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Duke v North Carolina

by Sharon Thorsland

It’s been an up and down week for North Carolina, who fell to Clemson at home for just the second time in almost 100 years, then pulled out a nail biter on the road at Miami. The combination of those games caused the Tar Heels (19-5, 11-2 ACC) to fall to 7th in the latest AP poll. Now the Heels go on the road to take on a reeling Syracuse team. The Orange have lost four of their last six games and are 15-9 on the year, 6-7 in the league. But the Carrier dome has long been a very difficult place to play,the Orange are 11-2 at home. A at this point I can’t imagine the Tar Heels are overlooking anyone. Tip-off is set for 7:00 tonight on WBT.

Syracuse got off to a hot start this season under first year coach Adrian Autry but have hit a road block recently with some tough losses. But the Orange is still a very difficult team to play. They have an outstanding defense, running a stifling man to man scheme. Taking care of the basketball will be key for the Tar Heels as Syracuse leads the ACC in forced turnovers and steals. The Tar Heels are even better defensively, they rank 6th in the nation in defensive efficiency.

The Orange have a very fast paced offense and like to run, much like the Tar Heels. Sophomore point guard Judah Mintz leads the way, he’s averaging over 18 points per game, and hitting nearly 33 percent of his shots from behind the arc. Mintz teams with JJ Starling, the sophomore transfer from Notre Dame. They’ll face the tandem of RJ Davis and freshman Elliott Cadeau, who have both been outstanding for the Tar Heels this season leading a UNC offense that ranks number one in the ACC.

Syracuse took a hit when center Naheem McLeod went down with a season ending foot injury last month. Sophomore forward Maliq Brown has taken over, with backup Peter Carey also in the mix. But Brown is just 6’8 and will be going against the 6’11 Armando Bacot, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds in the first matchup in spite of playing just 16 minutes. On top of that Carey is injured and is questionable going into this one, so the Tar Heels should have an advantage inside.

No word yet on the status of UNC guard Seth Trimble, who has missed the past two games with an upper body injury. His presence has been greatly missed, and someone is going to have to step up off the bench if he’s out again tonight.

After an up and down week, the Tar Heels should be back on track tonight. They’ve won three straight against Syracuse, including a 36-point blowout in the Dean Dome a month ago. UNC should make it four straight tonight. Go Tar Heels!