Duke at North Carolina, Part 2

Ryan Kelly (No. 34 in the middle) could cause problems for North Carolina's interior defense if he can pull John Henson (No. 31 in white, shooting) out on the perimeter.

Here’s part two of the Duke-Carolina preview, with a few more stats and players to keep an eye on, plus a final prediction.

Stat to watch: The foul line. This is a battle of two teams that both thrive on getting to the foul line and generally keep opponents off of it. For Carolina, they haven’t been to the line as much (7th in the ACC in free throw rate) and Duke hasn’t kept opponents off of it as well as it has in the past (9th in defensive free-throw rate). Duke is getting to the line quite a bit (2nd in free throw rate), but North Carolina isn’t allowing opponents to get there much (1st in defensive free-throw rate). Duke gets 20.6% of its points from the free-throw line in conference (third-most in the league) and 22.8% in all games (50th nationally) while North Carolina’s opponents get 18.1% of their points from the foul line on the year (273rd-most nationally) and conference opponents just 19.2%.

On the road in the ACC, Duke has scored 24.4% of its points from the foul line (just 16.7% at home) while Carolina’s ACC opponents have scored just 9.5% of their points from the foul line. Something’s got to give. The Tar Heels have shot almost the same at home in league play (67.1%) as on the road (68.8%) but they average more attempts (23.3) on the road than at home (18.3). But their opponents average a lot more attempts – and make a lot more – at home as well, shooting 61.5% on 9.8 attempts in the Smith Center compared to 74.7% on 20.8 attempts in Carolina road games. In the Smith Center, Carolina has out-shot its opponents from the foul line 73-39 (outscoring them 49-24) in four games.

Duke shot just 63.3% in two non-conference road games (both losses) attempting just 15 foul shots. Their opponents actually didn’t fare much better (64.3% and 14.0 attempts). But in ACC play, Duke has really dominated the foul line on the road, averaging 22 attempts and making 84.1% of them. Their opponents have averaged 18.5 attempts and made just 59.5 percent. At home, Duke has shot just 61.7% from the foul line in four league games (averaging 20.3 attempts) and opponents have shot better at 68.5% (22.3 attempts per game). How often do Duke opponents average more free throws in Cameron? But the more important stat is that Duke’s road opponents aren’t getting to the line as much and a newly-focused road Duke team not only is getting to the line, but making them. They’ll have to keep up that trend tonight. Duke is 3-3 this season when making the same or fewer amount of free throws as its opponent and 16-1 when making more free throws.

Important players: Ryan Kelly, Duke and Tyler Zeller, North Carolina. Tyler Zeller may be a senior, but he has only seen significant meetings in four of the eight Carolina-Duke games in his tenure (one in 2010 and all three last year). He has averaged 15 points in those meetings on 59% shooting, adding 23 rebounds and four blocks. Last year, he had 24 and 13 in Cameron but just 28 total in the final two meetings on 12-of-22 shooting with just nine rebounds in the final two games combined. But he is on perhaps the most torrid stretch of his career, averaging 17.8 points in ACC play and scoring 78 points in 103 minutes over the last four games. He is shooting 60% in that span (which includes a 5-of-13 performance at Wake) and 24-of-28 from the foul line (85.7%). He has also averaged 11.3 rebounds, a steal and four blocks in the last four games. He needs to maintain that pace and be the kind of factor in this game that Sean May and Tyler Hansbrough have been in years past for North Carolina.

In Duke’s four losses, Ryan Kelly has been either invisible or has struggled in all of them, shooting 30.4% and averaging 5.8 points. In two ACC losses, he has shot 31.6% and averaged 9.0 points compared to shooting 55.1% and 14.5 points in Duke’s six ACC wins. But the matchup is still a tricky one for North Carolina, as Kelly can post up and score as well as he can shoot three’s. North Carolina’s John Henson is a prolific shot-blocker, but Kelly should try to pull him out to the perimeter to open up space for Duke’s guards to drive to the basket. Kelly barely played in his first two career games against North Carolina (in 2010) but in three meetings last year, he had a total of 15 points on 6-of-21 shooting (2-of-13 from three). in the first two meetings, he had just six points on 1-of-14 shooting (1-of-11 from three) but in Duke’s blowout win in the ACC Tournament, he had nine points on 4-of-7 shooting to go with three steals and three blocks.

Random stat(s): In the Mike Krzyzewski era, North Carolina leads the all-time series 38-36 (although Duke lists it as 36-36 since Coach Krzyzewski was out with a back injury in the 1994-95 season). … Duke’s Mason Plumlee made just 2-of-10 foul shots against Virginia. He has made 19-of-23 (82.6%) in the six conference games since. …. North Carolina is 11-2 when Kendall Marshall plays 35 or more minutes. … North Carolina has shot 50% or better from the floor just three times in its last 24 halves.

Prediction: North Carolina 84, Duke 77


Last week: 10-2

Season: 100-34 (36-15 ACC)


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