The strange sequence of events to end the game began with 25 seconds on the clock when point guard Leah Metcalf had used her dribble and found herself stuck on the right wing with nowhere to go. She pivoted around the Duke defender and slung the ball off the backboard and in from 3-point range to even the score at 61-61 with only 20 seconds to play.
On the other end starting center Candace Sutton rotated to Mistie Bass' attempt to take the lead on what would be their last field goal attempt in regulation.
If the game hadn't been televised that would have been the story, but the officials decided to check the monitor to determine whether Bell had been fouled after the clock had expired.
"It was a timing issue," the officials said. "It was clear that time had expired prior to the whistle."
The game between No. 8 North Carolina and No. 1 Duke would have to play out in overtime.
In the five-minute overtime, it was what Tar Heels head coach Sylvia Hatchell called, "The Alana Beard Show." Duke's All-American scored seven of her game-high 26 points in the final frame to help defeat the Heels 78-67. Duke remains one of the three unbeaten teams in Division I women's college basketball at 17-0 overall and 5-0 in the ACC.
For much of the game Beard had been limited in her production on the offensive end. Carolina's constant switching from zone to man limited Beard to 1-for-6 shooting in the first half. The other half of Duke's dynamic duo, Iciss Tillis, was 1-for-10 at half, yet the Blue Devils led 27-26.
Metcalf led Carolina at half with 9 points on 3-4 shooting, but the Heels struggled during the first half with turnovers with 14.
Carolina's defense limited Duke's shooting to just 31.4 percent by the half and 36.7 percent for the game.
Both teams placed a major emphasis on shutting down the other teams main scoring options.
"Carolina did a tremendous job with their defenses," said Duke head coach Gail Goestenkors. "They switched defenses a lot in the second half."
One of the major focuses for Duke was All-ACC guard Coretta Brown, UNC's leading scorer. Brown finished with just five points but handed out nine assists to make up for the extra attention she received.
"They've got one of the best back courts in the nation with Metcalf and Brown," said Goestenkors. "They are both difficult to defend because they can both shoot the deep three, they both penetrate, and they are both excellent passers. They're both complete players."
Metcalf finished the game with 18 points, but missed 11 of her 17 shots. Stepping up for the Heels, junior Chrystal Baptist and sophomore Kenya McBee combined for 19 points and 14 rebounds in valuable minutes off the bench to keep the Heels in the game. Duke's bench contributions came from sophomore forward Wynter Whitley, who had her first career double-double, 13 points and 10 rebounds.
In the end Carolina could not produce enough offense to stay with Duke. In the overtime period Duke outscored the Heels 17 to 6. La'Tangela Atkinson spinning lay-up provided the Heels last points of the game with 1:50 to go in overtime.
Hatchell said she is pleased at the game despite the disappointment in the overtime outcome. She said her team accomplished two of its main goals in holding the Blue Devils below 40 percent scoring and allowing fewer than 70 points in regulation.
"They are just so lucky!" said Hatchell on Duke's ability to squeak out games against Virginia, Wake Forest and her Heels. "One tenth of a second could have made a difference. Sooner or later, it's got to run out, but they are great."
But Carolina's head coach said that it was a good day for women's basketball because Carmichael Auditorium sold out and more fans were turned away at the door. The official attendance was 10,180.
"I thought all along we have the potential for a final four team," said Hatchell looking ahead to the rest of the season. "We are going to get better. We'll play [Duke] again at least once more, maybe two, could be three times. I keep telling my team we are a Final Four team."
The Tar Heels play at W. Michigan on Jan. 23 and return home on Jan. 30 against Virginia.