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Then and now: How has Duke men's basketball changed since its first game against North Carolina?

Duke's Kyle Filipowski drives to the basket during its Feb. 4 win against North Carolina.
Duke's Kyle Filipowski drives to the basket during its Feb. 4 win against North Carolina.

Duke men's basketball closes out its regular season Saturday night in Chapel Hill. Ahead of round two of the rivalry matchup, the Blue Zone looks back at the first meeting and previews the upcoming game: 



On Tuesday night against N.C. State, Duke added a 19th undefeated season in Cameron Indoor Stadium to the books. The North Carolina game Feb. 4 was no exception to that — by a six-point margin, the Blue Devils managed to kick the Tar Heels out of their storied home stadium, winning 63-57. There is simply not a question about the effect of Cameron Indoor on this team: 16 of the 22 total games that Duke has won this season have been played at home. Nearly one month ago, the Blue Devils clinched the win over their biggest rivals — but it was a combined effort between an effective basketball team and the unapologetic Cameron Crazies standing behind them.


The six-point gap that gave Duke the win against North Carolina would not have been possible without the monumental performance by Dereck Lively II on that fateful Saturday night. His defensive effort showcased the very best of the freshman center’s potential, culminating in 14 rebounds and eight blocks that shut down Tar Heel efforts and opened the door for the Blue Devils. Whenever Duke takes on North Carolina, it is a basketball battle with both teams firing on all cylinders. In the first episode of this year’s Tobacco Road rivalry, Lively’s powerful presence kicked Duke’s defense into the highest gear — and that is what clinched the victory.


One of the areas in which Duke slipped up was, unsurprisingly, on the offensive front. The Blue Devils sacrificed 12 turnovers to the Tar Heels, who capitalized off of them with 11 points added to their final score. Duke’s assist-to-turnover ratio was skewed in the wrong direction, totaling 10 assists to these 12 turnovers for a 0.83 mark to indicate an underwhelming offensive performance. In order to prevent this from happening again, the Blue Devils need to ensure that their passes land where they are meant to and do not fall into the wrong hands. With defensive stalwarts like Leaky Black and RJ Davis on the court for North Carolina, head coach Jon Scheyer will have to expect a few lost possessions from his team. But if the Blue Devils can restrict their turnovers to fewer than a dozen, their prospects for Saturday night will look a lot better.



The Blue Devils are not great on the road. In fact, outside of Cameron, Duke is a losing team, standing at 6-8 at combined neutral and opponent territories. When it takes on the Tar Heels Saturday, Scheyer’s team will do so with an extra player to contend with: the Dean Dome. This is not to say, however, that Duke does not stand a chance. The Blue Devils have an all-time 17-20 record in the Dean E. Smith Center and managed a 20-point blowout there just last season, despite losing to the Tar Heels in former head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game. Cameron Indoor Stadium has simply possessed a magic this season that other home courts have not; the Dean Dome—in which North Carolina has lost twice this year—does compare.


The Blue Devils were not at full capacity last time they geared up to take on the Tar Heels. Now, though, freshman forward Dariq Whitehead is back in action. In episode two, Duke returns for another rivalry game, this time with an extra character for added ammunition. Whitehead is not a perfect player, but he certainly brings some extra manpower to the shooting front with his 41% success rate from the arc — 52% since his return against Virginia — and an average of 8.2 points per game. In these big rivalry competitions, every point counts; with Whitehead added back into the mix, there’s an opportunity to snag a few extra and make this edition of the Tobacco Road rivalry a Blue Devil blowout.


Come Saturday, it will have been three weeks since Duke lost a basketball game. Even then, that most recent loss was against Virginia and hung on a mistaken call by ACC officials. The Blue Devils, then, head into Saturday’s matchup riding the wake of success in conference play, featuring important defeats of competitive ACC teams like Syracuse, Virginia Tech and N.C. State. There is nothing like a rivalry game to ignite a fire, and nothing like momentum to promise confidence on the court — so on Saturday, if nothing else, the Blue Devils will head into the Dean Dome with energy. 


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