In classic Carolina-Duke fashion, both teams put on an offensive clinic despite both teams coming into the game notorious for their inability to score. Caleb Love put together a monster effort, dropping 25 points and seven assists while shooting 4-5 from deep. Kerwin Walton added 12 points on a perfect 4-4 shooting from beyond the arc. Although they almost gave it away, the Tar Heels came out victorious, dropping the Blue Devils to .500 both overall and in ACC play.
The Heels have a quick turnaround, though, as they face off with the Miami Hurricanes tomorrow for the second time this year. It’s typically a dogfight when these two teams meet, and the first matchup was no exception. Without further ado, here are three things to watch for tomorrow.
Black had arguably the best game of his career the last time these two teams met back on January 5th. He recorded 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and two steals while shooting 6-9 from the floor and 4-4 from the three-point line. The Tar Heels needed every bit of Black’s stellar performance, too, as they narrowly defeated a depleted Miami squad, 67-65.
Until last night against Duke, Black had not once scored in double figures in the six games following that monster game nor had he hit a single three-pointer. He hit both of those marks yesterday, which bodes well for the future. Carolina doesn’t need Black to put up 15 every night, but he has to be able to offer some sort of offense here and there, especially given this team’s inability to score at times.
Black looked comfortable against the Blue Devils as he let the game come to him and got to his spots. If he can continue to play with that kind of poise and find his place within the offense, Black could be a big factor in this game and beyond.
The Return of Chris Lykes?
At the time of this writing, there has not yet been any clear indication as to whether Chris Lykes will suit up in this game. That being said, he’s been back at practice for a few days now and there were talks of him potentially making his return against Virginia Tech yesterday. Although he didn’t end up seeing the floor in that one, I’d be willing to bet Lykes is chomping at the bit at the chance to play against the Tar Heels one more time.
In his career versus UNC, Lykes is averaging 17.8 points and 3.8 assists while shooting 42% from beyond the arc. He scored 27 and 20, respectively, in his last two games against the Heels, which came during the 2018-2019 season when Lykes was a sophomore. There are some players in college basketball that, for whatever reason, hit a different level when they play the Tar Heels. Chris Lykes is one of those players.
Lykes came into the season with lofty expectations, notching preseason first team All-ACC honors. He played in the team’s first two games before injuring his ankle on December 4th versus Stetson. Given how close the last matchup was between these teams, Lykes could be a real difference-maker if he’s able to go. Standing at 5’6 with elite quickness, the Heels have historically had a tough time keeping a body in front of him. With Carolina’s perimeter defense arguably even worse than usual this season, they’ll need to find creative ways to slow Lykes down and prevent him from getting comfortable.
I know it’s been beaten to death at this point, but we’re simply too far into the season for turnovers to be as big an issue as they still are. Despite escaping Cameron Indoor Stadium with a win, the Heels still turned the ball over 16 times. In addition to missed free throws, it was what allowed the Blue Devils to stick around and ultimately have a chance to take the game in the final minutes.
Caleb Love certainly had himself a day against Duke, notching 25 points and seven assists on 9-16 shooting and 4-5 from beyond the arc. However, he still had five turnovers, a few of which were just lazy and inexcusable. As Love continues to get more comfortable in the offense, which seems to be happening at a rapid rate, he needs to cut down on those mental errors. If he can do a better job of that, we could very well see the Caleb Love that was once projected to be a lottery pick moving forward.
In their last meeting with the Hurricanes, the Heels turned the ball over an abysmal 20 times. They’ll likely come out with some defensive pressure early in order to try and create a similar result. Assuming they double the post as pretty much every team that’s played Carolina this season has done, the Tar Heel bigs have got to have the awareness to find the open man and make the correct play.