Let’s count down the 10 greatest Williams-era individual performances against Duke. This obviously throws out a big chunk of pre-2003 Carolina history, so apologies for the recency bias.
Apologies also to, among countless others, Phil Ford (34 on Senior Night in 1978), Larry Miller (32 on 13-of-14 shooting in the ’67 ACCT title game), Charles Scott (40 points on 17-of-23 shooting to fuel UNC’s come-from-behind ’69 ACCT title-clinching comeback win), Joe Forte (24/16/7 in 2001), and Antawn Jamison (35 points in 53 seconds with the ball in 1998).
- Rashad McCants (2/5/2004): Put up 27 efficient points (10-16 from the field, 2-4 on 3s, 5-7 from the line) along with nine rebounds (five on the offensive end) and three steals in an overtime home loss to Duke
- Sean May (2/9/2005): 23 points (8-14 from the field, perfect 7-7 from the line) and 18 rebounds in a tough 71-70 loss in Durham; drops to honorable mention due to five turnovers
- Marcus Ginyard (3/4/2006): Scored 12 points (4-8 FGs, 4-6 FTs) with four rebounds and two assists, but, more importantly, spearheaded the defensive effort on J.J. Redick that held Duke’s All-American to a 5-of-21 shooting night (including 2-1o behind the arc)
- Tyler Hansbrough (2/6/2008): With Ty Lawson out, Hansbrough recorded a massive 28-point, 18-rebound double-double during his ’08 Player of the Year campaign; the Heels lost in Chapel Hill by 11, and his 0:3 A:TO and uncharacteristic 4-of-9 from the foul line kept this “Psycho T” performance out of the top 10
- Tyler Zeller (2/9/2011): An efficient 20-10 (24 points on 10-of-14 shooting, 13 rebounds) by Zeller wasn’t enough to overcome the Heels’ 2-of-14 3-point shooting in a six-point loss in Durham
- Leslie McDonald (2/20/2014): McDonald’s finest moment as a Tar Heel, he scored 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting while only turning the ball over once in 32 minutes as Carolina knocked off Duke 74-66 at home
- Brice Johnson (3/5/2016): In the most recent edition of the rivalry, a 76-72 Carolina win in Cameron, Johnson scored 18 points with 21 rebounds. Twelve of his rebounds were on the offensive end, as the Heels completely dominated the Devils 64-29 on the backboards to compensate for losing the 3-point battle 13-to-4 (a 27-point Duke advantage from behind the arc).
10. Marcus Paige (3/7/2015): Although Carolina lost this one 84-77 to the eventual national champs, Paige poured in 23 points on just 10 FGAs (6-10, 5-9 on 3s, 6-6 FTs), adding five assists and three steals.
9. Tyler Hansbrough (3/4/2007): Before having his nose broken by a Gerald Henderson elbow in the classic “Bloody Hansbrough” game, he scored 26 points with 17 rebounds in just 30 minutes to carry the Heels to an 86-72 victory.
8. J.P. Tokoto (2/18/2015): One of the most-balanced statlines of the Williams era, Tokoto scored 15 points, adding eight rebounds and seven assists. He also chipped in three steals and two blocked shots while not committing a single turnover, leading Carolina to a near-upset of Duke in Cameron (a 92-90 overtime loss).
7. Kendall Marshall (3/5/2011): With the ACC regular season title on the line (as both teams entered with matching 13-2 conference records), Marshall orchestrated a masterful win with a 15-point, 11-assist double-double. He only turned the ball over twice, while scoring his points on an efficient eight FGAs.
6. Brice Johnson (2/17/2016): Johnson shot 13-of-17 from the field to score 29 points, adding 19 rebounds as part of a near-20-20 performance. This one would definitely rank higher on the list had Carolina not let a seven-point second-half lead slip away, during which Johnson had just two points and two rebounds over the final 13 minutes.
5. Kendall Marshall (3/3/2012): In another master class on offensive point guard play, Marshall scored 20 points while adding 10 assists to lead Carolina to a huge 88-70 win over Duke on the road. With Butter spreading the ball around, all five Tar Heel starters scored in double digits, as Carolina clinched another regular season title with the win (again, both teams entered the game with matching 13-2 conference marks).
4. Ty Lawson (2/11/2009): After trailing by eight entering the locker room (with Bobby Frasor’s 3-of-3 3-point shooting keeping the Heels within striking distance), Lawson exploded for 21 second-half points to fuel a 57-point Carolina outburst in the second stanza. UNC won that half by 22, pulling away for a comfortable 101-87 win in Cameron Indoor. For the game, Lawson scored 25 on 8-of-11 from the field and a perfect 9-of-9 from the line. He only shot once from behind the arc (a miss), instead opting to relentlessly attack off the dribble and get to the rim. Lawson added five assists, four rebounds, and a pair of steals (and an uncharacteristic five turnovers).
3. Tyler Hansbrough (3/4/2006): In his first time playing in Cameron, a freshman Hansbrough came away with his first of four straight victories there. Outperforming senior All-American Shelden Williams, Hansbrough had 27 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks, and a steal. Most memorably, he knocked down a late-game, late-clock 3 to seal the Heels’ 83-76 win. Most typically, he got to the free throw line nine times and converted eight of them.
2. Danny Green (3/8/2008): Coming off the bench, Green stuffed the stat-sheet with 18 points, eight rebounds, two steals, and a career-high seven blocked shots in just 25 minutes . As a team, Carolina blocked 15 Duke shots with Deon Thompson also adding a handful of rejections. Green made 8-of-14 field goals including a pair of 3s (on four attempts), but it was his defense that really shined in this one, helping the Heels to hold Duke’s top-15 offense to a mere 0.92 PPP in Durham. Oh, yeah: Green had a pretty memorable dunk in this one, too.
1. Sean May (3/6/2005): While this memorable matchup in Chapel Hill is best known for the Marvin Williams “and-1” put-back that nearly blew the top off of the Dean Dome, Sean May was the true star of the game. The Heels needed every one of his 26 points and 24 rebounds to complete their late-game comeback. He also added three assists (versus only a single turnover) and two steals to his massive 20-20 performance. In the two Duke games in 2005, May combined to score 49 points and corral 42 rebounds. Johnson likewise averaged a 20-20 against the Blue Devils in 2016, racking up 47 points and 40 boards in the two matchups. Despite getting outscored by 30 from behind the arc in this game (33-3), Carolina won on the strength of a 48-30 rebounding advantage (with May collecting exactly half of those 48 boards—a dozen on each end). If the Heels emerge victorious on Thursday, they’ll probably follow the same successful formula of dominating the paint and glass.