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Duke Overpowers Virginia, 81-67
Player by Player
Heels Rebound to Beat Duke, 75-60
The Nutshell
Preview: Duke at North Carolina
By Rob Clough and Orin Day
February 8, 2009

Devils and Heels Return to Smith Center For First Time Since 2005

Date: February 9, 2009 - 7:30 PM EST

2008 North Carolina Recap:
  • 33-3, 14-0 ACC (1st)
  • ACC Champions
  • Final RPI: #3
  • NCAA Regional Finalists

2008-09 Record: 14-2, 2-2 ACC
Last Game: Defeated VaTech, 93-77
Stats Leaders:
  • McCants 13.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg
  • Breland 13.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 67 blocks
  • Lucas 13.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.7 apg
  • DeGraffenreid 10.8 ppg, 4.2 apg
    All Time Series:Duke trails 44-30

    Last Meeting: 3/9/08 (ACC Finals):
          UNC 86, Duke 73
    DWHoops: Heels Take Fourth Straight Title
    School Website: TarHeelBlue.com

    Some info Courtesy UNC SID - thanks!
  • The Scoop:

    When the Heels had Erlana Larkins on their team, one could virtually pencil them into first or second place in the ACC and reserve them a slot in the ACC title game. She was the team's rock for four years, a poised and disciplined leader who helped keep order on the floor for a team known for its quasi-organized chaos. LaToya Pringle matured into more than just an able sidekick, becoming a feared defender and solid score in the pivot. Historically, the Heels have always struggled when losing their best leaders (and no, I don't count Ivory Latta as a great leader since Larkins did all of the dirty work for those teams).

    Things are playing out much as expected for the Heels - a team I selected to finish fourth in the league (ACC Basketball Handbook). Their solid overall record has been boosted by excellent overall play by Shegog and White, both of whom are getting better on a game-to-game basis. White emerged unexpectedly when senior Alex Miller was forced to quit basketball due to persistent injury. White has become a dependable and versatile third guard capable of playing in either backcourt slot. While averaging just 5 ppg on the season, her ability to handle the ball and make key plays has helped the Heels cope with the absence of Miller.

    Shegog is good for 10 points and 5 rebounds in every game and indeed has teamed with Breland to become a shot-blocking force. At the moment, she's mostly backing up Breland, though the two get some time on the floor together. One of UNC's big problems is that they don't really have anyone to play the four slot on a consistent basis. Ten different players have been in the starting lineup for the Heels this year, with players such as Laura Broomfield, Martina Wood and Trinity Bursey occupying that last forward spot. No one has really stuck, something that's hurt McCants. Her scoring numbers are down from a season ago, pointing out that much of her success last year was due to Larkins & Pringle occupying so much attention. She's been invisible in some games and great in others, but hasn't been at all consistent or dependable. The same can be said for Breland, who has wavered between brilliant and awful depending on the game. When she's on, Breland is an unstoppable scorer because of her quickness and soft touch and a relentless rebounder. When she's drifting a bit, she simply stops taking shots or trying to exert her will. When this is true of Both Breland and McCants, the Heels have really struggled.

    UNC's backcourt has been solid. DeGraffenreid hasn't noticeably improved anything about her game, from decision-making to shooting, but her aggressiveness and speed continue to make her team better at both ends. Claytor dropped a little weight and her shooting stroke is looking much better; she's thriving coming off the bench. Lucas has been the breakthrough player for the Heels. She's shooting 39% from three, she's getting assists and she's using her size in the backcourt to cause mismatches. She's going to be a very tough match-up for Duke.

    The rest of UNC's roster is strictly role players. The Heels have been a mediocre-to-poor rebounding team this year, and so forward Iman McFarland's 5 rpg have been crucial. Hatchell has never been afraid of using young players or role players in big games, so don't be surprised to see Wood, Broomfield or even wild card Christina DeWitt appear for a minute or two to buy time for her stars and attempt to wear down opponents.

    UNC is going to try to run Duke off the floor, much like they do with every opponent. Their team poster slogan of "Fast Just Got Faster" is actually some straight talk from Chapel Hill, as the difference between this year's team and past editions is that it really is their best strategy. What UNC doesn't want is for this game to become a halfcourt slugfest, because their rebounding isn't at Duke's level. The Heels don't have the physical enforcers that used to intimidate on defense, get easy stickbacks on offense and free up teammates with bone-crunching picks. Instead, they rely chiefly on generating baskets on fast breaks from steals and blocked shots. The Heels will trap ballhandlers, trap posts and try to force bad passes. Duke is usually quite happy to make a lot of bad passes in attempts at home run plays, so the Devils have to be careful to play at the pace they're comfortable with.

    DeGraffenreid schooled Jasmine Thomas twice last year before Jasmine played much better in the ACC title game. I'll be curious to see how well Jasmine is able to keep up with DeGraffenreid. Waner will have trouble guarding Lucas and I would not be surprised to see Keturah Jackson get the start and take on Lucas. That would free Waner up to play more off the ball and look for errant passes and traps. I expect Black and Breland to cancel each other out, which leaves Cheek and Gay vs McCants. This could be the key matchup of the game. Joy traditionally has done well against physical opponents, especially when the refs tolerate a lot of contact. She must put up points on the Heels, and she and Gay must hound McCants into a bad game.

    I expect Duke's bench players like Karima Christmas and Krystal Thomas to match anything the Heels can dish out. This is a game where Bridgette Mitchell can be a truly disruptive presence when Duke goes zone, and where Hopkins can help Duke out with her quickness. As a change of pace, I'd love to see her get 5-7 minutes. All told, Duke has a strong chance of winning this game, something I couldn't say a year ago. The Heels are simply not as tough, mentally or physically, as they were a year ago. They were bullied by UConn, pushed around by Georgia Tech and dominated by a thin Maryland team. They are still capable of beating anyone in the country when everything's clicking, so it will be up to Duke's defense to make sure that things don't click.

    Game Plan In Brief: Play solid in the half court, keep fast breaks under control

    Duke Player To Watch: Keturah Jackson on Italee Lucas

      To Play the Heels Running Game  

    Duke Overpowers Virginia, 81-67
    Player by Player
    Heels Rebound to Beat Duke, 75-60
    The Nutshell

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