Bears

Relive the wildest finish in Duke-UNC history

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Relive the wildest finish in Duke-UNC history

From Comcast SportsNet
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- Austin Rivers and his Duke teammates kept hanging around, doing just enough to keep North Carolina from blowing the game open until the Tar Heels finally gave them an opening. The freshman took advantage, burying a shot that will live on in the lore of this fierce rivalry. Rivers hit a 3-pointer at the horn to give the No. 10 Blue Devils an 85-84 win over the fifth-ranked Tar Heels on Wednesday night, snapping the UNC's school-record 31-game home winning streak. Rivers scored a season-high 29 points and hit six 3s, the last over 7-footer Tyler Zeller with the Blue Devils (20-4, 7-2) trailing by two in the final seconds. The ball swished through the net, sending Rivers running down the court in celebration while the rest of his teammates gave chase before mobbing him in front of a stunned UNC crowd. Rivers' 3 also sent his father, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, into jubilant celebration from the stands. And it capped a wild rally for the Blue Devils from 10 down in the final 2 minutes. "Obviously this is my favorite win I've ever had in my entire life," Rivers said. "And it's because we were down the whole game. The whole game, we were down. They just kept it on us -- 10-point lead, 10-point lead. And then there was 3 minutes left and probably everybody thought we were going to lose, and we just kept fighting. To get a W, it's amazing." Harrison Barnes scored 25 points for the Tar Heels (20-4, 7-2), while Zeller finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds. But Zeller had just four points in the second half and missed two free throws in the final minute, including one with 13.9 seconds left that set up Rivers' winner. It was a finish befitting the rivalry, from Rivers' shot to Barnes' second-half surge to a strange play in which Zeller accidentally batted the ball into the Duke basket on a rebound attempt to bring the Blue Devils within a point with 14.2 seconds left after trailing all second half. "They're really good and they can knock you out," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "And we didn't get knocked out. And as a result, we hung in there and we won the last round. I'm not sure we won the whole fight, but the last round, we did, and we won the game. But we fought the entire time. We fought a really good fight." North Carolina charged out of halftime to build a 13-point lead and seemed in control. But the Tar Heels never could land the finishing blow to a Duke team that had looked a bit lost in recent weeks, including its own crushing loss to Florida State on a last-second 3-pointer that snapped a 45-game winning streak at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Jan. 21. Duke was coming off an overtime home loss to Miami over the weekend, but the Blue Devils -- and Rivers, in particular -- played with plenty of confidence all night against the Tar Heels. They shot 44 percent and matched a season high with 14 3-pointers. And with Florida State's loss at Boston College earlier Wednesday, the Blue Devils, Tar Heels and Seminoles are all tied again atop the ACC standings. "We believe in our players, we believe in our coaching staff and they believe in us," said Ryan Kelly, who had 15 points for Duke. "Not everything went perfectly, but when it came down to it, we made the biggest play." From the start, the Blue Devils seemed determined to rely on the 3-point shot to offset the Tar Heels' dominance inside. They hit plenty early and led by eight in the first half, then cooled off as the Tar Heels charged out of halftime. In the end, however, the Blue Devils' shooters warmed up just in time to stop North Carolina's long home winning streak. "It really hurts just because of how we played the whole game," said UNC's John Henson, who had 12 points and 17 rebounds. "For us in the last three minutes just to give it up like that is really depressing." Rivers finished with a Duke freshman scoring record against UNC. Seth Curry added 15 points, including a 3 that made it 82-78 with 1:48 left. Then Kelly followed with a jumper off his own missed 3 that closed the gap to 82-80. Then, after Zeller hit a free throw, Kelly launched a long shot that appeared to be a 3 over Henson. As the ball was falling short of the rim, Zeller tried for the rebound but accidentally deflected the ball up and into the basket to cut the deficit to 83-82. Zeller got caught on a switch defending Rivers on the final possession and said he should've played him closer. "I knew he was going to shoot a 3," Barnes said. "I thought everyone in the gym knew. Z did a good job of contesting, but he made the shot." Then again, North Carolina probably never should've let it come to that. After trailing most of the first half, the Tar Heels ran off a 14-4 run to start the second half. Barnes didn't have a field goal in the first half while playing on his sore left ankle, but he finally got going with a pair of baskets followed by a 3-pointer off a crosscourt pass from Kendall Marshall for a 57-44 lead with 15:08 left. North Carolina maintained at least a seven-point lead until those final minutes, with Barnes' last jumper giving the Tar Heels an 82-72 lead with 2:38 left. North Carolina shot 59 percent in the second half, but went just 8 for 15 from the foul line after halftime to let this one slip painfully away. "This one hurts," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "The kids really played and competed and did some very good things."

View from the Moon: Bears 'siestas' continue, leaving progress difficult to find, but it’s there ... somewhat

View from the Moon: Bears 'siestas' continue, leaving progress difficult to find, but it’s there ... somewhat

Consider this a connect-the-dots exercise, with the end game being to figure out what the overall picture is. Because the Bears’ 27-24 loss to the Detroit Lions was many things, a couple actually very good, but too many of them kinda-to-very bad...

The overarching point of the 2017 season, per senior Bears management, is progress. Not just on the part of rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who had a fourth solid performance in six NFL starts; but on the Bears as a whole. A week after showing anything but, the Bears showed something that could masquerade as progress.

How real is it? The Bears in the past eight days have given few reasons to trust it.

