Ron Grillo

Ron Grillo

GRILLO: Duke-UNC added to rivalry on Wednesday

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Sometimes I wish my coveted Cugini Awards included collegians and not just professionals.

I’m sure I could find a place in February for Duke’s Grayson Allen or Brandon Ingram. I’d have to consider North Carolina’s Brice Johnson, who played as fine a game (for 29 minutes) as I’ve ever seen.Twenty nine points and 19 rebounds are games upon which legends are established.

Duke vs. UNC at the Smith Center was going to be the first college basketball game I was going to watch from beginning to end since last season’s March Madness.

The biggest decision I had to make was on what outlet I was going to watch the game.

Originally I went with WRAL-TV, but thought ESPN was a better fit with Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas, with Rece Davis handling pre-game, halftime and post-game duties. I think it was a good choice.

The one word I came up with immediately at the end of this thriller was, “inconceivable.”

Inconceivable, how the Blue Devils prevailed after poor first-half shooting and rebounding, an injury to Matt Jones that left them virtually a five-man team the rest of the game, and a less than mediocre performance by Ingram.

I don’t think I ever thought Duke was dead in the water but I might have had the ‘Heels stretched an eight-point lead in the second half to 10.

One sentiment I had in the first half was something unfair was transpiring with Carolina getting three and sometimes four shots on single possessions.

Another was Duke had no inside presence. UNC had a 24-15 advantage in first-half rebounds. It felt more like 34-15.

In fairness, Marshall Plumlee did collect 10 first-half caroms and he was a hero after returning from the bench to finish the game despite being saddled with four fouls with 14 minutes to play.

Anybody associated with Duke had to be pleased with the 46-42 deficit at halftime.

Especially after their star freshman, Ingram, was 2-for-10 from the field. Ingram is just a lot of fun to watch with that reed-thin body and that beguiling hair arrangement.

I adopted him as one of my favorites while he was in high school because he’s from Kinston, a town where anyone going to Atlantic Beach, Emerald Isle or Swansboro has to travel through.

They’re already saying he’s a lottery pick in the next draft. I hope not. He’s far too frail and another year in Durham would be invaluable. But family pressure and the millions of NBA dollars will be near impossible to resist.

Grayson Allen is a lot of fun to watch because of his unbridled, almost out of control moves through opponents to the basket and his marksmanship from three-point range.

Freshman Luke Kennard added a crucial 15 points in the win following Jones’s injury. Coach K will need a similar performance when the two teams meet again March 5.