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Key Three: Duke basketball vs North Carolina

With a double-bye in the ACC Tournament on the line, No. 17 Duke hosts the eighth-ranked Tar Heels hoping to finish the regular season with a resume-boosting win. The Blue Devils upended North Carolina on the road Feb. 18 in an exciting 74-73 victory. Here are three keys to the game: 

Be effective and efficient from the field

For a Duke team that relies heavily on its perimeter shooting—particularly from beyond the 3-point arc—knocking down open shots is always critical to gaining an edge. But in their last two games, the Blue Devils have shot pedestrian marks of 36.5 percent and 37.5 percent from the floor, respectively. In the first matchup between the teams, not only did Duke shoot almost 42 percent from the field, but they also buried seven 3-pointers—going 4-of-9 from downtown in the opening half. 

With a deep roster that includes lightning-quick guards Marcus Paige and Joel Berry II as well as athletic forward Justin Jackson, the Tar Heels will be more than eager to push the pace off of missed Blue Devil shots. Considering its depth issues, Duke must be patient on offense as they cannot afford fatigue or missed shots that will lead to easy transition scores. Instead, with guards Derryck Thornton, Matt Jones and Grayson Allen running the point for the Blue Devils, look for Duke to make the most out of their possessions by swinging the ball around the perimeter and finding open looks. 

Contain Brice Johnson

After the 6-foot-10 big man dominated the Blue Devils in Chapel Hill, expect North Carolina head coach Roy Williams to look for another big night out of his star forward. Johnson posted a first-half double-double en route to 29 points and 19 rebounds—more boards than Ingram and center Marshall Plumlee combined—in his team's mid-February loss. 

But Duke found a way to corral Johnson in the final 20 minutes and ultimately come back to snatch a victory away from the Tar Heels. 

During the final 10 minutes, the Orangeburg, S.C., native failed to register a point and got limited touches near the basket—partly due to solid defense by Plumlee. At Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Blue Devils desperately need to limit Johnson's impact on the game and not just for 10 minutes, but rather all 40. The senior is a candidate to win ACC Player of the Year with averages of 16.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, not to mention a 62 percent shooting percentage from the field. The big man has shown himself to be dangerous against even the strongest of competition and will impact Saturday's game. 

Take advantage of home court 

In recent years, the Tobacco Road rivalry has been dominated by the Blue Devils, who have won 11 of the last 14 matchups—including a 5-1 record at home. As is normally the case, expect the building to be rocking when Duke and North Carolina take the court for the final time in the regular season. 

That being said, the Blue Devils have struggled to get off to hot starts as of late. Duke shot just 28.6 percent in the first half Tuesday night against Wake Forest and last weekend at Pittsburgh, it found itself trailing by more than 20 in the second half. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski has admitted to having a tired and worn-down bunch due to his top six guys playing extensive minutes since senior Amile Jefferson's foot injury. 

Whether that means knocking down a handful of shots from long-range or working the ball inside with Plumlee, Duke needs to make the most of early opportunities and get ahead rather than dig themselves into a quick hole that they spend the rest of the game trying to climb out of. 

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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