Duke vs. UNC: Top Battles to Watch in ACC Showdown

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Duke vs. UNC: Top Battles to Watch in ACC Showdown
Associated Press

The Duke Blue Devils (21-5) face the UNC Tar Heels (18-7) at 9 p.m. A snowstorm postponed the fierce rivalry from its previously scheduled Feb. 12 matchup.

Duke is ranked fifth overall while UNC is not in the Top 25 of the NCAA. Yet Duke is third within the Atlantic Coast Conference (10-3) while UNC trails just one place behind (8-4). 

Both teams have won their two games since the postponement. UNC is on a seven-game winning streak and has home-court advantage. Here are three key matchups to watch tonight.

 

Keith Srakocic/Associated Press/Associated Press

Forward: Rodney Hood vs. J.P. Tokoto

Hood is shooting a lethal 45.5 percent from three-point range this season and is 9-of-18 over his last four games. Tokoto needs to force him off the perimeter.

Even if Hood cannot find an open shot from behind the arc, he is capable of creating his own shots. He is not afraid to draw contact and force himself into the paint. If Tokoto does not keep Hood out of the lane, then is he going to have it his way all night. 

Tokoto is averaging 1.7 steals per game and 5.6 rebounds per game. He will have to keep the ball out of Hood’s hands. Offensive rebounds and steals can lead to easy points for the Tar Heels.

 

Gerry Broome/Associated Press/Associated Press

Guard: Rasheed Sulaimon vs. Marcus Paige

UNC point guard Paige is the leading scorer on the Tar Heels. Paige is averaging 17.2 points per game with 79 points over his last four games. Sulaimon will have the tough task of defending him.

Paige is small at 6’1” at 175 pounds, but he can penetrate the paint with his speed. Sulaimon needs to be as nimble as Paige and not fall victim to his ball-handling prowess.

At 6’4”, Sulaimon has a length advantage that could make scoring difficult for Paige. He has had weak first halves and explosive second halves lately. Sulaimon needs to keep pressure on Paige all over the court at all times. He cannot afford to have any lapses.

 

Forward: Jabari Parker vs. James Michael McAdoo

Duke small forward Parker averages 19.2 PPG this season and has scored over 20 points in three of his last four games. He is also averaging 8.7 PPG with 46 rebounds over his past four games. Parker is in the zone.

McAdoo has to beat him on the glass for offensive rebounds. Second chances for Duke and one-and-done offensive sequences for UNC will ignite the home crowd.

Parker is just 4-of-19 on three-pointers over his past eight games. His strength is driving into the paint. McAdoo should force him to shoot from the perimeter in order to have an easier time defensively.

Parker is versatile, has strong hands and can draw contact. McAdoo cannot allow him to get into an early groove. Parker is dangerous in transition. If McAdoo cannot stop him, then Parker will likely finish in the paint or get to the foul line with ease.

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