When the Blue Devils last faced their rival down the road back in January, Duke had all the pieces in place to steal the thunder out of a celebratory night for North Carolina head coach Sylvia Hatchell and notch a key road win.

Instead, the Blue Devils fell apart in the final minutes of play, leaving Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie searching for answers in what would become the Blue Devils’ most painful loss of the season.

No. 20 Duke will host the Tar Heels Sunday at 2 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium with a shot at redemption in its regular-season finale. After squandering a 19-point lead to North Carolina a month ago and with four standout seniors and graduate students facing their final contest in Cameron, this game runs deeper than the typical battle of the bluebloods. Those very seniors may be the key for Duke in taking control of Sunday’s rematch.

“What's important is getting better this time of year,” McCallie said. “It's cutting loose a little bit, with everyone playing off each other in a way that is March-like. As we head into March, there's a certain energy and a certain focus that is needed as we push through the month, and that's what I saw against Florida State and that's what we need against UNC.”

Coming off a massive resume win against ninth-ranked Florida State, the Blue Devils (21-7, 10-5 in the ACC) will be entering their contest against North Carolina having just played some of their best basketball all season.

Against the Seminoles, the star for Duke was graduate student Lexie Brown, who notched a staggering 30 points, shooting 12-of-19 from the field. The Suwanee, Ga., native also made it tough for the highly-touted Florida State offense to gain any momentum, picking up five timely steals to keep the Blue Devils in the driver’s seat. Against a Tar Heel squad that’s had trouble controlling the ball—averaging 15.9 turnovers per game—Brown’s trademark assertive style will yet again spearhead Duke’s offense and defense.

“There are so many things [Lexie] does on the floor for us, whether they be defensive or offensive,” McCallie said. “She has become a very efficient player--she's up for player of the year and could honestly be up for defensive player of the year relative to her steal success. Lexie has been a warrior competitor and has been coming along to play some great basketball.”

The Blue Devils can also expect serious contributions from the other half of the Splash Sisters. Graduate student Rebecca Greenwell made six triples against Florida State while also notching nine rebounds—marking her seventh straight game with at least eight boards. With Greenwell both spacing the floor and crashing the glass, it will be tough for the Tar Heels to sustain runs on the road against the Blue Devils.

Although Duke has the individual talent to send North Carolina (14-13, 4-10 in the ACC) packing, the Blue Devils will need to learn from their last contest if they want to avoid a costly misstep just before conference play.

In last month’s game, Duke Achilles' heel was an abysmal 26 turnovers. The Blue Devils have taken better care for the ball lately—committing less than 15 turnovers in each of their last three games—but carelessness against an opportunistic Tar Heel squad could prove disastrous for Duke.

The Blue Devils will also need to figure out how to limit North Carolina redshirt sophomore Paris Kea, who poured in 36 points and shot 5-of-9 from beyond the arc in the teams' meeting in Chapel Hill. If the Blue Devils can clamp down on the Tarboro, N.C., native who averages 19.4 points per game, Duke can prevent January’s nightmare from happening all over again.

“[Our last game against UNC] was a very bad game for us in terms of focus,” McCallie said. “I've watched it again and again and it's very difficult to watch the lack of focus and those live-ball turnovers. We've grown as a team and we've grown through the process of learning, getting better, taking care of the ball better and making better decisions.”

A win against North Carolina would also likely secure a double bye for the Blue Devils in next week's ACC tournament if No. 21 N.C. State loses on the road at No. 5 Notre Dame.

“We've got a variety things from our last film,” McCallie said. “Florida State was a great game but there's plenty from Florida State to improve upon. That's what we're going to do on Sunday--get after those improvements and become a much better team Sunday, and head into the tournament feeling good about that.... You can smell March, and it's a time of year to really get better and really apply yourself.”