Duke at North Carolina
Eighth-ranked Duke and host North Carolina are both searching for answers after some recent uneven play as they meet for the 246th time Thursday night in another ACC showdown. Duke dropped two of its last three, including a shocking 81-77 defeat at St. John’s last Saturday, while the 22nd-ranked Tar Heels ended a three-game losing streak Saturday by beating last-place Pittsburgh.
The Blue Devils averaged 15.3 turnovers over the last three contests and have struggled defensively much of the season while allowing 72.4 points per game (ninth in the ACC). “Those are the two areas that we have to get better at,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters. “And if we’re not, then we’re just going to be a good team. … I don’t think it’s really complicated. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.” North Carolina had suffered through a three-game losing streak for the first time in four years with losses to Virginia Tech, North Carolina State and Clemson, but shot 51.4 percent from the field in the convincing win over Pitt. “We had three great spurts where people were diving on the floor and doing those kind of things,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams told reporters, “and that was sensational.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
ABOUT DUKE (19-4, 7-3 ACC): The Blue Devils turned the ball over 18 times and coughed up a seven-point halftime lead Saturday against the Red Storm, who had not yet won a Big East game at the time. Gary Trent Jr. scored 22 for the second straight game and is averaging 15.0 – second on the team behind fellow freshman Marvin Bagley III (21.4 points, 11.2 rebound), who has not added to his total of 17 double-doubles in the last two outings. Senior guard Grayson Allen must recover after going 1-for-7 from the field and managing just seven points against St. John’s – fewer than half his season average.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (17-7, 6-5): Junior forward Luke Maye responded to his season-low output of four points in the loss to Clemson on Jan. 30 by scoring 26 against Pitt. Maye tops the team at 18.3 points and senior guard Joel Berry II (17.3) is next while Pitt transfer Cameron Johnson has contributed 19.3 per game over the last three to push his season mark to 12.8. Senior swingman Theo Pinson (8.8 points, team-high 4.4 assists) was limited to two minutes against Clemson due to a shoulder injury, but returned without missing game Saturday and had 13 rebounds to go along with eight assists.
1. North Carolina junior G Kenny Williams scored 15 against Pitt after totaling 19 in the previous four games.
2. Duke freshman F Wendell Carter Jr. is averaging 12.3 rebounds over his last four games and 9.6 overall.
3. The Blue Devils won two of the three meetings last season and is 6-2 over the last eight against the Tar Heels.