Duke's Ingram looks to foil North Carolina once again
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Duke's Brandon Ingram has a knack for foiling North Carolina.
The instate native chose the Blue Devils over the Tar Heels, then - while being booed relentlessly by UNC's fans - scored 20 points last month while winning his first meeting with them.
Now the freshman is ready for Round 2 on Saturday night and the renewal of college basketball's fiercest rivalry when his 17th-ranked Blue Devils (22-8, 11-6 ACC) play host to No. 8 North Carolina (24-6, 13-4).
''It's definitely a big game,'' the soft-spoken Ingram said, ''and there's definitely motivation, but I'm with my team now. I'm with the Duke basketball team now, and I love every part of it.''
The wiry, 6-foot-9 forward with a reliable stroke from 3-point range and a nose for rebounds has made it look effortless at times during a season that statistically ranks with a pair of predecessors who have gone one-and-done in the past two years, Jabari Parker and Jahlil Okafor.
Ingram sure looks like a shoo-in to become the third straight Duke player picked as the ACC's freshman of the year. He leads all freshmen in the league with averages of 16.9 points and 6.8 rebounds, eight double-doubles and a 3-point percentage of 40.6 percent.
Three of the top five freshman scorers in the history of the program have passed through the program in the past three years. Ingram's average of 16.9 points would rank him fifth on that list; Parker set the record by averaging 19.1 points two years ago before Okafor scored 17.3 points per game to take third place.
And like Parker and Okafor, Ingram has been nearly impossible for other ACC teams to stop. He's scored in double figures in every conference game but one - a loss at Louisville in which he had 10 turnovers.
''There's some guys that they're just hard to guard,'' North Carolina forward Justin Jackson said. ''At the end of the day, they're probably going to score at least 10. But I think against him, you have to somehow try to figure out ways to make it more difficult for him.''
Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski thinks Ingram is capable of even more. He said Ingram ''could have had a 35-40-point night'' earlier this week against Wake Forest - instead of only 15 - had he perhaps not been worn down a bit by the grind of his first college season and ''finished'' some plays around the rim.
''He's going to keep taking steps - even when he's not here. His trajectory,'' Krzyzewski said, gesturing his hand upward. ''He's a real special basketball player.''
Ingram has the second-most rebounds on the team (203) and ranks third on the team with 65 3-pointers, having made at least two of them in eight straight games.
''How smart he is - you just have to tell him once. He gets it. No maintenance,'' Krzyzewski said. ''No extra time of explaining. His basketball intellect is super high, and he has a great feel for the game.''
Ingram has three games this season with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. The most recent of those came last month at North Carolina - where he was hounded all night by boos from fans who thought he belonged in a lighter shade of blue.
''I think it's more motivation,'' Ingram said. ''I really kind of didn't hear it. I was more into the game rather than listening to the crowd, and (his teammates) do a good job of helping me do that. I use it as motivation to keep me going.''
One of the main subplots to the high school season in the state last year was where Ingram would wind up.
He didn't pick a school during the early signing period in November, keeping his recruitment open through a senior season at Kinston High School in which he won a fourth straight state title.
He didn't announce his intentions until his signing ceremony last April 27 - well after Duke lost three one-and-done players from its fifth national championship team, picking the Blue Devils while spurning North Carolina and North Carolina State, among others.
After beating the Tar Heels in the Smith Center, he says he heard from a few hometown folks with hurt feelings.
''But they're all supporting me,'' he added, ''so I try to get the negative factor out of there.''
AP Basketball Writer Aaron Beard in Chapel Hill contributed to this report.
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