Duke plays its archrival one more time to close out the 2022-23 regular season Saturday evening. Before the blockbuster matchup, the Blue Zone is here with a potential difference-maker for both the Blue Devils and Tar Heels:
Duke: Tyrese Proctor
Duke’s Australian all-star is on a tear.
Although the stat sheets may disagree at points, Proctor’s recent performances have been nothing short of spectacular, and the Blue Devils’ subsequent uptick in form is no coincidence. Since head coach Jon Scheyer deployed the freshman at point guard, his natural position, Proctor has flourished. From his silky-smooth shooting form to his laserpoint passing, he has taken the keys to the Blue Devils’ offense, spearheading a ruthless attacking streak that has seen Duke exceed 75 points in three of its last four games. Across the team’s five-game winning streak, he has hit double digits in scoring three times, thrice shot 40% or more from deep and logged 30-plus minutes in each game. Scheyer has faith in the Sydney native, and it is paying off.
In Duke’s first game against the Tar Heels Feb. 4, Proctor’s five assists, seven rebounds and efficient 11 points showed the kind of all-around threat he can be. The Blue Devils largely won that contest because of a dominant showing down low by freshman center Dereck Lively II and some key buckets by junior captain Jeremy Roach, but Proctor’s role should not be underestimated nor understated. North Carolina thrives on lights-out shooting nights by its backcourt combo of Caleb Love and RJ Davis, and Duke must do similar damage with its guards if it hopes to close the regular season on a six-game win streak.
Proctor’s playmaking, shot-creation and buttery handles have caused many teams — the Tar Heels included — problems before. Who is to say he cannot again?
North Carolina: Pete Nance
Nance’s showing the first time around in Durham was one of his worst of the season. Despite playing 30 minutes, he shot a paltry 1-of-10 from the floor, totaled only two points, committed two turnovers and had no assists or blocks.
However, the graduate forward is playing incredibly well coming into Saturday’s matchup. Head coach Hubert Davis remarked before the season that he was “surprised that [Nance is] not in the NBA,” and his back-to-back-to-back demolitions of Notre Dame, Virginia and Florida State have given some credence to his coach’s effusive praise. The Northwestern transfer has logged 48 points across the last three games, including two double-doubles and a clobbering of the Cavaliers’ defense as he went 4-of-4 from three. Long story short, Nance is roaring.
With the Blue Devils on the docket once more, Davis needs the best from his bigs to stop Duke’s towering, talented frontcourt. Lively’s 14 rebounds and eight blocks kept Armando Bacot silent throughout February’s game, while Nance was a nonfactor in the Tar Heels’ six-point defeat in Durham. Bacot is showing his typical excellence in the post, but add in a consistent Nance, and North Carolina may finally have its secret sauce.
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Andrew Long is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.