North Carolina Advances To National Championship In Coach K’s Last Game
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - APRIL 02: Armando Bacot #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrates a win against the Duke Blue Devils during the second half in the semifinal game of the 2022 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Final Four at Caesars Superdome on April 02, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Brett Wilhelm/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
Brett Wilhelm/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

NEW ORLEANS — From the moment that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski announced that the 2021-2022 college basketball season would be his last, we’ve been waiting for the finale.

The finale has arrived, as North Carolina defeated Duke 81-77 in a wild game at the Superdome in New Orleans Saturday night, sending the Tar Heels to the national championship game against Kansas on Monday night.

“That’s something that I’ve never thought about, and would never think about,” North Carolina head coach Hubert Davis said when asked about handing Mike Krzyzewski his final loss. “All I’m thinking about are these kids, these players. I told them how happy I am that I get a front-row seat for them to go through this season and these experiences. It’s a blessing for me. It’s a privilege. It’s an honor.”

“Those are the things I’m thinking about,” Davis continued. “Coach K is unbelievable. And that team is the best team so far that we have played. And we just happened to make some more plays tonight.”

Duke’s regular season final was against North Carolina in early March, a 94-81 loss to the Tar Heels at Cameron Indoor Stadium, ending Coach K’s final game in Durham with a dud. There were many who didn’t think this particular Duke team had what it took to get Coach K to his 13th Final Four, an opportunity for his sixth national championship.

But Krzyzewski had a message for the Cameron Crazies after that loss — the season isn’t over yet.

“Today was unacceptable,” Krzyzewski told the crowd after the loss. “But the season has been very acceptable. And I’ll tell you, the season isn’t over.”

Coach K was correct. Duke defeated Cal State Fullerton, Michigan State, Texas Tech, and Arkansas to advance to the Final Four. But in a wild twist, it’s the school just 10 miles down the road that ends Duke’s season, and the most storied rival that ends Krzyzewski’s incredible career.

In one of the most high-level college basketball games you’ll see, Duke and North Carolina went back and forth for 40 minutes, trading baskets at a frenzied pace. 18 lead changes and 12 ties had the Superdome rocking, as two of college basketball’s most storied blue blood programs put on a show for the 70,000+ fans in attendance.

Caleb Love and Armando Bacot led the way for the Tar Heels, with Bacot putting up 11 points and a ridiculous 21 rebounds before fouling out with 46.7 seconds left in the second half. But it was the sophomore guard who made the big buckets late, as Love poured in 28 points on 11-20 shooting from the floor, scoring 22 of his 28 points in the second half. His three with 25 seconds left in the game was the dagger, which Love followed by knocking down three of four free throw attempts.

“It means everything to me,” Love said when asked what the moment meant to him. “I couldn’t do it without my guys and my coaches. I give all the credit to them. They put me in the position and it was a team effort. Just one game away from a national championship. What else can you say?”

North Carolina and Kansas will play Monday night at 9:20 p.m. ET with the national title on the line.

Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to [email protected].

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