UNC takes momentum into weekend, Duke looks to avoid skid
Posted February 21
Chapel Hill, N.C. — After Thursday night’s tilt, Duke and North Carolina each have four conferences losses on the season, but the teams have arrived there very differently. With one more meeting between the two to close the regular season, each is seeking to establish themselves among the ACC’s top teams.
Strategically on Thursday, UNC shifted to a man-to-man defense after Duke was able to grab an early lead against the Tar Heels’ zone. After that, the Blue Devils went on a nine-minute field goal drought, allowing UNC to seize the lead.
“They kept switching the defense from the 1-3-1 to man and that kind of threw us off,” said Duke guard Quinn Cook.
“They were really hurting us putting the ball on the floor and driving on us,” UNC head coach Roy Williams said. “We went zone and trap and that helped us some, but it was a bunch of kids playing their rear ends off is what it was.”
One of the game’s stand-outs was Leslie McDonald, whose nine field goals were more than he had hit in the previous four games combined. It was a fitting show for the senior in his final home game against Duke.
“It was just being able to go out there and give it my all and be in that type of environment. It means so much to me,” McDonald said. “I tip my hat to all the former players and hopefully we made them proud.”
Momentum remains with UNC. They have won eight in a row heading into Saturday’s game against Wake Forest (Noon, WRAL-TV).
“This was a big win for us and it proves to a lot people that those wins early in the season, the potential that we showed, we are starting to get there,” UNC guard Marcus Paige said. “This team can make a deep run if we keep working and we can beat any team in the country if we play to our potential.”
Against Maryland, Duke was able to overcome a poor night shooting from three-point range. That was not the case against UNC Thursday as they struggled to a 5-for-22 night from deep. It was more than just the missed shots, though, that befuddled the man on the bench for the Blue Devils.
“’It.’ We didn’t have ‘it;’ whatever the hell that thing is,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “In the second half, ‘it’ wasn’t in our huddle.”
“We didn’t get our emotions toward winning,” said freshman stand-out Jabari Parker. “I think they were more enthusiastic.”
Finding “it,” energy and enthusiasm is what Duke will focus on before hosting Syracuse at Cameron Indoor Saturday night (620 The Buzz).
Duke and Syracuse, who played one of the college basketball season’s best games in their first meeting, will each be coming off a loss when they meet Saturday. That ensures one of the nation’s top-5 teams will end the week having dropped two in a row.