Because while coming close against a respectable Lions (6-4) team counts for something, the Bears are still 3-7 at the end of the day and 3-13 under John Fox against the NFC North – a division winning percentage of .188, which would be lower than that of the Marc Trestman Bears (.250), who managed to win their three NFC North games in two seasons vs. Fox’s three.

As concerning perhaps, the loss left the Bears 3-9 under Fox in games decided by three or fewer points, the hallmark of what simplistically can be ID’d as “losing” teams.

“We’ve had a lot of close games, and it’s just finding a way to close those out,” Trubisky said. “We’re going to work towards that, and figure it out for sure.”

What makes “progress” difficult to see, though, is that the Bears do not play like a team either coached to be or with the proven ability to play at a professional level all the time. Teams with that problem typically make coaching changes at the ends of seasons, since the conclusion usually is that the talent can be there, just that the coach in hand, fair or not, can’t get it out of the roster.

“We’ve shown spurts and moments, like we have for some time now,” Fox summarized. “But we have lulls. We have siestas. We just don’t do it for 60 minutes. ... People have ups and downs. Well, we’re in a stage as a football team where we have those moments in games. We have to do a better job of coaching it and we have to do a better job of executing it in games.”

The Green Bay Packers were one kind of measuring standard last week, and the 3-7 Bears were embarrassed against a foundering team that had been soundly beaten by the Lions the week before the Bears faced them, and buried 23-0 at home Sunday by the Baltimore Ravens.

The Lions were a different kind of quiz, a real offense putting up more than 27 points per game. The Bears allowed the Lions their requisite 27 points (seven of those coming on a touchdown return of a Trubisky fumble), but put up nearly 400 yards and 24 points of their own in a game that ended on a Connor Barth missed field goal from 46 yards, Barth’s fifth miss in 11 attempts from beyond 40 yards.

(Barth’s miss may have been particularly bitter for Fox, after watching Detroit’s Matt Prater win the game from 52 yards – the same Matt Prater who kicked for Fox in Denver in 2011 when Fox’s Broncos beat the Bears in the Marion Barber Game with Prater field goals from 59 yards to tie with 3 seconds left, and from 51 yards to win in OT.)

“All these games in the NFL – they’re hard games – but when you have a game like this that you should win, you just have to win those games,” said wide receiver Kendall Wright. “I think with us, when we win one of those close games, it will help us get over the edge and we’ll start stacking them up on top of each other.”

Then again...

The Bears seemed to lose their compass in the third quarter, with one rushing yard on four attempts. But they finished with 222 yards and the way they amassed them mattered: 125 and a touchdown for Jordan Howard; 53 for Trubisky, a number of them on designed runs; and 44 plus a TD for Tarik Cohen – all combining to average 7.4 yards per carry.

Bigger picture, the Bears were in the position of having at least a chance to tie because Trubisky managed to drive the Bears 55 yards in the final 1:32 from the Chicago 17 to the Detroit 28. This would constitute something shiny lying there in the mud, and make no mistake: This is a big deal.

To put Trubisky in some kind of context: Rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman, the fifth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills, replaced Tyrod Taylor in the Bills starting lineup Sunday, against a Los Angeles Chargers defense allowing opponents to complete more than 64 percent of their passes. Peterman completed 11 of 14 in the first half, about 79 percent. But – five of the Peterman “completions” were to Chargers.

DeShone Kizer has been in and out and back in the starting lineup for the Cleveland Browns, suffering through a rookie season with one of the worst teams arguably in NFL history. But – Kizer, with 12 interceptions vs. four TD passes, is one of the reasons the Browns are in various “worst ever” discussions.

Trubisky threw 30 passes without an interception on Sunday, and 65 without a pick over his past two games. He’s thrown 145 NFL passes with just two interceptions, an INT rate of 1.4 percent that ranks ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Matt Ryan and a list of others. Critics of his development can have their points, but the kid has learned ball security at an early NFL age even while averaging 32.4 pass plays per game.

The next step is getting his team over the top, because he is still completing just 53.1 percent of his passes and was missed badly on a number of throws on Sunday. His deft TD pass to tight end Adam Shaheen in the first half was NFL-perfect (where his guy or nobody catches it), but his throw low and behind running back Benny Cunningham at the goal line in the first quarter forced the Bears to settle for a field goal in a game decided ultimately by three points.

Trubisky clearly gets the big picture, too, pointing the thumb and not any fingers. He paused before answering a question about his rookie learning curve:

“I think adversity is a great teacher,” he said. “Overcoming the struggle is a great teacher. There’s no rookie excuse. You don’t get a freebie because you’re a rookie.

“My teammates trust me and they have confidence in me, so I’m preparing as I should. Coaches have me prepared and my teammates have my back. New situations are going to arise every time, but there are no excuses. I’m just looking at these opportunities as chances to overcome, and not dwell on it.”

Under Center Podcast: Alex Brown goes off on Connor Barth

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Alex Brown goes off on Connor Barth

On the latest Under Center Podcast, Laurence Holmes, Alex Brown and Jim Miller break down the Bears loss to the Lions on Sunday following Conner Barth’s missed field goal in the last seconds of the game and debate whether or not Tarik Cohen should be a part of the Bears two-minute offensive packages.

Plus, if the Bears hope to keep Vic Fangio past 2017, does he need to finish out the season as the Bears interim head coach?

Listen to the full Under Center Podcast right here: