Last time they took on their archrivals, the Blue Devils seemed like they had it all figured out. For most of the first half, the Dean Dome was deafeningly silent. 

But just as quickly as they jumped ahead, they walked off the court dazed, heads down, their ears ringing. 

Duke and Carolina in a nutshell. Whatever you thought knew about a basketball game, throw it out the window. Crazy things happen.

The No. 5 Blue Devils hope that they can curry the Crazies’ favor and avoid reliving that feeling Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium against the No. 9 Tar Heels. Duke will have to do better on the offensive glass than it did in its February loss, when North Carolina owned the boards—especially in the decisive second half. The Blue Devils were up by 12 points late in the first half, but folded to fall 82-78. 

Both teams are now coming off losses heading into their second matchup for the first time since 2007, five days after Duke faded late and got shocked on the road against Virginia Tech. After falling on a buzzer-beater against Miami their last time out, the Tar Heels are confident they can get back on track in one of the toughest road venues in basketball. 

"I always love winning there,” North Carolina senior guard Joel Berry II told reporters of playing at Cameron after falling to the Hurricanes. “It’s kind of like going back to play in a high school, the fans right there on the court doing the twinkle fingers or whatever,” he added at the team's media availability Thursday. 

Berry has won just once at Duke in three tries.

In the past 101 games, the series has been incredibly tight—North Carolina has 51 wins, Duke has 50. The Blue Devils have scored 7,845 points, while the Tar Heels have scored 7,847. In order to even the series in recent history, Duke will have to play a full 40 minutes—something it failed to do against the Tar Heels in February and against the Hokies Monday night. 

Aside from a loss against now-No. 1 Virginia, the Blue Devils (24-6, 12-5 in the ACC) have routinely excelled at home and have leaned on a much-improved defense since the rivals’ last meeting. After hitting close to rock bottom in the loss to the Tar Heels Feb. 8, they have allowed an average of 57.0 points per game in their last six behind a zone defense. 

Duke has improved at preventing its opponents from owning the offensive glass like North Carolina did earlier in the season, but the Tar Heels (22-8, 11-6) are the best in the nation in rebound margin. The Blue Devils come right behind them at No. 4, but couldn’t quite compete against North Carolina’s guards on the glass last time out. 

Duke couldn’t do anything to stop 6-foot-8 guard Cameron Johnson, who pulled in 13 rebounds while also lighting it up from deep. 

“It’s all five guys. A lot of their offensive rebounds were guys crashing from the perimeter,” Blue Devil senior captain Grayson Allen said after the February loss. “We knew that was one of their strengths, and we failed to even limit it. That’s not just our big guys—that’s all of us. They’re crashing from the perimeter, so it’s all of our responsibility.”

In addition to better rebounding and 3-point defense, the Blue Devils will also need a more consistent inside game on offense. Tar Heel forward Theo Pinson locked down Marvin Bagley III and Co. in the second half after they owned the paint early—Duke didn’t attempt a 2-pointer for a 10-minute stretch in the second half. 

The Blue Devils’ offense has fallen off a bit lately, turning the ball over carelessly against the Hokies and struggling from deep. In their last two games, they have shot 21.7 percent from 3-point range. Allen and Gary Trent Jr. in particular have been out of rhythm.

“We slowed the ball up. That’s one of the reasons why we’re not scoring as much,” Allen said after Duke’s loss to Virginia Tech. “I felt we had mismatches inside. We tried to get inside but we had too many turnovers trying to do that. Perimeter guys need to make better passes, myself included. Too many turnovers, that was really it.”

The Blue Devils’ offense will need to be at top form to keep up with an offense that is the fourth-most efficient in the nation, according to basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy. To do so, head coach Mike Krzyzewski thinks that his team needs some rest and rejuvenation. 

“Starting at Clemson a Sunday ago, we’ve played Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, Monday. At this time of the year, you’re already a little bit worn down,” Krzyzewski said. “We didn’t play with the energy, and then they played well—I’m not taking away from them. That’s the thing I was most worried about today, just the energy, and we didn’t have it. You could tell because we were irritable.”