North Carolina (18-7, 8-4) vs. Duke (22-3, 9-3)
Durham, N.C. – Cameron Indoor Stadium
Wednesday, 9:00 p.m.
ESPN (Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas); ACCN (Tim Brando, Dan Bonner)
“The challenge for us is being able to neutralize [Jahlil] Okafor without allowing those other guys to get their looks and get off and score a lot of points.” -- UNC junior guard Marcus Paige
"It's amazing how good a job he's done on defense as a result of the physical play he has (faced) on the offensive end." - Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski on Okafor
"They are shooting 38 percent as a team from the 3-point line and Marcus [Paige] is our best shooter and he’s not shooting 38 percent." -- UNC head coach Roy Williams
Season to Date: Duke enters Wednesday’s contest with a 22-3 (9-3 ACC) record. With a high scoring offense and a wealth of young talent, Duke has remained in the top five of the AP poll for the entirety of the 2014-15 season. Since dropping back-to-back games to N.C. State and Miami in early January, the Blue Devils have won eight of their last nine contests and currently are alone in third place in the ACC standings.
Rookie Rock in the Middle: Freshman phenom Jahlil Okafor is the rare prospect that lives up to the hype. At 6-foot-11 and 270 pounds, the Duke big man has been the focal point for the ACC’s highest-scoring offense. Okafor currently leads the league in scoring (18.2 points per game) and field goal percentage (66.2). As strong as Okafor’s scoring prowess is, his ability to create opportunities for his teammates is equally impressive. The Chicago native constantly commands extra attention in the paint, thus allowing his teammates to get open jump shots. He’s also tied for third in the ACC in rebounds per game (9.3).
Battle Tested: So far this season Duke has played six games against teams ranked in the AP Top-25 polls (Notre Dame twice). In those contests, the Blue Devils have posted a 5-1 record. What’s more, Duke has gone 4-1 against teams ranked in the top-10, with four of those games occurring on the road. With such a young team many wondered whether there would be a steep learning curve. Thus far, however, this precocious group has proved that it belongs amongst college basketball’s elite teams.
Defensive Concerns: Duke's defensive statistics are solid enough, although its opponents' effective field goal percentage (47.3) ranks 102nd nationally, according to kenpom.com. N.C. State and Miami pulled their upsets with dribble penetration through the middle of Duke's interior.
Still Committed to the 3-Ball: Head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s teams have had a reputation for living and dying by the 3-point shot. Having Okafor certainly lessens that heavy reliance, but this Duke team can still light it up from deep. The Blue Devils have hoisted the third most 3-point attempts in the ACC (471), but have also connected on the third-highest shooting percentage (37.8) from deep. Freshman guard Tyus Jones leads the team with a 40.3 percent mark from 3-point range, while senior guard Quinn Cook is close behind at 39.2 percent.
Sulaimon Off the Team: Since Krzyzewski dismissed reserve guard Rasheed Sulaimon from the team in late January, the Blue Devils are 5-0. Yet, Sulaimon’s absence could be felt against North Carolina. The junior guard has been particularly effective against UNC at Cameron Indoor Stadium. As a freshman, he had 13 points and four assists off the bench. In his sophomore year, Sulaimon recorded 10 points and four assists and was also able to knock down 5-of-6 attempts from the free throw line. Sulaimon’s departure will also put more pressure on reserve guard Matt Jones, who has seen his minutes increase over the past few weeks.
Last Meeting: No. 4 Duke defeated No. 14 North Carolina, 93-81, on March 8, 2014 at Cameron Indoor behind Jabari Parker’s 30 points and 11 rebounds. The Tar Heels lost despite shooting 59.6 percent from the floor. The Blue Devils blew the game open with a 29-14 run to start the second half. Marcus Paige led UNC with 24 points and Brice Johnson added 15 points and nine rebounds.
Series History: UNC leads the all-time series with Duke, 133-105. The Blue Devils have won four of the last five meetings at Cameron Indoor after the Tar Heels had won four in a row.
15 Jahlil Okafor (6-11, 255, Fr.) - 18.2 ppg, 9.3 rpg
2 Quinn Cook (6-2, 185, Sr.) - 14.8 ppg, 2.8 apg
12 Justise Winslow (6-6, 225, Fr.) – 11.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg
5 Tyus Jones (6-1, 190, Fr.) - 11.3 ppg, 5.3 apg
21 Amile Jefferson (6-9, 215, Jr.) - 7.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg
13 Matt Jones (6-5, 210, So.) - 5.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg
40 Marshall Plumlee (7-0, 255, Jr.) - 2.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg
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