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The Daily Tar Heel

Old-Fashioned UNC Hopes to Beat Duke Down Low

Laettner, a standout at power forward for Duke from 1988-91, excelled thanks to a free-wheeling offense that allowed players to break down defenders with one-on-one moves.

North Carolina played a different style during Lang's youth. The Tar Heels ran set offenses and did most of their damage in the halfcourt. Not much fun to emulate. And difficult to accomplish unless nine of your closest friends are nearby.

Somewhere, in some backyard of a home in the Tar Heel state, some kid is probably imitating current Duke power forward Shane Battier. Lang has become an ACC star of his own at UNC, but little has changed in the way the two Tobacco Road rivals go about their business.

"We're a little throwback," Lang said. "I believe it's more old-fashioned. It's something that has worked."

The Tar Heels and Blue Devils meet Thursday with first place in the ACC on the line. Considering UNC's 17-2 overall record and 7-0 mark in league play, an old-fashioned style has worked for the Tar Heels.

It also has worked against Duke.

UNC forward Jason Capel said he could think of only two teams in the country that start a conventional power forward like Lang, who is 6-foot-11, and a center like 7-footer Brendan Haywood.

Those two particular teams -- Stanford and Illinois -- gave Duke fits this season. Illinois lost 78-77 to the Blue Devils on Jan. 28, and Stanford handed Duke its only defeat with an 84-83 win on Dec. 21.

Stanford's duo of Jarron and Jason Collins, who are 6-11 and 7-0, respectively, combined for 24 points and 21 rebounds against the Blue Devils.

Illinois center Marcus Griffin scored 16 points and pulled down nine rebounds against Duke, and the Fighting Illini finished with a

42-27 edge in rebounds.

Capel said he thinks the Tar Heels can capitalize on Lang and Haywood's height advantage in the post against Duke's Carlos Boozer, a 6-9 center, and Battier, who is 6-8.

"I think if we really pound the ball inside, they're not big," Capel said. "They don't have a big frontline like we do, and that's to our advantage."

Boozer and Battier both fouled out in the Blue Devils' loss to the Cardinal. Boozer was limited to 29 minutes of playing time, and Battier was disqualified with 35 seconds left.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski got upset on Tuesday when he thought a reporter was insinuating that the the officials had a role in allowing both players to stay in the game in a physical contest against Maryland on Friday.

"Our kids play a lot of minutes, and you try to teach foul discipline," Krzyzewski said. "There's certain things that you do to deter foul trouble, play off somebody. I'm not going to go through a coaching clinic."

The Blue Devils run a 4-around-1 offense that will force Lang to chase Battier around the perimeter. Boozer sets up in the lane, but he might leak out to force Haywood away from the basket.

Lang said that shouldn't pose a problem for the Tar Heels.

"I feel very comfortable with Brendan back there," Lang said. "There's also help side from other wings."

Boozer averaged 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in two wins against the Tar Heels last season. The Blue Devils have won six of the last seven games against UNC.

Lang hopes the old-school Tar Heels can assert their dominance over the Blue Devils like they did from 1993-98, when UNC had a streak of nine wins in 10 games against Duke.

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He was a mere youngster when the streak began.

"Back then it seemed like Carolina was more traditional," Lang said. "It was such a habit for them to win. All they did was win, win, win."

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