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Saturday November 26th

Analysis: How Cassius Stanley's electrifying game could lead to a Duke win over UNC

<p>Duke's first-year guard (2) Cassius Stanley attempts to score during their game against Louisville on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. Photo by Eric Wei, courtesy of The Chronicle.&nbsp;</p>
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Duke's first-year guard (2) Cassius Stanley attempts to score during their game against Louisville on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. Photo by Eric Wei, courtesy of The Chronicle. 

If any Duke fans feared that they'd have to experience a drought of highlight reel dunks following Zion Williamson's departure, their prayers were certainly answered once Cassius Stanley arrived on campus.

The 6-foot-6, 193-pound shooting guard has all of the length and explosive athleticism to deliver thunderous slams at will. Ranked as the No. 35 high school player in the country for the 2019 recruiting class by 247 Sports, Stanley appears to have all of the tools — the athleticism, the shooting accuracy, the mechanics — to be successful at the professional level if he's able to fine-tune his skills and add some extra muscle.

When he's not sending Cameron Indoor Stadium into a frenzy with his jams, Stanley has proven that he has the potential to become a knockdown shooter.

Stanley nailed 18 of his first 22 shots in a Blue Devils uniform and hasn't looked back since. The Los Angeles native is hitting more than 50 percent of his attempts from the field and is converting on 35.2 percent of his 3-pointers.

The first-year had his breakout performance against Colorado State in Duke's second game of the season, dropping 19 points and snatching seven rebounds in just 25 minutes. Stanley also shot 8-11 from the field that game and glided through the air for an impressive dunk. 

Stanley seemed nearly unstoppable through the team's first seven games before a left hamstring injury on Nov. 29 slowed him down. The first-year missed most of Duke's game against Winthrop, sat out the following game against Michigan State and returned to the floor for about seven minutes against Virginia Tech on Dec. 6.

Coming off of his injury, there was a bit of a lull for the shooting guard throughout December, as he totaled just 20 points in Duke's four games that month.

But with the new year came a newfound tenacity from Stanley.

The first-year began to take more shots as he became more comfortable in the Blue Devils' system and averaged 15.4 points on 53.3 percent shooting from the field to go along with 4.7 rebounds per game in January.

Stanley's combination of talent and his recent resurgence on the court will make defending him a tall order for North Carolina. The only guard UNC has that is truly athletic enough to keep up with Stanley is Cole Anthony, but there are still question marks surrounding how healthy he'll be for the Tar Heels' matchup with Duke.

Because of Stanley's height, North Carolina will most likely have to primarily rely on Leaky Black or Brandon Robinson in its attempt to contain the Duke guard. The key for those two to frustrate Stanley will be playing physical and forcing the first-year to share the ball.

Stanley has just 22 assists in 21 starts this season but has turned the ball over 38 times, so if the Tar Heels can force the ball out of his hands, there's a chance for UNC to capitalize on the fast break.

The other glaring weakness in Stanley's game is his tendency to flirt with foul trouble. The 20-year-old has committed three or more fouls in seven games this season, and on five of those occasions, he played less than 30 minutes. If North Carolina can play a physical brand of basketball, the Tar Heels will have a shot at forcing Stanley out of the game and limiting the Blue Devils' scoring.

@McMastersJ

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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