Duke, UNC head into postseason with high hopes
The season is over; now the next season begins.
That’s the message both North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell and Duke’s Joanne P. McCallie had for their teams after the Blue Devils’ 65-58 victory Sunday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, their sixth straight in the rivalry.
One thing is for sure: The game was far from a work of art.
If Saturday night’s game at Cameron Indoor Stadium was one for the ages, there were times when Sunday’s contest seemed to be one that will take ages to forget.
Ryan Kelly made 10 out of 14 shots, including 7 of 9 from 3-point range in at 79-76 win by the Duke men’s team over No. 5 Miami on Saturday after sitting out almost two months with a foot injury.
The Duke and UNC women combined for 51 turnovers and made just 7 of 33 shots from outside the arc.
“Again, it wasn’t a pretty game,” McCallie said. “Anytime you have that many turnovers, you kind of want to wipe that out on the (statistics) sheet. But it’s not about pretty this time of year.”
Duke already was assured of being the No. 1 seed when the ACC Tournament begins Thursday at the Greensboro Coliseum. The loss left UNC tied with Maryland for second place in the final regular-season standings — a deadlock that was broken with the flip of a coin, in favor of the Terrapins.
Both Duke and UNC have a bye to the quarterfinals, where Duke will face either N.C. State or Clemson on Friday at 2 p.m. The Tar Heels, however, get the nightcap at 8 p.m. against the Virginia-Boston College winner.
“I told them in the locker room, ‘We’re right where we want to be,’” said Hatchell, whose teams have won eight ACC Tournament titles. “We’ve got the the whole week planned out. ... We’re just going to do what’s worked for the other championships.”
Duke, meanwhile, still is making the adjustment to playing without point guard Chelsea Gray, who was injured in the Blue Devils’ 81-70 victory over Wake Forest on Feb. 17.
A huge step in the right direction would be the play of freshman Alexis Jones, who had a game-high 22 points against the Tar Heels including 11 of 12 from the free throw line.
Jones was able to help break UNC’s fullcourt press. Make no mistake, that’s no easy task — the Tar Heels contest virtually every inbound pass and forced Duke into 29 turnovers.
“Obviously, that’s a strategy in play with Chelsea injured,” McCallie said. “I think every ounce of pressure and aggressiveness that Lex has to face makes her better.”
The Blue Devils suffered their first ACC loss Thursday night at Miami, though they set a league record Sunday with their 17th conference win.
But since Gray’s injury, Duke also has wins over No. 19 Florida State (61-50) and at No. 8 Maryland (75-59).
“It’s nice to be playing strong teams down the stretch, and we’ve had quite a run of them,” McCallie said. “That’s good for us, even though it’s really hard (as) we start anew, so to speak.”
Since Duke and UNC have combined to win 11 of the past 13 ACC Tournament championships, no one should be surprised if the title returns to the Triangle again this coming Sunday.
Then again, it’s another new season.
You may contact Jimmy DuPree at email@example.com or 919-419-6674.