Duke vs UNC Leaves Many Unanswered Questions

Duke vs UNC Leaves Many Unanswered Questions

By Chris Cole

February 22, 2019

The University of North Carolina Tar Heels can take home bragging rights in the first meeting of the 2018-19 season between UNC and Duke. It produced a lot of talk from a big moment that happened in the opening seconds of the game.  

It could definitely be made that this particular UNC-Duke match-up has been the most hyped game in years with Duke being the best team in the country. NFL stars Todd Gurley, Devin Funchess, and Greg Olson, baseball legend Ken Griffey Jr., filmmaker Spike Lee,  and President Barack Obama were all in attendance to watch Zion Williamson and the Blue Devils defend the home turf of Cameron Indoor. This was a game of monstrous proportions.

Except it wasn’t.

Just 34 seconds into the game, Zion Williamson had to leave the court due to a knee injury and would not return.  Though knee injuries are common in basketball and can happen at anytime, the matter of how the injury occurred was the big talking point for the rest of the game: his shoe blew out.  Williamson was in mid-dribble, about to make a turn in the opposite direction when we see his legs sprawled out on the floor. As he was making his turn, his left shoe completely separated from the seams and caused him to fall down very awkwardly.  

From that point it was all UNC, and they would go on to win the game 88-72. Luke Maye led the Tar Heels both in points (30) and rebounds (15); Canadian RJ Barrett lead Duke, also in points and rebounds, with 33 and 13, respectively.  Carolina gets the win and the bragging rights for now, but the question remains:

What if Zion Williamson didn’t have that shoe malfunction?

To point out the obvious: the game could have gone either way with him healthy, but without him it showed that Duke lost some chemistry and went into catch-up mode. The fact that UNC controlled the game after the loss of Williamson exposes Duke to being a team that can only fully function with their big star.  

The positive about the knee injury is that Williamson was able to walk to the locker room, not having him return was probably more as a precaution than in terms of severity.  While the hype was not met last night at Cameron Indoor it leads to more intrigue for the return game, the last game of the season, on March 9th at the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill.  As long as Williamson is in the line-up for that game, the atmosphere in Chapel Hill will be crazy. The story may have started with a fizzle, but it has the potential for one heck of an ending.

PHOTO: Getty Images