difference. And perhaps and elbow or two.