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Joe Boozell | | February 9, 2017

Duke-UNC: Blue Devils look to narrow gap in legendary rivalry

  Duke and North Carolina split their two matchups a season ago.

There is nothing quite like Duke-North Carolina.

The Blue Devils and Tar Heels will do battle once again on Thursday night, but first, a little history:

All-time series record: UNC leads 134-108
All-time postseason series record: UNC leads 1-0
ACC regular season titles: UNC 30, Duke 19
ACC tournament titles: UNC 19, Duke 18
NCAA tournament championships: UNC 5, Duke 5

Notable games:

March 3, 1984: No. 1 North Carolina 96, Duke 83 (2OT)

Duke gave North Carolina all it could handle in Matt Doherty, Sam Perkins and Michael Jordan’s last home game, but the Tar Heels prevailed in two overtimes. Jordan had 25 points on the night to lead UNC.

March 12, 1989: North Carolina 77, Duke 74

North Carolina won its first ACC tournament crown in seven seasons in this three-point thriller. The Blue Devils nearly tied the game in stunning fashion at the final buzzer, as Danny Ferry’s three-quarter-court shot rimmed out as time expired.

Feb. 3, 2000: Duke 90, North Carolina 86 (OT)

For the first time since 1990, the Tar Heels were unranked heading into this bout, but they put up a heck of a fight. Duke led by 17 at the half, but UNC roared back, scoring on 19 of its final 22 possessions. In the end, Carlos Boozer’s seven points in overtime earned the victory for the Blue Devils.

Feb. 4, 2004: Duke 83, North Carolina 81 (OT)

Chris Duhon’s layup with 6.5 seconds left lifted Duke to an overtime victory in Roy Williams’ first taste of the Duke-UNC rivalry.

March 6, 2005: North Carolina 75, Duke 73

The Tar Heels trailed Duke by nine points with 3:04 left on Senior Day in Chapel Hill. Raymond Felton, Sean May and Marvin Williams spearheaded the Tar Heels’ comeback, and J.J. Redick’s 3-pointer rimmed out at the final buzzer to give UNC the victory.

Feb. 8, 2012: Duke 85, North Carolina 84

UNC was on cruise control for most of the second half, but Tyler Thornton and Seth Curry got hot from deep to narrow the gap. With 14 seconds left, UNC’s Tyler Zeller accidentally tipped the ball into Duke’s basket, decreasing the Tar Heels’ lead from three to one.

Then, it was Austin Rivers time. Rivers nailed the game-winning 3 as time expired and finished with 29 points on the evening.

So many memories. Will Thursday produce another classic? Let's break down tonight's game.

What Duke needs to do to win:

Jayson Tatum needs to play like he did against Notre Dame, when he scored 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds playing all of his minutes at power forward.

Like most years, Duke is slotting a natural wing up a spot to the four – this time it’s Tatum, and he’s delivered varying results. Duke ranks 80th in the country in defensive rebounding rate; North Carolina, meanwhile, leads the nation in offensive rebounding. Tatum will be asked to bang against Isaiah Hicks, UNC’s burly power forward that would play center for 95 percent of the teams in the country.

If Tatum can hold his own on the glass, Duke should be in good shape. The freshman is as skilled of a pinch post player as there is in the country; Hicks is mobile for his size, but asking him to guard Tatum on the perimeter feels like a losing battle. Tatum hasn’t displayed the playmaking many expected from him at Duke, but he has an affinity for getting buckets. The Blue Devils will take a Tatum vs. Hicks elbow matchup every single time.

MORE: Best rivalries in college sports

You should see plenty of Tatum isolations tonight, but Duke also needs to get something from a big man not named Amile Jefferson. With Hicks, Kennedy Meeks and Tony Bradley manning the opposing front line, someone like Harry Giles, Chase Jeter or Marques Bolden needs to make an impact.

Duke has been using two-big lineups less and less as of late, but if ever there was a time whip one of those puppies out, it would be against North Carolina. The Giles-Jeter-Bolden trio has struggled mightily this season, but all three are talented. Duke is at home, and one of them needs to produce.

What North Carolina needs to do to win:

One answer is obvious: exploit its size advantage. North Carolina is big; Duke is small. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out than in order for the Tar Heels to win, they need to smoke the Blue Devils on the glass. Roy Williams would love to force Coach K to use two-post lineups. That’s not Duke’s game, and it would mean Carolina is imposing its will.

Beyond that, the Tar Heels have the best point guard in this matchup by a mile. His name is Joel Berry, but he’s struggled a bit as of late; Berry is nine of his last 30 from the field, including an 0-for-8 dud against Miami.

But he’s still shooting 45.5 percent from the floor and 42.1 percent from 3, and he provides North Carolina with a clear chain of command that Duke struggles to grasp. Berry and Justin Jackson are UNC’s stars, and the rest of the roster falls into place. Duke is still figuring out who its No. 1 option is (hint: the sooner the Blue Devils realize it’s Luke Kennard, the better they’ll be).

If North Carolina prevails tonight, it will be because it outmuscled Duke and had superior point guard play. Berry needs to snap out of his mini slump, and if he does, the Tar Heels could steal a rare win at Cameron Indoor.

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