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Duke Rebounds to Pound Cavs, 83-65
Photo Gallery
Tar Heels Smash Devils, 64-54
The Nutshell
Previewing Duke at UNC
By Rob Clough
February 27, 2010

ACC Champion Devils Meet Reeling Heels

North Carolina - Sunday 2/28 @ 3 PM - Carmichael Auditorium (FSN)

Last Meeting: 2/8/10: Duke Thrashes Carolina, 79-51
Current Records: Duke 24-4, 12-1 ACC (clinched 1st)
North Carolina 17-10, 5-8 ACC (T-8th)

The Update: Since Duke thrashed the Heels in Cameron, UNC has fallen all the way into a tie for 8th place with Maryland. The Heels haven't had a fall this steep in quite some time. They've lost 7 of their last 8 games, with their only victory coming against Wake Forest in overtime. The first indication that the wheels were starting to fly off a bit came when Boston College came to Chapel Hill and won by 7 points, dominating the Heels on the boards. UNC nearly righted the ship with a win against Virginia but lost in double-overtime after Italee Lucas hit a game-tying three. NC State came into Chapel Hill and outshot the Heels while Georgia Tech beat the Heels by pounding them on the boards.

In almost every game, the young Heels have showed flashes of brilliance but have had trouble sustaining it. Center Chay Shegog is occasionally dominant but often goes through long stretches looking passive on offense. Italee Lucas can be an explosive scorer but is also sometimes strangely listless. Cetera DeGraffenreid is the league's fastest point guard but hasn't been able to make opponents pay with her jump shot. The rest of the team is comprised of rookies, sophs and career role players. Most of them have had their moments and the younger players, especially frosh Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, show great potential as leaders.

Hatchell Unhappy with this Year's Heels
The problem is that in UNC's helter-skelter style of play, this team hasn't had enough rock-solid players to anchor the team when things are going a little too fast. As I've noted on numerous occasions, UNC's style of play is easy to defend when you can stack up some athletes and power players against them. Without a strong leader to establish order, the Heels have fallen apart. Indeed, Hatchell stripped DeGraffenreid & Lucas of their captaincies and awarded them to Jessica Breland (not playing this year due to her recovery from cancer) and Ruffin-Pratt (in an unprecedented move).

Make no mistake--there is a tremendous amount of talent on this team. 6-6 frosh Walteia Rolle is a force at both ends but raw & inconsistent. When she's on, she's unstoppable. The Heels are in a position where it's time for them to display some pride, playing in their last home game against their arch-rival. Look for their seniors to be ready to make some big plays, and look for Lucas & DeGraffenreid to be at their sharpest.

There are three keys for Duke in this game. First and foremost: rebounding. Duke's rebounding has not been all that great in the past three games. The Devils were stacked up against some of the best rebounding teams in the ACC, but Duke was found wanting in many respects. In particular, the Devils have been giving up way too many second-chance opportunities of late. That helped keep both Maryland and Virginia within striking distance for much of those games. The Heels have always loved crashing the offensive boards, so this will be Duke's biggest mission.

The second key is turnovers. Duke will need to force 20+ turnovers in this game to neutralize UNC's potent offense. Turning those into quick points could give them enough of a cushion to survive their usual scoring droughts. Third, Duke has to defend the three. Lucas and She'la White can't get a lot of open looks, because if they start to get into a rhythm they can be very hard to stop. Contested threes are one thing, but wide-open attempts are another--and that can happen when UNC beats their opponent down the floor.

The other thing to look out for is Duke's shooting. The Devils have shot the three much better of late, and if they can do that against the Heels, they'll be in great shape. Otherwise, Duke's array of offensive rebounders will be in for a busy night. This game is important because it would give Duke the ACC title outright and their first season-sweep of their arch-rivals since 2007. Of course, there's a good chance that the two teams might meet again sooner rather than later; Maryland and UNC will likely be slotted into the 8-9 game in the first round of the ACC tournament, and Duke would play the winner of that game.

Duke Rebounds to Pound Cavs, 83-65
Photo Gallery
Tar Heels Smash Devils, 64-54
The Nutshell

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