The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday January 27th

M. Basketball: Damage from Downtown

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With a spread offense that makes extensive use of the drive-and-pitch maneuver it's usually the Duke Blue Devils who are associated with 3-point shooting when this rivalry rolls around.

But No. 3 North Carolina has switched things up a bit this season and entering Wednesday night's premier match-up it's the Tar Heels who boast the long-range threats that would leave most coaches salivating.

UNC currently leads the ACC in 3-point shooting at .388 and ranks third with 7.4 made per game — almost two more than last season.

Duke despite taking 32 more long balls is making slightly less at 6.9.

Not only that but UNC's starting lineup (which should get even more minutes after the loss of Will Graves)" is shooting an astounding 44.4 percent from behind the arc.

""We just feel like" when it comes to us and we're open we're able to knock it down" said Wayne Ellington, who is nearly mirroring last season's performance by shooting 40.7 percent from downtown.

And I think that's going to be key for us.""

The Tar Heels are taking about 19 3's per game this season (almost 4.2 more than last year)" and the biggest change has been the sudden productivity of Danny Green and Ty Lawson.

Green who shot 37.3 percent from outside last year off the bench and was at 34.9 percent for his career coming into the season is suddenly shooting 46.8 percent as a starter playing extended minutes and is only five 3's away from matching his career high for a single year.

Lawson has experienced the same transformation — going from a 35.9 percent career 3-point shooter to putting up a gaudy 48.5 percent this season and already breaking his season-best.

Coach Roy Williams said he's been pushing Lawson the last couple of years to remember his outside shot" and that's certainly paid off thus far.

""Probably my freshman year was kind of a down year" Lawson said. That's why I didn't make too many 3's. And probably my confidence was down … but coach helped me build my confidence through the last three years" so I'm not afraid to take any 3 right now.""

Lawson also highlighted the work he's put in" even putting up extra shots at 1 a.m.

The prolific outside performance gives UNC a vaunted outside-inside combination with Tyler Hansbrough. And while perimeter success could potentially make teams settle at times for the deep balls" Williams said it ""cannot stop you from going inside if you're intelligent.

""Because that just means they come guard you out farther" and you should be able to throw it in more. And I like balance. I've always said that. I think that I lean toward the inside play" because that's where you get people in foul trouble.""

Although two of his starters are shooting better than ever before" Williams expects the trend to continue.

Both he and the players stress working the ball both inside and out and only 28.4 percent of UNC shots are 3-balls. On the other hand that number was at 37.3 during Saturday's ho-hum win against Virginia at home.

But if UNC continues to knock down the trifecta" it will be tough for anyone to beat the Tar Heels.

""If we're swinging it around and we're getting a lot of open looks" we're going to shoot ‘em Green said. And I'm sure if we're not hitting them as much as we normally do" we're going to get the ball inside.""

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