Best Games Of 2013-14: No. 1
Release: 07/18/2014

Concluding today with the No. 1 game, has counted down the top 25 games of the 2013-14 academic year. To catch up on the previous entries, click here.

No. 1: Carolina 74, Duke 66 - Men's Basketball, Feb. 20, 2014

The Carolina-Duke game is the highlight of the sports calendar for many fans in North Carolina. And as soon as one game ends, the wait for the next one begins. It just so happened that this one would require a little extra waiting.

The snow started falling around noon on Feb. 12. It was a cold, windy morning in Chapel Hill, and when the snow started falling, it fell quickly and without remorse. 

By the time people realized the severity of the situation, it was too late. Commutes home that usually take 10 minutes took three hours. Every major four-lane road in the area turned into a two-lane road because of the abundance of abandoned cars. The UNC campus was gridlocked to the degree that workers without children or pets to attend to considered sleeping in their offices.

Eventually, the game was postponed. It was the right decision. Fans who wait all year for this game are not likely to consider their own safety if the other option is missing Carolina-Duke.

And so the wait was extended by eight days. 

The Tar Heels didn't have the luxury of waiting around for Duke. There was the not-so-small matter of a home game against nationally ranked Pitt followed by the always-tricky trip to Tallahassee to face Florida State. But Carolina beat the Panthers by four and, despite spotting the hosts a 15-point lead, topped FSU by six.

The rescheduled Duke game was the third in six days for UNC, and a noon home game against Wake Forest the following Saturday would make it four in eight.

The way Carolina was playing, however, one can assume the Tar Heels didn't mind. After limping to a 1-4 start in league play, they'd won seven in a row to pull within a game in the loss column of the fifth-ranked Blue Devils, who'd won nine of 10.

It was an unseasonably warm day in Chapel Hill, more than 40 degrees warmer than the previous week, and fans began arriving well in advance of the 9 p.m. tip. After the doors opened but well before the lineups were introduced, it was clear that this would be a special night. As Adam Lucas wrote after the game:

"The first thing you noticed is that this was not a typical Smith Center crowd. It was not even a typical Smith Center UNC-Duke crowd. This was a crowd that had been waiting through a snowstorm and an eight-day delay and two years of home losses to these guys from Durham, but it felt like a whole bunch more than that.

"Some crowds are reactive. This one was proactive. This one cheered for everything. This one stood for everything. The reason we still go to games in the era of high definition television and expensive parking and home projection screens is for that very rare occasion, the one that may not even happen once a season, when you are part of a crowd that feels like they had an impact on the game."

And when the game finally started, the Tar Heels gave the fans what they wanted. Leslie McDonald drained a deep 3 on the first possession of the game, James Michael McAdoo drove from the top of the key for a layup and J.P. Tokoto converted one of two free throws to give UNC a quick 6-0 lead.

Duke responded like you'd expect a top-5 team in a rivalry game to respond and, suddenly, the Blue Devils were up six. Carolina would briefly regain the lead on a slick backdoor pass from Marcus Paige to McDonald, but Duke closed on a 19-10 run to take a 37-30 lead into the break.

When Jabari Parker scored less than five minutes into the second half, the deficit was 11, and it began to feel like the game was slipping away. Marshall Plumlee blocked McAdoo's shot attempt on UNC's next trip before the Tar Heels got an essential defensive stop. McAdoo tipped a Jabari Parker entry pass to Kennedy Meeks, who found a streaking McDonald for a floater to cut the Duke lead to nine.

That stop proved to be a turning point, as Carolina began to stifle the Blue Devil attack with a variety of defensive looks. As Turner Walston detailed after the game, Roy Williams' squad showed 1-3-1 and 3-2 zone looks interspersed with man-to-man seemingly at random. Duke was slow to adjust, and Carolina spent the next eight minutes methodically chipping away with an 11-2 run.

With Carolina trailing by four at the midpoint of the second half, the teams went over four minutes without scoring before Brice Johnson's jump hook at the 7:04 mark made it 53-51. Ninety seconds later, Paige drilled a step-back 3 to pull the Tar Heels within one, and McAdoo's transition layup tied it at 60 with just more than four minutes remaining.

McDonald then put Carolina in front with two of his game-high 21 before Paige scored on consecutive possessions - the second of which featured an incredible driving layup through three Duke defenders - to extend the lead to four with 90 seconds to play.

Nate Britt made four straight free throws in the final minute before McDonald sealed it with a fast break layup from McAdoo. Paige made two more free throws to give him 13 points second-half points, the final scoring in a 74-66 final. 

It was an eighth win in a row for Carolina, snapping an all-too-long two-game home losing streak to the Blue Devils. The emotional toll of the extra eight days of build-up, not to mention the physical toll of three games in six days, was evident on the face of Paige at the final horn.

His was a face of relief, of knowing that, despite all the distractions, the Tar Heels had done what they had to do to beat their bitter rival.

But after the relief came unbridled joy. First from the Tar Heel fans who rushed the court and engulfed the Smith Center floor in a sea of Carolina Blue and white and then from Williams, who greeted his team in the locker room like this:

It was a night that no one who was there will soon forget. And it was the best Carolina game of 2013-14.

Previous Entries
No. 2: Carolina 4, Stanford 3 - Women's Tennis, May 19, 2014
No. 3: Carolina 65, South Carolina 58 - Women's Basketball, March 30, 2014
No. 4: Carolina 82, Kentucky 77 - Men's Basketball, Dec, 14, 2013
No. 5: Carolina 34, Pitt 27 - Football, Nov. 16, 2013

No. 6: Carolina 4, Georgia 2 - Men's Tennis, May 16, 2014
No. 7: Carolina 4, NC State 3 - Baseball, May 20, 2014
No. 8: Carolina 85, NC State 84 (OT) - Men's Basketball, Feb. 26, 2014
No. 9: Carolina 27, NC State 19 - Football, Nov. 2, 2013
No. 10: Carolina 3, Duke 0 - Women's Soccer, Oct. 31, 2013

No. 11: Carolina Completes Road Sweep Of Duke And NC State - Women's Basketball, Feb. 10 and 16, 2014
No. 12: Carolina 11, Maryland 8 - Men's Lacrosse, March 22, 2014
No. 13: Carolina 4, Virginia 2 - Baseball, April 20, 2014
No. 14: Carolina 4, Duke 1 - Men's Tennis, April 26, 2014
No. 15: Carolina 1, Virginia 0 -  Men's Soccer, Nov. 1, 2013

No. 16: Carolina 45, Virginia 14 - Football, Nov. 9, 2013
No. 17: Carolina 17, Maryland 15 - Women's Lacrosse, April 5, 2014
No. 18: Carolina 2, Connecticut 1 - Field Hockey, Oct. 26, 2013
No. 19: Henderson's All-America Run At NCAAs - Wrestling, March 20-22, 2014
No. 20: Carolina 5, Virginia 2 - Women's Tennis, March 8, 2014

No. 21: Carolina 3, Illinois 0 - Volleyball, Sept. 20, 2013
No. 22: Carolina 93, Louisville 84 - Men's Basketball, Nov. 24, 2013
No. 23: Carolina Men, LeHardy Shine At XC Nationals - Cross Country, Nov. 23, 2013
No. 24: Carolina Sweeps Rivals To End Home Schedule - Men's Swimming and Diving, Jan. 25 and 31, 2014
No. 25: Carolina 12, Virginia Tech 8 - Softball, March 2, 2014

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