No. 17 Duke, No. 5 North Carolina face off to end regular season (Mar 04, 2017)
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Two teams intent on doing more big things this season collide Saturday night in the regular-season finale when No. 17 Duke travels to No. 5 North Carolina.
So much already has been determined regarding the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season, but that doesn’t diminish the impact of the meeting at the Smith Center.
“It still boils down to one thing,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “It’s still North Carolina against Duke.”
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The teams played a riveting first game with Duke pulling away in the final minute for an 86-78 home victory on Feb. 9.
That perhaps makes the rematch just as intriguing.
“Saturday will be an amazing game,” Duke forward Amile Jefferson said. “We’ll have to come out tough and ready to fight.”
North Carolina (25-6, 13-4 ACC) is locked into the top seed for next week’s ACC Tournament. If Notre Dame wins at Louisville earlier in the day, North Carolina will have to knock off Duke in order to secure the outright regular-season title.
“We get the win, it gives us a lot of momentum going into the tournament,” North Carolina guard Joel Berry said. “I’m going to bring my all to get revenge on them. I want to win the ACC outright and not share with anyone else.”
Duke (23-7, 11-6), which was the ACC and national preseason favorite, has won eight of its last 10 games. The Blue Devils could land as anywhere from the No. 3 to No. 7 seed for the conference tournament.
“I know we’re hungry,” Duke freshman guard Frank Jackson said. “We’re willing to do whatever it takes to win.”
Unlike the game in Durham, the Tar Heels expect to have senior forward Isaiah Hicks available. He suffered a hamstring injury in practice and sat out that night, marking the only time this season he hasn’t been in North Carolina’s starting lineup.
Hicks and Kennedy Meeks are likely to be the only regular starters on the court for the Tar Heels for Saturday night’s tip-off. Williams said he’ll maintain his normal Senior Night plan, using a lineup of all seniors. That means Nate Britt, Stilman White and former football quarterback Kanler Coker join Hicks and Meeks.
“It’s going to be pretty exciting, knowing this is the last time (for a home game),” Hicks said. “Sad at the same time. It has been an amazing four years.”
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Friday that he expects Grayson Allen and Jefferson, who’ve both been hampered by injuries, to play. Allen missed last Saturday’s loss at Miami and was limited in Tuesday night’s home finale against Florida State.
“You could tell he’s not there right now,” Krzyzewski said. “We will see in the next week what we can do with him as we head into not just our last game and the ACC Tournament, but the NCAA Tournament. We have to get him healthy because he’s just too valuable for us.”
Allen has led Duke in scoring in the last three games against North Carolina. Last month, he made 7 of 12 3-point attempts on the way to 25 points.
North Carolina is coming off Monday night’s setback at Virginia. The Tar Heels haven’t lost consecutive games since early February 2016.
North Carolina has played Duke seven previous times under Williams in the final game of the regular season with first place at stake for the Tar Heels (either outright or a share). North Carolina is 7-0 in those games.
North Carolina leads the all-time series 134-109, though Duke has won 12 of the last 16 matchups.