Duke/UNC: Hood, 'It's one of the top reasons you come to Duke'
Newcomers to Duke basketball this season, Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood have checked most of the requisite experiences off the list.
Playing in front of the famed Cameron Crazies went first.
Playing ranked non-conference opponents in the big-time arenas? Taken care of with games against Kansas in Chicago’s United Center and Arizona and UCLA at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Walking into road venues and being that team’s biggest home game of the season? See games at Notre Dame, Clemson, Miami, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Boston College.
As big as the game at Syracuse was, with its NCAA on-campus record crowd of 35,446, Duke’s two leading scorers face the ultimate Duke experience with the No. 8 Blue Devils play North Carolina at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill tonight (9 p.m., ESPN/WRAL).
Hood, a 6-8 redshirt sophomore from Meridian, Miss., attended a Duke-UNC game in Chapel Hill last year and sat in the stands while he was sitting out under NCAA transfer rules.
Parker, the 6-8 freshman forward from Chicago, heads there for the first time.
Hood said playing will be even better than watching.
“It’s one of the reasons why you come to Duke,” Hood said. “You want to be in this type of game. It’s the biggest game. I mean, they call count the same. But you want to have bragging rights. I’m just ready to get a taste of it.”
Parker leads Duke with a 19.2 scoring average, while Hood is second on the team at 16.5 points. Their play, obviously, will be important as the Blue Devils (19-5, 8-3 in ACC) seek their third consecutive win over UNC at the Smith Center.
They were two of the biggest question marks surrounding Duke when the season began because of their unfamiliarity.
With the UNC game looming, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski repeated the questions he had about those two when the season began and said the answers so far have been positive.
“Who is Rodney Hood going to be?” Krzyzewski said. “What are the things that Jabari will have to go through? Who will help him on the court go through them? I think overall our guys have done an unbelievable good job. A terrific job. We’ve played a helluva schedule. Even in conference, ours will match up with anybody’s in conference.”
Parker has transformed his game and will enter the UNC match up coming off one of his best games of the season. He scored 29 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, both season highs, when the Blue Devils blew out Boston College 89-68 Saturday night in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
After looking for 3-pointers early in Duke’s season, Parker has become more of a driver when looking for his shots. Duke’s guards are also looking to him for post-up baskets.
“Pretty much everybody has been telling him to be more aggressive,” Hood said. “He’s taken it upon himself to get to the basket. He’s posting up a lot more and that’s where he’s most effective. Not saying he can’t hit a jump shot but that’s where (the post) he can punish people. The thing about him is he can switch it up any game.”
Hood also offered a clue to why Parker has been playing with an edge lately.
“He’s had a little motivation,” Hood said, coyly. “I won’t go into why. But he told me he had a little extra motivation and I’ll make sure he stays that way.”
The Blue Devils head to Chapel Hill when the Tar Heels are playing some of their best basketball of the season. After starting the ACC campaign 0-3 and dropping out of the Associated Press Top 25, UNC has won six of its last seven games. The Tar Heels carry a five-game winning streak into the Duke game.
Krzyzewski never doubted UNC’s abilities, even when they were struggling.
“They are very talented,” Krzyzewski said. “The consistent thing is they’re very talented. I think they are accentuating their strengths more. They are playing really good defense. They are second in the league in steals. They can really rebound. They are great in transition.”
For the first time tonight, Parker and Hood get a chance to slow down the rival Tar Heels and they must do it in enemy territory.
Successful or not, their lives as Duke basketball players will become more complete.
DUKE BASKETBALL NOTES
Courtesy Duke Sports Information
Duke vs. North Carolina
February 12, 2014 • 9 p.m.
Chapel Hill, N.C. • Dean E. Smith Center (21,750)
ESPN • ACC Network • Blue Devil IMG Sports Network
The Opening Tip
• Duke will hit the road for the fourth time in the past five games this Wednesday, taking on North Carolina in Chapel Hill at 9 p.m.. The game will air on ESPN, the ACC Network and the Blue Devil IMG Sports Network.
• The road game at Boston College will be Duke’s fourth in a five-game stretch that included games at Pittsburgh (W, 80-65), Syracuse (L, 89-91 in OT) and Boston College (W, 89-68). Duke is 6-5 away from Cameron Indoor Stadium this season, including 3-3 in true road games.
• Duke is ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press Poll and No. 9 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. The Blue Devils are 75-17 all-time when ranked No. 8 in the AP Poll.
• The Blue Devils are 18-2 against unranked opponents this season with their lone losses coming on the road against ACC foes Notre Dame (77-79) and Clemson (59-72). Duke is 3-3 in ACC road games.
The Last Time Out
• Jabari Parker scored logged his eighth double-double of the year with career highs of 29 points and 16 rebounds to lead Duke past Boston College, 89-68, Saturday at the Conte Forum. Parker hit 12-of-17 shots from the field – also a career high for made field goals – while adding three blocks and five offensive rebounds.
• Duke hit 11-of-21 three-pointers, including five from Quinn Cook who scored 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field and 5-of-7 from three-point range. Cook dished out three assists and did not commit a turnover in 26 minutes.
• Tyler Thornton and Rasheed Sulaimon recorded six assists apiece while combining for just one turnover. The turnover-free performance was Thornton’s fourth in a row.
• The Blue Devils outrebounded Boston College 37-23 with 12 offensive rebounds, including five from Parker. Duke turned those opportunities into 22 second-chance points.
By The Numbers
• Duke returned to the Associated Press Top 10 Monday, climbing from No. 11 to No. 8 in the most recent poll following 20-point wins over Wake Forest and Boston College. Duke has been ranked in the AP top 10 for 302 of the past 334 polls.
• The Blue Devils are on the verge of winning 20 games for the 18th straight season and 49th time overall. Duke has won at least 20 games in 29 of head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 34 seasons.
• Duke has won seven of its past eight games with the lone loss during that stretch coming at the hands of now-No. 1 Syracuse, 91-89, in overtime. Duke has beaten five of those eight opponents by 20 points or more.
• The Blue Devils are shooting an NCAA-leading .420 (232-of-552) from three-point range this season while averaging 9.67 made three-pointers per game. The .420 three-point percentage would rank third on Duke’s single-season list, while the 9.67 made three-pointers would rank second.
• Since beginning conference play, Duke is averaging 12.9 offensive rebounds per game to rank third in the ACC. Duke has pulled in double-digit offensive rebounds in seven straight games and is averaging 16.8 points on second-chance opportunities in ACC play.
• Jabari Parker received his league-leading seventh ACC Freshman Rookie of the Week citation Monday. Parker, who was also named ACC Player of the Week, is just three rookie awards shy of tying the ACC record of 10 rookie of the week selections.
• Rasheed Sulaimon and Tyler Thornton are shooting a combined .574 (31-of-54) from three-point range since Duke began ACC play. Sulaimon boasts a .576 (19-of-33) clip, while Thornton owns a .545 (12-of-22) percentage.
• Sulaimon has scored in double figures in seven of 11 ACC games and averages 11.0 points and 3.4 assists per game in conference play. He has at least four assists in five of his past seven games and owns a 3.0:1 assist-to-turnover ratio during that span.
• Thornton has not committed a turnover in four consecutive games and has amassed 13 assists during that span. Thornton has 11 assists in his past two games with zero turnovers. The senior guard owns a team-leading 3.71 assist-to-turnover ratio this season.