by Mike Potter
It doesn’t get much better on the area sports scene that yet another “Battle of the Blues,” and Duke’s visit to UNC in women’s basketball tonight should provide no exception.
The No. 3 Blue Devils have lost just once all season — to defending NCAA champion Connecticut — while the No. 15 Tar Heels are back with a 20-win season and haven’t lost to anyone at Carmichael Auditorium but UConn. ESPN2 will carry the 7 p.m. matchup.
The two teams are arguably the two deepest teams in the country.
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie is 0-3 in her previous visits to Chapel Hill.
“I think anything in-state is tough,” McCallie said. “We’ve had experience before with in-state games, two I can think of (in comeback wins over UNC Charlotte and N.C. State.) But it’s got to be about us and what we do. It’s just a matter of wanting to, every game, prove and show who you are. Yes, it is a great rivalry and it’s intense. But we have to be where we need to be as a team.”
Duke could go a long ways toward gaining the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament with a victory. The Tar Heels are still in contention for that honor, but would probably need to beat Duke twice to get it done.
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell has had her share of big successes and tough defeats in the world-class rivalry.
“It’s going to be great,” Hatchell said. “Duke has a great team, we have a great team — it doesn’t get any better than Carolina and Duke, it doesn’t matter what sport. It should be really good. We definitely know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They have great players and we do, too, so it’s just going to be who gets one or two key rebounds or who gets the big basket."
UNC leads the series 45-33, although Duke has won 19 of the last 30. No current Duke player has won in Chapel Hill.
Each team has an outstanding senior nucleus, as the Tar Heels have forward Jessica Breland and guards Italee Lucas and Cetera DeGraffenreid and the Blue Devils counter with center Krystal Thomas, forward Karima Christmas and guard Jasmine Thomas.
“We just have to be focused,” Christmas said. “Every game is tough. Next game we’ll face a talented crew down the road, but we have to be focused, come out and execute, pass the ball and get rebounds. Winning would mean a lot. We’ve been here four years and haven’t won over there yet. We’ve just got to be focused. Every year we’ve come out and tried to dictate that game and we’ve let them throw the first punches. We’ve got to come out and dictate that game.”
No. 3 Duke vs. No. 15 UNC
[Monday, 7 p.m., Carmichael Arena]
Audio: WDNC 620, WCHL 1360.
Video: ESPN 2.
Records: Duke 21-1, 7-0 ACC; UNC 20-3, 6-2 ACC.
Coaches’ records — Duke: Joanne P. McCallie 419-171, 103-23 at Duke; UNC: Sylvia Hatchell 851-297, 579-217 at UNC.
Leading scorers — Duke: Jasmine Thomas 14.5; UNC: Italee Lucas 17.0.
Leading rebounders — Duke: Krystal Thomas 7.9; UNC: Laura Broomfield 7.8.
Assist leaders — Duke: Jasmine Thomas 3.3; UNC: Cetera DeGraffenreid 5.5.