Chapel Hill, NC – One of the greatest rivalries in all of ranked North Carolina Tar Heels square off in ACC action at the Dean E. Smith Center.
Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils are once again among the ACC's elite, but have little room for error the rest of the way as they are coming off a heart- wrenching 78-74 overtime loss to Miami-Florida at home this past weekend. The loss halted a three-game win streak for Duke and dropped it into third place in the ACC, trailing both North Carolina and Florida State by a game in the standings.
Roy Williams' Tar Heels have had to face their own adversity of late, losing a key starter to injury when Dexter Strickland went down with a torn ACL. Depth has been the key for UNC however, as the team has strung together five straight victories to move to 7-1 in-conference. Most recently, North Carolina dropped Maryland in College Park, 83-74.
North Carolina is one of the few teams with a winning record against Duke. The Tar Heels are up 131-101 in a series that dates back to 1920. The Blue Devils have won four of the last five meetings however, including a 75-58 decision in last year's ACC Championship Game. The two schools close out the regular season against one another in Durham on March 3rd.
The Blue Devils fought back from a 16-point second-half deficit to force overtime, but could not sustain it in the extra session, falling at home for the second time in the last three games at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Guards Seth Curry and Austin Rivers led the way in defeat with 22 and 20 points, respectively. Mason Plumlee struggled offensively with just six points, but managed to grab a game-high 13 rebounds.
Duke is at its best when it gets a balanced effort at the offensive end of the floor. The team is averaging almost 80 points per game (79.8), behind a healthy .482 shooting. Four players are averaging double figures coming into this contest, led by Rivers' 14.5 ppg. The standout freshman is followed in the scoring column by Ryan Kelly and Curry at 12.6 ppg each. Mason Plumlee headlines the play down low, averaging a near double-double with 11.6 points and a team-high 9.7 rebounds per game. Plumlee, who is delivering on nearly 60 percent from the floor (.592), ranks second in the ACC in rebounding. Andre Dawkins (9.7 ppg) is inching closer to double digits, as he is the team's top threat from long range, hitting 51-of-125 from behind the arc.
There aren't many teams that can match Duke's offensive proficiency, but North Carolina is one of them. The Tar Heels lead the nation in scoring at 84.1 ppg, and possess three of the ACC's top nine scorers and two of the top three rebounders. UNC boasts of the nation's premier frontcourt, as Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller are a dominating trio. Barnes can score from anywhere on the floor and ranks third in the league at 17.3 ppg. Zeller (15.3 ppg, 9.6 rpg) and Henson (14.3 ppg, ACC-leading 10.0 rpg) are a devastating duo around the rim. Kendall Marshall isn't much of a scorer (6.5 ppg), but is as good as any point guard in the nation in getting his teammates involved, ranking second nationally with 9.8 apg.
Zeller led the way in the recent win over Maryland with 22 points. Barnes poured in 18, while Henson recorded a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Reggie Bullock added 11 points to round out the double-digit scorers. Marshall just missed a double-double, finishing with nine points, while dishing out an impressive 16 assists.