In UNC’s 91-87 win over Duke last month, the Tar Heels big men combined to score 39 points, with 23 rebounds. They also drew a total of 12 fouls, helping to foul out Duke’s leading scorer, Matt Hurt, who was forced to defend the in the post.
Since then, Duke freshman center Mark Williams has emerged as a contributor. Williams played just 14:31 in the first game. He’ll likely see much more time in the rematch.
“Well, I think it's made them a great deal stronger,” UNC coach Roy Williams said of Mark Williams (no relation). “Nothing against the (Jalen) Johnson kid who left, by any means, but this kid protects the rim. You don't get any easy baskets. And that's a way that you can get some or could get some earlier against Duke because you could score in a lane area. All of a sudden, now you don't score in the lane. And I watched last night a little bit of their game against Louisville from last Saturday and the (Malik) Williams kid for Louisville, the 7-footer, turns and makes this jump hook that nobody's going to get to, and then all of a sudden it was blocked. And so I think that's the first thing is that he just changes their defense immensely.”
Both teams are struggling to get into position for an NCAA Tournament berth, which is a rarity for a rivalry that frequently closes the regular season with one-seeds and ACC regular season titles on the line.
“Well, it changes it, I think, from the outside,” Roy Williams said. “I don't think it changes inside at all. You know it is Duke-North Carolina. The rivalry is there, regardless. You know, people say that the games always live up to the hype, and I don't think any of them live up to the hype if we lose, so it depends on what you're looking for. … But this is unusual. I don’t think … from my viewpoint, I don't know that it makes any difference at all between the two teams or the two coaches. It's still Duke versus North Carolina, an ACC game at the end of the regular season.”