Caleb Love is not afraid. That’s been clear since his time with Bradley Beal Elite, and before. So, with the ball in his hands on Saturday night and the game on the line, Caleb fired off a shot that effectively ended one of the most prestigious careers in the history of the sport, and sent his team, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, to the National Championship Game.
With 24.8 seconds left in the first ever Final Four showdown between UNC and Duke, Caleb pulled up from way beyond the arc at the top of the key and buried a dagger of a three to stake the Tar Heels to a 78-74 lead.
“He wants that shot,” UNC Coach Hubert Davis said. “He’s actually looking for that shot. And very few guys in that situation are looking for that type of shot. Caleb is one of them.”
After Caleb gave them a four-point lead, the Tar Heels sank their foul shots — including three by Caleb — in the final seconds to hold onto that four-point margin of victory, defeating the Blue Devils 81-77 to advance to the NCAA Division I National Championship game against Kansas on Monday night.
The loss for Duke ended the career of their Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who announced before this season that it would be his last after a 47-year coaching career, 42 of those years coming at the helm of the Blue Devils which he helped build into a national powerhouse. Krzyzewski was bidding for a sixth national championship at Duke to end his career. To have those hopes dashed by in-state rival UNC was a particularly epic twist.
For Caleb, to be the one who put the finishing touches on it was a moment he was built for.
“Who wouldn’t want to go down in history as one of the guys to knock off Duke and have a big game?” he said. “I don’t know. I guess I live for the big moment.”
Caleb made 11 of his 20 attempts over the course of the game and finished with 28 points, his second highest mark in what has been a breakout tournament for the sophomore sensation.
All told, 22 of Caleb’s 28 points came in the second half, after he started the game 0-for-5. But Caleb isn’t the type to get discouraged, and he certainly doesn’t lack confidence.
“I’ve been there before,” Love said. “All season, if I don’t get a good start, coaches tell me to just get downhill. Just see the ball go through and get some easy ones. My first make was a floater, seeing it go through, and it was history then.”
History indeed, made by Caleb Love, with a shot that — regardless of Monday’s result — will go down in the annals of basketball lore, especially in the state of North Carolina.