With first-year guard (and former UNC target) Wendell Moore Jr. sidelined with a hand injury, Duke has tinkered with its starting lineup in ACC play.
Over the last month, though, Jordan Goldwire has solidified his role for the Blue Devils.
As of Saturday, the 6-foot-2 junior guard has started Duke's last seven games, playing heavy minutes and serving as a secondary floor general to Tre Jones. He even logged a career-high 13 points and three 3-pointers against Pittsburgh on Jan. 28.
Moore returned to practice last week and may end up playing against UNC on Feb. 8. If he can go, his impact is obvious: the 6-foot-6 forward is uber-athletic and provides a significant ball-handling and scoring option for Duke.
If he can't, though, here's a look at Goldwire, a sneaky player who has come up big against North Carolina before.
The guard from Norcross, Georgia, played just 6.5 minutes a game as a first-year. Last season, he logged 8.6 a contest and scored just under a point per game.
But, in his third year with the program, he's shattered those marks. Through 20 games, Goldwire's averaging 22.5 minutes and 4.1 points. He also shoots 46.7 percent from the field.
When he has started, Goldwire has (predictably) not been a top offensive option, deferring to Jones, Vernon Carey Jr., Cassius Stanley and so on. As a result, North Carolina may help off Goldwire and or hide a weaker defender on him when he's playing among Duke's starters; as a sixth man, he'll require more of the UNC bench's attention.
The Tar Heels can't forget about too much, though. Just take last year's ACC Tournament semifinal as an example. In a game dominated by future NBA lottery picks, Goldwire still came up big in crunch time.
With Duke trailing 71-70, RJ Barrett drove to the rim but was stripped by Kenny Williams. Luke Maye appeared to secure the loose ball, but it ended up in the hands of Goldwire, who grabbed it and shot up for an open go-ahead layup. The Blue Devils went on to win, 74-73.
His stat line from that game was subtle: four points, 2-2 shooting, three rebounds and two steals in 28 minutes. But plays like that reflect Goldwire's role on this 2019-20 Duke team: filling in where he's needed.
Sometimes that's filling in for an injured Jones, which Goldwire did in November. Sometimes that's a steal or two. He's eighth in total steals (35) and ninth in steals per game (1.59) in the ACC this season.
Ahead of last Saturday's game at Syracuse, Goldwire played at least 30 minutes in five of his last seven games. Such experience, deep in ACC play, is a good sign for the guard, even if Moore returns and Goldwire comes off the bench.
With UNC focusing its defensive efforts on first-year phenoms Carey and Stanley, as well as stalwarts Jones and Matthew Hurt, a sneaky play or two from Goldwire could be on the table.
And even if it's just a layup here or fastbreak-initiating steal there, such a Goldwire contribution could change momentum in the rivalry game, as it's done before.
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