No. 5 Duke, No. 11 UNC meet Sunday as Hatchell seeks No. 900
As if just getting these two schools together on the basketball court isn’t enough, Duke and North Carolina’s women’s basketball teams have more than their white-hot rivalry on the line Sunday, Feb. 3.
The No. 5 Blue Devils (19-1, 9-0) are alone atop the ACC standings at the halfway point of the 18-game schedule. No. 11 UNC (18-2, 8-1) sits tied with Maryland one game back.
In addition, UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell needs one win to have 900 for her coaching career, something only two other women’s coaches (Pat Summit, Jody Conradt) have accomplished.
On top of all that, of course, is the neighborhood bragging rights that will be at stake when the Blue Devils travel to Chapel Hill to meet UNC (1 p.m., ESPNU).
“Any time we play Duke it’s always a big game,” Hatchell said. “Duke’s a great team, they really are, they have a team full of all-Americans and Chelsea Gray and Elizabeth Williams are without a doubt two of the finest players in the country. So we know we have our hands full, but we’re up for the challenge.”
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie, facing UNC for the 15th time since coming to Duke in 2007, said the proximity of the two schools is striking to her.
“Where else do you coach where you are the head coach somewhere and your neighbor is cheering for another team?” McCallie said. “It’s just pretty funny here. We learn how to get along, I guess, with the neighbors. That’s what we do.”
The last time these two teams met, last March at Carmichael Arena, one incident in particular was anything but neighborly.
UNC’s Chey Shegog hit Duke’s Haley Peters in the face with an elbow. Peters was guarding Shegog closely in the backcourt. The blow opened a gash in Peters’ mouth that bled profusely.
“I would not call that an accident,” McCallie said.
After getting stitches, she returned to the game in the second half and Duke won 69-63.
Shegog has graduated, but Peters is a junior who starts for Duke. Unlike McCallie, Peters said this week she isn’t sure if the hit was intentional or not. She did say that Shegog apologized after the game.
“I don’t know what anyone’s intentions are,” Peters said. “I was up in her face a bit. That’s the nature of the game and you get hit every now and again. But I don’t know what her intentions were.”
Hatchell thinks the rivalry, while intense, rarely cross the line.
“I feel like we have a really good rivalry, and as many times as I’ve played over there, I never felt like things were out of line or anything,” Hatchell said. “They say things and jaw at you, but it’s never really been out of line. Funny, most of the time. I enjoy playing over there. It’s the ultimate of competing in college athletics, whether you play here or over there. I just know those kids enjoyed playing over there a lot.”
As for this year’s game, Duke is facing a much better UNC team. After missing the NCAA Tournament last season, the Tar Heels are battling for the ACC lead and have yet to lose on their home court this season.
A capacity crowd is expected today when two of the better ACC teams clash, which isn’t a surprise.
“Most of them are our fans,” McCallie said with a laugh. “Hopefully we can get our fans excited. Yeah, I mean, check the stats. That’s definitely true. When we come that’s the one time they can draw.”