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UNC triumphs over its biggest rival Duke to secure a spot in the NCAA championship

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

One of the biggest showdowns in men's college basketball is now in the history books. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill beat Duke University last night, making it the last game for a legendary coach. Leoneda Inge of member station WUNC reports.

LEONEDA INGE, BYLINE: Carolina Tar Heel fans flooded downtown Chapel Hill after the big 81-77 win over the Duke Blue Devils. There were parties on every corner.

AUDREY XIE: Tar.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Heels.

XIE: Let's go, baby.

INGE: That's UNC freshman Audrey Xie, about to lose her voice from cheering so hard.

XIE: It was so close. And yet we did so well.

INGE: Caleb Love's 3-point shot with seconds left in the game solidified UNC's win.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CALEB LOVE: I couldn't do it without my guys and my coaches, and so I give all my credit to them. They put me in position, and, you know, it was a team effort. And so just one game away from a national championship, what else can you say?

INGE: This is Hubert Davis's first year as UNC's head basketball coach. He says his team deserves to celebrate.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HUBERT DAVIS: All I'm thinking about are these kids, these players. And I told them that - how happy I am that I get a front-row seat just to be able to - for them to go through this season and go through these experiences. It's a blessing for me. It's a privilege. It's an honor. Those are the things that I'm thinking about.

INGE: The hype surrounding this showdown was enormous. Earlier this week, Governor Roy Cooper proclaimed North Carolina the center of the college basketball universe. And in all these years UNC and Duke men have made it to the NCAA tournament, they have never played each other until last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: And tonight was a battle. I mean, it was a game that the winner was going to be joyous and the loser was going to be in agony.

INGE: Hall of Fame Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, or Coach K, addressed how emotional his team was after this loss. He knows they wanted to win it for him his last season and his last game at Duke.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KRZYZEWSKI: I wanted my seasons to end where my team was either crying tears of joy or tears of sorrow because then you knew that they gave everything. And I had a locker room filled with guys who were crying.

INGE: There were also tears at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Duke's campus in Durham, where thousands of students watched the game on a huge screen, and then they silently walked out, huddling in groups to talk. Chloe Abi Zeid Daou is a graduate student at Duke.

CHLOE ABI ZEID DAOU: To think about the fact that Coach K's final moment doesn't define his legacy - look at me writing an essay.

(LAUGHTER)

ABI ZEID DAOU: Yeah, I mean, it sucks, but, I mean, his career was great, so that's something to celebrate, I guess.

INGE: Monday night, UNC will see if it can go all the way when they face the University of Kansas in the championship game.

For NPR News, I'm Leoneda Inge in Durham, N.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.