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UNC vs. Duke Preview

No. 5 North Carolina looks to secure back-to-back outright ACC regular season titles with a win over No. 17 Duke on Saturday. Senior Night tip is scheduled for 8:20 p.m. at the Smith Center.

North Carolina (25-6, 13-4 ACC) vs. Duke (23-7, 11-6 ACC)
Chapel Hill, N.C. – Dean E. Smith Center
Saturday, 8:20 p.m.
ESPN (Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas)


“We didn’t make the plays that we needed to in the last three or four minutes. You’ve got to give them credit. We took care of the basketball, we didn’t turn it over, but we still didn’t get the offense that we wanted. All of the sudden we’re running our offense 35 feet from the basket, so credit their defense for that.” – UNC coach Roy Williams his team’s loss to Duke on Feb. 9

“It’s the ACC. That’s what it is, guys. You guys act like it’s nothing but this is a pretty doggone tough league. We can stink it up one night and then we can play like great balls of fire the next night, and so can the other teams.” – Williams after his team’s loss to Virginia on Monday

“He is really good right now. You’ve seen a different player in the last couple weeks. He has been good all year, but in the last couple weeks he has been one of the best players in the country because he is rebounding, too.” – Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski on the recent play of Jayson Tatum


Heels Historic Loss: In its worst scoring performance in more than three decades, UNC lost at Virginia on Monday, 53-43. The Tar Heels’ 43 points were the least scored by the team in the Roy Williams era and marked UNC’s lowest point total since 1979. Williams’s squad couldn’t break the high-pressure defense from the Hoos, preventing any sort of offensive rhythm and limiting the Tar Heels to 35.4 percent from the field. While the Cavaliers shot a poor percentage of their own (32.2), they converted 10 3-pointers to UNC’s four. Joel Berry led the Tar Heels with 12 points, while Justin Jackson (seven points) has held in check by London Perrantes. Despite the loss, UNC can claim its second outright ACC regular season title in as many years with a win over Duke or a Notre Dame loss to Louisville.

Duke Spotlight: Duke has been walking a tightrope since its last meeting with UNC, recording a 4-2 record over the span with five of the six games being decided by five points or less. Back-to-back road losses to Syracuse and Miami knocked the Blue Devils out of the race for the ACC regular season crown, but they are still fighting for seeding in the conference and NCAA Tournaments. Luke Kennard is still firing on all cylinders, averaging 20 points over his last six games. Jayson Tatum seemed to gain a confidence boost from his first UNC-Duke game, as he’s scored 28, 19, 19 and 15 since the first meeting. The stretch forward is also shooting an impressive 41 percent from 3-point range over his last six games.

Jackson’s Rise: Ask any coach, and they’ll tell you that a freshman player is no longer a rookie as his first season comes to an end. That seems to be the case for Duke point guard Frank Jackson. The 6-foot-3 guard has elevated his play recently, displaying a knack for scoring at crucial junctures. Jackson was one of the few highlights in Duke’s loss to Miami last week, matching Luke Kennard for a team-best 16 points. The breakout game of his college career came in Duke’s 75-70 win over Florida State on Tuesday. Jackson scored a career-high 22 points in 33 minutes to lead the Blue Devils past the No.15 Seminoles on Senior Night.

Allen Officially Back: Saturday’s matchup is Grayson Allen’s second game back after sitting out one game due to an ankle injury. Allen only played 16 minutes in Duke’s win over FSU, but looks to be back to full strength this weekend. He scored a game-high 25 points on 7-of-12 shooting from long range in the first game of this rivalry.

Senior Night: Saturday’s game will be the last at the Dean E. Smith Center for seniors Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Nate Britt, Kanler Coker and Stilman White. As standard Tar Heel protocol, all five seniors will start the game.

Matchup to Watch: UNC’s Isaiah Hicks was expected to play a big role in the first meeting with Duke, but was sidelined with a hamstring injury. Tatum capitalized on Hicks’s absence, scoring all 19 of his points after halftime to propel his team to victory. With Hicks back in the lineup, UNC will now have plenty of size and athleticism at the four spot to make Tatum work harder on both ends of the floor. While Hicks is close to 100 percent, his game hasn’t fully been revived. The senior forward is averaging 5.4 points per game since his return and has committed more fouls (13) than points scored (10) in his last three games. With Tatum being a versatile player both inside and out, Hicks’s presence on the floor and ability to resist foul trouble will prove paramount to the Tar Heels’ success.

Last Meeting: UNC lost to Duke, 86-78, at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Feb. 9. Allen led all scorers with 25 points, including four treys in the first half, while Naismith Award Finalist Luke Kennard added 20 points. The Blue Devils surprised the Tar Heels on the board, winning the rebounding battle, 31-30.

Series Record: The Tar Heels lead the all-time series, 134-109. The Blue Devils have won 12 of the last 16 meetings.

Projected UNC Starters (Senior Night):
0 Nate Britt (6-1, 175, Sr.) – 4.6 ppg, 2.4 apg
3 Kennedy Meeks (6-10, 260, Sr.) - 12.6 ppg, 9.1 rpg
4 Isaiah Hicks (6-9, 242, Sr.) - 11.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg
13 Kanler Coker (6-4, 200, Sr.) – 0.3 ppg, 0.2 rpg
30 Stilman White (6-1, 178, Sr.) – 1.3 ppg, 0.3 rpg

Top Reserves:
2 Joel Berry (6-0, 195, Jr.) – 14.7 ppg, 3.8 apg
5 Tony Bradley (6-11, 240, Fr.) – 7.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg
32 Luke Maye (6-8, 235, So.) – 4.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg
1 Theo Pinson (6-6, 211, Jr.) – 6.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg
44 Justin Jackson (6-8, 210, Jr.) – 18.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg

Projected Duke Starters:
0 Jayson Tatum (6-8, 205, Fr.) – 16.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg
3 Grayson Allen (6-5, 202, Jr.) – 14.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg
5 Luke Kennard (6-6, 202, So.) – 19.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg
21 Amile Jefferson (6-9, 224, Sr.) – 11.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg
13 Matt Jones (6-5, 204, Sr.) – 7.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg

Top Reserves:
1 Harry Giles (6-10, 240, Fr.) – 4.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg
15 Frank Jackson (6-3, 205, Fr.) – 10.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg

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