A Top 10 matchup involving Duke and North Carolina is nothing new.
However, when the teams meet Saturday night in Chapel Hill, N.C., there will be a slightly different twist due to results earlier in the week.
After a dominating stretch of victories by wide margins, No. 3 North Carolina (17-4, 9-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) had a 10-game winning streak snapped with a 74-73 loss at Georgia Tech on Tuesday.
“You can whine and complain, you can point fingers and you can make excuses or you can get back up and move forward,” Tar Heels coach Hubert Davis said. “To me, there’s not really a choice.”
Duke (16-4, 7-2), which has struggled at times across the past month and has dealt with time missed by multiple players because of injuries, has won three in a row and 11 of its past 12 games. The Blue Devils have won their last four road games, including a 77-67 victory at Virginia Tech on Monday.
“This team has been in a lot of unique environments already,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said. “This is the reason you come to Duke.”
Second-place Duke shot 55.4 percent against Virginia Tech, its best shooting in ACC play this season. That included 9-for-17 success on 3-point attempts.
The Tar Heels, who held 10 straight opponents to 70 points or fewer until the Georgia Tech game, shot a season-low 36.4 percent from the field Tuesday night. RJ Davis scored 28 points, but no other North Carolina player finished in double figures.
Duke, which has used six different starting lineups, had five of its past seven games decided by 10 points or less.
“Credit to us for staying together, coming together during these hard moments and just pushing through,” Blue Devils forward Kyle Filipowski said.
Duke guard Jeremy Roach might be rounding back into form, as he hit 4 of 5 from 3-point range while scoring 16 points against the Hokies.
“Just trying to find a rhythm,” he said. “Obviously, had the injury last week, but no excuses.”
Nine of North Carolina’s games in the 10-game winning streak came by double-figure margins.
Three Tar Heels starters — Cormac Ryan, Harrison Ingram and freshman Elliot Cadeau — will be in their first Duke/North Carolina game, though Ryan has faced the Blue Devils previously when he played for Notre Dame. The Tar Heels have had the same starting lineup for 14 consecutive games.
“Regroup and learn from the mistakes,” Hubert Davis said following the defeat against the Yellow Jackets. “Grow from them and make sure in our next game we don’t make those types of mistakes.”
North Carolina often has tried to use rebounding to its advantage in matchups with Duke. The Blue Devils have wavered on the boards this season.
“We’ve been a little inconsistent with the rebounding the last few games,” Filipowski said. “We just keep needing those reminders. Every team is different, and there’s going to be some games where maybe me and Mark (Mitchell) aren’t getting as many rebounds or Ryan (Young) where we’ve got to worry about boxing our guys out more and then the guards can come down and crash.”
Duke won both meetings with the Tar Heels last season. The Blue Devils have won in their past two visits to the Smith Center, though North Carolina holds a 20-18 edge in matchups in the building and a 65-39 overall advantage in Chapel Hill.
–Field Level Media
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