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Previewing Duke

No. 8 North Carolina travels to Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday with eyes on its first ACC regular season championship since 2012. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.

North Carolina (24-6, 13-4 ACC) vs. Duke (22-8, 11-6 ACC)
Durham, N.C. – Cameron Indoor Stadium
Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
ESPN (Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas, Shannon Spake)

Quotables

“He’s going to keep taking steps even when he’s not here. His trajectory… He’s a real special basketball player. How smart he is – you just have to tell him once. He gets it. No maintenance. No extra time of explaining. His basketball intellect is super high, and he has a great feel for the game.” – Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski on freshman Brandon Ingram

“It wouldn’t matter where we were playing or who we were playing against, if you told us we had one game to be ACC champs, then obviously that’d be the biggest game for us in our careers since we haven’t won anything like that. So the fact that it is in Cameron and we haven’t won there just elevates that even further.” -- UNC guard Marcus Paige

PREGAME NOTES

Since the First Meeting: Duke enters Saturday’s contest with a 22-8 (11-6 ACC) record. The Blue Devils have split their four games since upsetting the Tar Heels just 16 days ago, losing to No. 11 Louisville (71-64) and Pitt (76-62) and beating Florida State (80-65) and Wake Forest (79-71). Duke is currently 14th nationally in the RPI.

Allen Still Cooking: Since UNC and Duke’s last meeting, sophomore wing Grayson Allen has continued his productive ACC season, averaging 24.8 points per game on 54.9 percent shooting from the field. The Jacksonville, Fla. native has scored in double figures in each ACC game he has played this season, including a 23-point night in Chapel Hill in which he made the game-winning free throws in the final minute of play. Allen’s style of cutting into the lane aggressively and drawing contact could put UNC in foul trouble early and often, especially considering how effective the attack was at the Dean Dome. Limiting Allen’s damage will be crucial to how UNC fares in the rematch at Cameron Indoor.

Ingram Looks to Pick Up Where He Left Off: Freshman wing Brandon Ingram played atrociously in the first half of these two teams’ last matchup, scoring 7 points on 2-of-7 shooting. This came in part due to Roy Williams sticking senior forward Brice Johnson on the freshman star, stifling Ingram with his overall size. It wasn’t until the second half that the Kinston, N.C. native picked it up, dropping 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting, including a stretch late where Ingram continually made tough shots when Theo Pinson switched to him. Ingram was an integral part of Duke’s late rally, and will look to find that momentum far earlier in the rematch.

Expect Scoring: These are two of the top offenses in the country. Duke and North Carolina are ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, by KenPom.com in offensive efficiency, with the Blue Devils scoring 120 points per 100 possessions and the Tar Heels averaging 119.9 points per 100 possessions. Both teams are also ranked in the top 20 in the nation in scoring offense, with UNC averaging 83.1 points per game to Duke’s 81.5. The Blue Devils currently rank fifth in field goal percentage (45.6) and second in 3-point field goal percentage (40.1) in ACC play.

Kennard the Unlikely Hero: Before the first meeting of the year, most UNC fans probably didn’t know or fear freshman guard Luke Kennard too much. Kennard proceeded to score 15 crucial points on a nice 6-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range and the shot that gave Duke its first second half lead. Kennard is streaky, but when he’s on point, he’s Duke’s quietly deadly weapon from deep. When Ingram and Allen are getting isolation and forcing UNC’s defenders to crash in on drives, Kennard will be waiting on the wing or in the corner for an open look that he is more than capable of knocking down.

Matt Jones Back: Junior guard Matt Jones left the last matchup early with an ankle injury, missing the entire Louisville game before returning to Duke’s lineup against Florida State. Jones is one of Duke’s most reliable 3-point shooting threats, hitting 42.4 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. A full game from him, barring further injury, will give Duke a completely new threat that UNC hasn’t seen, and stretches the floor out that much more for Allen and Ingram to penetrate into the lane against UNC’s interior.

Last Meeting: The Blue Devils rallied from an eight-point deficit with 6:49 to play to defeat the Tar Heels, 74-73, at the Smith Center on Feb. 17, 2016. UNC held Duke to 41.5 percent shooting but struggled to get stops when Krzyzewski employed a NBA-style isolation attack with Ingram (20) and Allen (23 points) late. Brice Johnson led UNC with 29 points and 19 rebounds.

Series History: UNC leads the all-time series, 133-108. Duke has won 11 of the last 14 meetings.

Projected Starters:
3 Grayson Allen (6-5, 205, So.) – 21.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg
14 Brandon Ingram (6-9, 190, Fr.) - 16.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg
13 Matt Jones (6-5, 200, Jr.) - 11.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg
12 Derryck Thornton (6-2, 175, Fr.) - 7.8 ppg, 2.5 apg
40 Marshall Plumlee (7-0, 250, Gr.) - 8.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg

Top Reserves:
5 Luke Kennard (6-5, 180, Fr.) – 11.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg

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