GREENSBORO — Duke will get its chance to avenge two regular-season losses to top-seeded North Carolina when they meet in the finals of the ACC Tournament Monday night at 7:30 p.m. in the Greensboro Coliseum.
“We’re looking for another opportunity to redeem ourselves,” Duke head coach Gail Goestenkors said.
On their way to earning that opportunity, the second-seeded Blue Devils rolled over Wake Forest and Maryland in the first two rounds. The Tar Heels, on the other hand, had a much more difficult time in their half of the bracket.
North Carolina needed late comebacks against Miami and Virginia to squeak into the finals. Down 11 points at halftime to Virginia in the semifinals, the Tar Heels rallied behind the 19 second-half points of point guard Ivory Latta to win, 78-72.
The same quickness and shooting capability Latta showed in the last few minutes of the Virginia game also proved key in both of UNC’s victories over Duke. Her three-pointer with less than two minutes remaining Feb. 27 proved to be the decisive bucket in a game that determined the ACC regular-season champion.
Even though it has only played two games since UNC, Duke looks like a different team in the ACC Tournament. It is unlikely the Blue Devils will be able to score 62 points in a half or hold the other team to 11 like they did this weekend to Wake Forest and Maryland, respectively, but Duke will need to take away the positive lessons from the first two tournament games.
The Blue Devils will try to take advantage of a big size advantage over North Carolina, and centers Alison Bales and Chante Black will have to focus on winning boards for Duke to succeed. Carolina’s quick guards will likely find trouble inside against the Blue Devil post players.
The Tar Heels, on the other hand, will look to exploit Duke’s lack of quickness like they did in conference play. The Blue Devils will need to avoid turnovers and stay calm against UNC’s pressure defense.
One factor that could affect North Carolina’s intensity is fatigue. While Duke eased by its two opponents, North Carolina was forced play Latta all but two minutes so far in the tournament, including all 40 Sunday afternoon.
Monday night, though, both teams will come out hard with the ACC title and a likely No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament on the line. Duke is also looking to capture its sixth consecutive tournament title.
“Coach has told us we’re not defending our championship, we’re pursuing another one,” Monique Currie said. “That has just stuck in my mind throughout the tournament, and we’re looking to pursue another one tomorrow.”
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.