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UNC-Duke: What to Watch

3/3/2012

For a while, North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall saw so many replays of Duke freshman Austin Rivers’ Feb. 8 game-winning 3-pointer that it got annoying.

“I understood, watching ACC games the next week, they would show the shot. I was like, ‘OK,’” said Marshall, whose team gave up a 10-point lead in the final 2:38 of the rivalry loss. “Then they’re showing ACC games that we’re not even playing in, and I was like, ‘Well, that was a big shot.’

“Then I was watching Big Ten games, and they’re showing the shot, and I was like, ‘All right, I’ve got to get away from college basketball.’ So I watch a Boston Celtics game, and sure enough, they showed the shot again."

Marshall understands that it was a great shot; but now he and the sixth-ranked Tar Heels hope they can file away that negative memory by creating a positive one -- with a win over the third-ranked Blue Devils on Saturday night.

The game will decide the ACC regular-season champion and could determine whether either team earns a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Neither squad has lost since that game.

A few things to watch:

3-POINT SHOOTING

Duke attempted a season-high 36 3-pointers – and made 14, including the game-winner -- the last time these teams met.

UNC, in contrast, went 1-for-6 from beyond the arc.

“There is not a magic number, but I want us to make some more 3s,’’ UNC coach Roy Williams said. “… We need to make more, they need to make less. I guess that’s probably the best way to put it."

The Blue Devils lead the ACC in both 3-pointers (352) and 3-point percentage (.390), but Rivers said the game will come down to more than his team’s outside shooting.

“You can’t win just by shooting 3s,’’ he said. “I think that’s the thing people are saying right now, that we’re only going to win by shooting 3s. I think we’re only going to win if we keep them off the boards, if we can slow them down in transition, and if we can just score, period. If we’re in attack mode, things work. We don’t necessarily have to be jackin’ and making 3s.

“Shooting 3s is a big part of our game; we’re going to take them, we’re going to shoot our bullets … but we really have to be a presence inside on rebounding. If we can do that, we can win the game.”

HARRISON BARNES

Barnes, UNC’s leading scorer, recorded 19 of his 25 points in the second half the last time these teams played.

“They did a good job of denying me touches [in the first half],’’ Barnes said. “… And then in the second half, my teammates did a great job of getting me the ball, and giving me enough space to operate, and that’s why I was able to play better in the second half.”

The 6-foot-8 wing is a tough matchup for the Blue Devils’ smaller perimeter -- and frankly, Barnes seems due for a big game. He’s scored only 17 points his past two outings, shooting 6-for-23 and missing all seven of his 3-point attempts.

HOME-COURT ADVANTAGE?

It will be Senior Night at Duke, but home court hasn’t been quite as kind to the Blue Devils as years past. Florida State and Miami both won at Cameron Indoor Stadium this season, while Virginia Tech took Duke to overtime there.

Meanwhile, UNC has won six straight ACC road games since losing at FSU by 33 points. And Duke senior Miles Plumlee knows playing on the road can have its advantages -- so his team must still beware of the Tar Heels, even in the comfy confines of home.

“I feel like when you’re going into an opponent’s arena, there’s less pressure -- it’s you against them, they’re supposed to win,’’ Plumlee said. “… The crowd makes you rally together, you play more together on the court. And I’m sure the same thing goes for them when they come here, so we really have to be ready for a fight.”

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.