Abby Waner was about to explain why the perfect ending to her home career at Duke would include a victory over North Carolina when the Blue Devils' meticulous star had a brief brain cramp: She forgot how long her team's losing streak against its top rival had become.
That's about the only time lately that anyone at Duke has lost count of those nagging losses.
For Waner and the seniors at No. 10 Duke (23-4, 10-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), their finale at Cameron Indoor Stadium comes against a team of ninth-ranked Tar Heels that they haven't beaten since 2007 when they wrapped up the best regular season in school history.
Reminded that the slide was four heading into Sunday night's rematch, Waner managed only a sigh.
"I think if I'm going to be politically correct: It's just one game, you only think about one game, forget the past, look toward the future, forget the fact that it's your last game at Cameron, last game of the season, on and on," she said.
"But those are all there, all those ancillary things are very much in the back of your mind," she added. "To be able to beat Carolina on Senior Night, my last game in Cameron, our last regular-season game, with my family here, with my old coaches here ... would really be a nice ending to my career in Cameron."
The recent results certainly have been one-sided when these top-10 regulars have met.
North Carolina (25-4, 10-3) swept three meetings last season by an average of 20 points, then followed that by spotting the Blue Devils a 12-point lead roughly three weeks ago before rallying for a 75-60 victory.
The losing streak extends even further back for second-year Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie. She's 0-5 in her career against North Carolina, a record that includes a loss in the 2000 NCAA tournament during her time at Maine.
"There's no doubt there's an excitement and there's a media and school rivalry, and that's pretty well noted," McCallie said. "But the reality is, when you don't play your best ... and you don't finish, honestly, the feeling is the same for any team at that point. But I do think there's a special energy when you have a rivalry and more can be written about it, and more is paid attention to it. That goes along with the territory."
Streaky play has dominated the rivalry through the years. North Carolina has won nine of the past 11 meetings since Erlana Larkins' arrival in 2004-05, but before that, the Blue Devils took 15 of 16 from 1999-2004. That followed a run in which the Tar Heels went 13-4 against Duke from 1992-99.
For all the mystique that surrounds Cameron and its inhabitants' inhospitable treatment of visitors, the Tar Heels have made themselves right at home there. Duke has lost five home games during the past five seasons _ and three of those losses have come to North Carolina, which seems to feed on the antics of the blue-painted Cameron Crazies.
"We love playing over at Cameron. Great environment. The students are funny, and I really think that relaxes us, and we've actually played pretty good over there," Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "I think my players actually relax a little bit because of that."
Both teams are treating their second matchup as a barometer to gauge their chances for postseason success. Four days after this game, the ACC tournament starts in Greensboro, roughly an hour's drive from both campuses, but neither team will play until Friday because they both clinched opening-round byes and crucial top-four seeds.
"If you want to look at it more from a getting-better standpoint, it's the best game we could possibly have going into the ACC tournament, and more importantly, into the NCAA tournament," Waner said.
Before that, though, is the pesky losing streak that has dominated Duke senior Chante Black's career.
The star center has never played in a victory over the Tar Heels, losing to them three times in both 2005 and 2008 and twice in '06. The Blue Devils beat them twice while going 30-0 in 2006-07 _ but the Winston-Salem native redshirted that season with a knee injury.
"When I sat out, we won, so I feel like I contributed to that on the sideline," she said. "That would be the best way to go out your senior year, winning against Carolina."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.