One of sports’ most cherished rivalries reconvened this past weekend when North Carolina took on Mike Krzyzewski's No. 9 Duke Blue Devils for his last time in the Dean Dome. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, Krzyzewski’s star-studded team allowed him to go out with a bang as Duke dominated UNC 87-67 and solidified themselves as the top dogs in the ACC.
Although it was a disappointing weekend for head coach Hubert Davis and his team, they will look to bounce back in Clemson, S.C. as they take on the Tigers this Tuesday. While Clemson’s season has noticeably gone downhill since conference play began, UNC knows better than anyone that there is no team to take lightly in the ACC.
The Tigers are led by sophomore forward and leading scorer PJ Hall, who scored in double figures in every game other than their season-opener against Presbyterian. While Hall has been dominant as a scorer on this team, he has also proved to be a skilled rebounder as the year has progressed. Hall will prove to be UNC’s biggest challenge in their upcoming game as they must find a way to contain and overpower him in the paint.
When looking at the season that this Clemson team has put together this year, it’s impossible to overlook their performance against UNC's latest opponent, Duke. The Tigers visited Cameron Indoor in what turned out to be a shocking finish as Clemson held on by two points against the No. 9 team in the nation.
Compared to the Tar Heels’ performance against the same team just two weeks later, it seems Clemson had a more solid game plan on the road against the Blue Devils than UNC did at home.
Granted, Krzyzewski has likely prepared differently for their arch-rivals on the road compared to Clemson at home. However, it’s worth pointing out that the Tar Heels are facing a team on the road that matched up nicely against a team that just embarrassed them.
In this next contest, North Carolina will have to do a better job of rebounding the ball, especially on defense. The Blue Devils out-rebounded the Tar Heels 40-24 overall and 32-18 on the defensive glass.
UNC has always prided itself in being a rebounding-dominant program and has been atop the ACC in boards throughout this season, but last game showed a trend in the opposite direction. Armando Bacot and Brady Manek have proved to be a solid front court for this team, and need to maintain their success against a Clemson team that can efficiently rebound and attack the paint.
An important thing to watch for next game is if Manek can keep his momentum going against the Tigers. Manek was the leading scorer for the Tar Heels against Duke with 21 points and impressively went six for ten from behind the arc. He has proved that he can put this team on his back and should plan on keeping this efficiency rolling against Clemson.
Another player to watch for is sophomore guard Caleb Love. It is safe to say that his game against Duke was one of his poorest performances this season, after going 3-10 from the field and giving up four turnovers in the loss. While it was certainly a frustrating game for Love, he is a true leader of this team on and off the court. His success is essential for the team.
Overall, this game can certainly serve as a bounce-back game for the Tar Heels. The team and fans alike would want nothing more than to forget about what happened this past weekend, and the first step in doing so is beating the Clemson team on the road on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
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