Durham, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - One of the greatest rivalries in all of sports adds another chapter to its storied history on Wednesday evening, as fourth-ranked Duke plays host to archrival and 15th-ranked North Carolina in an ACC affair at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils are still within striking distance of the top spot in the ACC. Duke is sitting in third-place in the conference standings at 9-3, trailing only Notre Dame (11-3) and Virginia (12-1). The Blue Devils have won five straight games and boast of a 22-3 overall record, including an 80-72 road win at Syracuse on Saturday.
Roy Williams' Tar Heels are in a tie with Louisville for fourth-place in the league standings at 8-4. However, UNC could use a big win to bolster the team's fleeting confidence right now, as the team has lost three of its last four outings, including an 89-76 setback at Pittsburgh this past weekend.
UNC holds a 133-105 advantage in the all-time series with Duke and has played the Blue Devils more than any other opponent in Tar Heel history. Duke has won eight of the last 11 meetings, but the two teams split a pair of games last season, each winning on its home floor. Duke holds a 51-47 edge in games played in Durham and has won four of the last five matchups at home.
The Tar Heels played well offensively, but could not stop Pittsburgh at the other end of the floor in a shootout loss at the Petersen Events Center last weekend. UNC shot a solid .492 from the floor in the game, but the Panthers shot a ridiculous .649. Brice Johnson led the way in defeat with 18 points. Kennedy Meeks added 15 points to the cause, but star guard Marcus Paige struggled, going just 3-of-11 from the floor and finishing with just eight points in the loss.
The offensive numbers have been impressive on the year for North Carolina, which enters this contest averaging 78.7 ppg on .470 shooting. The team also enjoys pushing opponents around in the paint, outrebounding foes by 9.4 caroms per contest (fourth nationally). Paige leads the team offensively at 13.9 ppg, thanks in large part to his team-best 60 3-pointers. Johnson (12.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Meeks (12.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg) are a formidable frontcourt tandem. Justin Jackson (9.8 ppg) and J.P. Tokoto (8.5 ppg) add more offensive punch to the team.
There aren't many teams that would relish the idea of a shootout with North Carolina, but Duke is definitely one of them. The Blue Devils have more than enough firepower to contend with the Tar Heels in an up-tempo game, as they net 80.3 ppg (seventh nationally), on an impressive .497 shooting (sixth nationally). Freshman big man Jahlil Okafor is at the center of it all. The 6-11 youngster has lived up to the hype coming in. He leads the ACC in field- goal percentage (.665) and scoring (18.2 ppg) and ranks fourth in rebounding (9.3 rpg). Senior guard Quinn Cook is next in the scoring column at 14.8 ppg and is another of the ACC's top snipers, with 65 3-pointers to his credit. A couple of other touted freshman living up to their billing this season include forward Justise Winslow (11.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and point guard Tyus Jones (11.3 ppg, 5.3 apg - second in the ACC).
Okafor went against another supremely gifted big man in Syracuse's Rakeem Christmas and outdueled his counterpart in leading the Blue Devils to an eight-point road win over the Orange. Okafor recorded his ninth double-double of the season, finishing with 23 points and 13 rebounds in the victory. Cook poured in 17 points, while Winslow and Jones finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Duke shot .474 from the floor against a tough Syracuse defense, while the reserves outscored Syracuse's bench 15-0 in the game.