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Monday April 12th

Preview: Matchups on the wing an area of interest ahead of Duke-UNC men's basketball game

UNC first year guard Kerwin Walton (24) dribbles the ball down the court during a game against N.C. Central in the Smith Center on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020. UNC beat N.C. Central 73-67.
Buy Photos UNC first year guard Kerwin Walton (24) dribbles the ball down the court during a game against N.C. Central in the Smith Center on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020. UNC beat N.C. Central 73-67.

Beware the small ball.

With North Carolina's towering frontcourt of Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot, Day'Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler, it's likely the Duke men's basketball team will seek success in the form of a small ball lineup. And with that smaller lineup comes the potential for the Blue Devils to expose the Tar Heels out on the wing.

Here's a look at how the two teams' wings should stack up against each other ahead of the rivalry matchup on Feb. 6:

UNC's options on the wing were already limited at the start of the season before first-year Puff Johnson injured his foot in practice, leaving him in a walking boot recently.

Redshirt first-year Anthony Harris' limited return has helped alleviate some of the pressure weighing on the shoulders of first-year Kerwin Walton and junior Leaky Black.

Since his return from an ACL injury, Harris has scored 17 points over 47 minutes of action and is shooting 54 percent from the floor. He doesn't seem to have lost too much of his athleticism from that injury and could see a decent amount of time on the court in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The main pieces on the wing for the Tar Heels, though, are Walton and Black.

Since his emergence as a legitimate scoring option against Kentucky, Walton has been automatic  for UNC. He's shooting 45.3 percent from the floor and 42.4 from beyond the arc this season, and has poured in just over 10 points a game since he became a regular in the starting lineup against Georgia Tech. He's still rough around the edges on the defensive end of the floor, but his 6-foot-5 frame gives him length to work with.

And whenever Walton does need help guarding his man, Black is usually there for support. The Swiss army knife of a forward has developed into one of the premier perimeter defenders in the ACC — a valuable asset for the Tar Heels as they try to find a way to put Matthew Hurt's ACC Player of the Year campaign on pause for an evening.

Hurt has a little size on Black, so it will be interesting to see whether head coach Roy Williams tasks his best defender perimeter defender with guarding the Duke forward, or if he drops that responsibility on Brooks.

To go along with Hurt, who's racking up just under 19 points and eight boards a game, the Blue Devils also have Wendell Moore Jr. as another option on the wing.

Walton doesn't have the muscle to handle Moore, and since head coach Mike Krzyzewski called on the Duke forward to return to the starting lineup three games ago, Moore is averaging 10.5 points and 4.7 rebounds a game.

With the spotlight and attention on all the star guards and post players on Saturday, don't let this potential mismatches go unnoticed in the latest iteration of the best rivalry in college basketball.

@McMastersJ

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com



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