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Duke vs. UNC preview: Wings

Jalen Johnson's explosive ability has the potential to ignite Duke's offense at any moment.
Jalen Johnson's explosive ability has the potential to ignite Duke's offense at any moment.

 

Duke’s wing play has been nothing short of a roller coaster throughout the season, plagued by injuries, inconsistent shooting and foul trouble. But the Blue Devils will need a quality game from the likes of Jalen Johnson and Wendell Moore Jr. if they wish to knock off North Carolina Saturday.

Johnson, who was named ACC Freshman of the Week last week, has been a key component of Duke’s recent wins. Averaging over 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists a game over the Blue Devils’ recent two-game win streak, Johnson seems to shine when it matters most. The Milwaukee native has recorded five double-digit scoring performances in his 10 games as a Blue Devil, adding at least two blocks in all of those five games but one.

Johnson has been hyped as a potential lottery pick all year, but perhaps he was pushed even further into the national spotlight with his posterizing dunk in the first half of Saturday’s win against Clemson. And while Johnson has long been known for his physicality on the court, he’s also shown off his elite passing abilities. When asked about Johnson, head coach Mike Krzyzewski said “he makes you like passing.” 

As seen in the game against Clemson, elite passing leads to elite scoring. If Johnson can continue to improve on his consistency, the rest of the team can, and will, benefit. 

Playing by his side is Moore, who seems to have found his rhythm within this young and talented Duke team, scoring 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting Monday night against Miami. Before Monday, Moore had scored more than four points in only four of his 11 games played this season. However, his impact is reflected in other aspects of the game outside of just scoring.

Even in the games in which Moore’s playing time was limited, he affected the game through timely rebounds. For Moore to make an impact against the Tar Heels Saturday, his importance will reach beyond points—he must make his experience felt through the entirety of his game.

Of course, how could one forget the dazzling finish for Moore when these two teams met last February. A last-second putback by Moore provided the final points of an improbable comeback and cemented his name in Duke lore.

On the other end of the court is Leaky Black, North Carolina’s premier wing player. His season, much like Moore’s, began on a shaky foot. He was shooting just 35.2% from the floor before being benched in late December. However, his struggles were only temporary. From that point on, Black has been an integral part of North Carolina’s success.

A confident Black could spell trouble for this young Duke team, so keeping him cold from the 3-point line will be vital. In his two games against Duke a year ago, Black finished a combined 6-of-17 shooting for 15 points, and failed to amass more than seven rebounds in either game. Last year, the Blue Devils had Black’s number, and for another year of Duke domination, they must continue to do the same.

Editor's note: This article is one of many in The Chronicle and The Daily Tar Heel's annual rivalry edition. Find the rest here.

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