Tar Heel men, women top rivals in magical weekend

Duke and the fourth-ranked Wolfpack fell to UNC

Tar Heels players celebrate after beating NC State on Sunday in Chapel Hill, denying the rival Wolfpack a chance at being ranked No. 1 in the nation. (Gerry Broome / The Associated Press)

UNC’s social media team has coined the acronym GDTBATH to use as a hashtag on posts. It stands for “Great day to be a Tar Heel.”

They may need to change it to GWTBATH after one of the best weekends for Tar Heel basketball in recent memory.

The men’s team got things started with a win over Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday evening. While neither team was ranked, the win snapped a three-game Duke winning streak in the best rivalry in sports. That included a two-point overtime loss to the Blue Devils last year and a one-point loss the year before.

The 91-87 score marked UNC’s first win over Duke by fewer than five points since 2018 and the first on the road since 2016.

While any win over the hated Blue Devils is significant to the Tar Heels, this year’s game, unlike those that take place with both teams at the top of the polls, had additional urgency since an NCAA Tournament berth is far from guaranteed for either team.

The Tar Heels took a big step toward solidifying their trip to March Madness with the win, which was their fourth in five games. It also marked Carolina’s first Quadrant I (the selection committee’s term for top opponents) win in six attempts. Three of the previous five Quad I losses were by single digits.

UNC also got a boost from point guard Caleb Love, who had a career-high 25 points against Duke and showed that things may be finally clicking after an up-and-down freshman year.

“Caleb did some really good things tonight,” coach Roy Williams said. “He did some really good things, made some big shots for us, made a couple of big free throws down the stretch as well.”

Kerwin Walton also had a big game, hitting all four of his 3-pointers and helping to open up the middle, where Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot and Day’Ron Sharpe all were able to make an impact.

“We wanted to get our big guys involved offensively,” Williams said. “We had to win the paint area. We had to win the game inside the 10 feet around the basket, rebounding-wise, defensively and also scoring the ball there.”

In addition to putting the Tar Heels in prime position for the final month of the regular season, the win had the added bonus of leaving their top rival scrambling. Duke fell to .500 on the season and saw its NCAA Tournament hopes continue to fade.

The Tar Heel women’s team then capped the weekend with an upset of No. 4 NC State, 76-69, at Carmichael Arena. Carolina entered the game on a three-game losing streak and a 1-6 record in the last seven games. The Pack were coming off of a road win over top-ranked Louisville and enjoying one of the top seasons in program history.

Instead, for the third year in a row, an unranked Tar Heels team knocked off a top-10 Wolfpack squad.

The Heels beat No. 9 NC State, 66-60, last January and topped the No. 7-ranked Wolfpack, 64-51, in Raleigh during the 2018-19 season. Over the last 20 years, the Carolina women are 10-5 against ranked NC State teams.

“These rivalry games are a sacred part of sports,” said Courtney Banghart, who is now 2-1 against the Pack since taking over as UNC coach. “I told them that. This is for the institution, it’s for our program, it’s for our tradition, and you have to honor that with your energy, and they did that.”

Carolina led by as many as 12 in the second half before NC State rallied to take the lead at the end of the third quarter.

Banghart challenged her team, asking, “How tired are you of losing games in the fourth quarter?”

The Heels responded and pulled away from the Pack down the stretch.

The Tar Heels got a boost from the win but still face a tough stretch run this season. At 9-8, 4-8 in the ACC, Carolina will need a strong finish and, likely, a run in the ACC Tournament to lock up a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

The remaining five regular season games include four road contests, however, including a rematch with the Wolfpack in Raleigh.

Following a weekend of wins over their biggest rivals, both Tar Heel teams are ready to ride the momentum, although both had their rolls slowed with postponements of their next game — the men against Miami and the women against Boston College.

Regardless of whether either team finishes off the season in the Big Dance, both got a taste of playing Cinderella in what will be remembered as a great weekend to … well, you know the rest.