ACC basketball: Hansbrough, UNC visit Duke tonight
By Joedy McCreary
DURHAM ó Duke rarely has problems winning at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Then again, neither does Tyler Hansbrough.
Through the years, the North Carolina star has made himself right at home inside college basketball’s most notorious arena, where its inhospitable hosts over the past few seasons have won 90 percent of the time.
But none of those victories have come against a Hansbrough-led team, and now the defending national player of the year is looking to add another footnote to his career tonight by joining Tim Duncan as one of the few visiting players to finish 4-0 in front of the Cameron Crazies.
And, in typical Hansbrough fashion, the no-nonsense forward is taking a pragmatic view of the prospect of winning four in a row here.
“You said it right there ó it’s winning,” Hansbrough said. “Any time you beat them, here or there, it means a lot.”
Especially because there aren’t many players who have done it four consecutive times at Cameron.
Since Mike Krzyzewski took over the Duke program in 1980, only two visitors have gone 4-for-4: Duncan and Rusty LaRue, who keyed the Wake Forest teams that won five straight from 1993-97.
Buzz Peterson, who played at North Carolina from 1982-85, also would make that list, had he not missed the Tar Heels’ 1983 victory with an injury.
With a win, Hansbrough and swingman Danny Green would become the first North Carolina players to get in the game and beat Coach K four straight times on the court that bears his name.
“It usually takes 40 minutes to beat us here,” Duke guard Jon Scheyer said. “That’s something we take pride in ó especially at home, with our crowd as good as they are, especially against Carolina. It’s going to take 40 minutes of effort and playing sharp.”
It’s no coincidence that the balance of the fiercest rivalry in college basketball began to swing back to North Carolina at roughly the time Hansbrough stepped foot in Chapel Hill. He leads a North Carolina senior class that is 4-2 in the series, with both defeats coming at home.
“Last year, they came (into the Smith Center) and beat us in here. I didn’t feel like we had nudged past them at all, at that point,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “We’ve worked awfully hard since we got back. We’ve been very lucky with a couple of recruiting scenarios that we got a couple of kids that I thought were going to be big-time players, and perhaps have maybe even done better than that. I hope it doesn’t go in cycles, because I’d like to keep going straight ahead and not fall back.”
Hansbrough burst onto the national scene in the 2006 regular-season finale, helping key the Tar Heels’ 83-76 upset of No. 1 Duke in the final home game for stars J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams. He followed that up with a 79-73 victory here as a sophomore and capped the 2007-08 regular season with a grind-it-out, 76-68 win in which his team held the Blue Devils scoreless for the final 51/2 minutes.
“I say a lot of places I’ll take a one-point win and get out of town as quickly as I possibly can, but I never believe it and mean it as much as I do that place over there,” Williams said. “Just going and sitting out on that bus the last three years have been great moments. Waiting for the team to get finished and sitting there eating my chicken sandwich or whatever is pretty neat.”
There are always more than local bragging rights on the line whenever Duke (20-3, 7-2 ACC) or North Carolina (21-2, 7-2) make the 8-mile trip down Tobacco Road to get together, and this is no exception.
The winner claims first place in the league standings, moves into position to claim the top seed in next month’s ACC tournament and strengthens its argument for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
But the season isn’t over for the losing team, either.
Both of the schools’ most recent national championship teams (North Carolina in 1993 and 2005, and Duke in 1992 and ’01) lost the midseason meeting and rebounded to make title runs.
“The rivalry and the game between Duke and North Carolina is bigger than any coach, player or combination. That’s why it’s a true identity game for college basketball,” Krzyzewski said. “When you’re the coach of one of the teams, you’re like the caretaker of this rivalry. Right now, Roy and I have to do a good job, and I think we have both done a good job.
“We get a chance to play a game at this level. Not many programs in the United States would ever play this level of a game ó we get to play it twice,” he added. “This game has helped both programs, win or lose, because you’ve been tested. … Over the years, Duke and Carolina have made each other better. No question about it.”
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