The Confidential

The ACC Sports Blog

This Day in ACC History: 24 Years Ago (Duke @ North Carolina)

Today, in another installment of This Day in ACC History, the Confidential takes a look at a regular season game between the Duke Blue Devils and the North Carolina Tar Heels on January 21, 1988, 24 years ago.

Any match-up between these bitter rivals is always noteworthy.  Both teams had very good years, with North Carolina losing in the Elite Eights and Duke losing in the Final Four.  Duke actually swept North Carolina in three matchups in 1987-1988.

But the first one was the toughest, as Duke had to travel to North Carolina on January 21, 1988.  Duke was able to pull out the victory in exciting fashion, 70-69.  In fact, considers this game one of its top 10 moments in Chapel Hill and provides this summary:

Duke’s chances didn’t look too good heading to the Smith Center for their 1988 meeting with No. 2 ranked North Carolina. The No. 9 Blue Devils were coming off a dispiriting homecourt loss to Maryland and appeared to have little offense beyond junior star Danny Ferry.

But what the ’88 Devils did have was defense – maybe the best overall defense in the Krzyzewski era. Although UNC star J.R. Reid abused the smaller Devils inside for 28 points, with UNC down a single point in the final minute, he couldn’t get the ball when it counted. Duke, which got 19 points from Ferry and a vital 22 points from Kevin Strickland, tenaciously held on to its 70-69 lead.

UNC missed three straight shots, failing to take the lead, but got the ball back for one last chance. A second before the buzzer sounded, sharpshooting guard Jeff Lebo launched a potential game-winner from the left baseline. His shot was blocked by 6-foot-5 jumping jack Robert Brickey as Duke claimed the first of three victories over the Tar Heels in 1988. 

So this game went right down to the wire before Duke was able to grab the victory.

The Tar Heels were led by a famous name.  Sophomore J.R. Reid scored 27 points, while another Sophomore, Scott Williams, added 14.  Both players had double-doubles as Reid grabbed 13 boards and Williams snared 10.  Junior Jeff Lebo had 10 assists for the Tar Heels.  Other than the final score, Reid was unstoppable, converting 11 of 13 field goals attempts.  Although Duke’s defense was impressive that year, North Carolina converted 65.9% of its shots in the game.

The Blue Devils were also led by some familiar names. Senior Kevin Strickland scored 22 points, while Junior Danny Ferry scored 19.  Ferry just missed a triple-double as he had 10 rebounds and 7 assists.  Ferry, of course, gained some recent notoriety by being the Cleveland Cavaliers general manager during most of the Lebron James era.  He is currently Vice President of Basketball Operations for the San Antonio Spurs.  See here.

Do you remember this game?  Please feel free to share any details…

After a lengthy NBA career, JR Reid is not an assistant coach at Chowan University. Image courtesy of Chowan University.

This Day in History is a feature that relies heavily on information obtained from Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Basketball Games, Michael O’ Hara, McFarland & Company, Inc. (2008).  Special thanks to that fine publication.

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