College Sports

Duke, UNC to battle for ACC's top spot

Once North Carolina dispatched pesky Florida State two hours before the Super Bowl, it was finally time for the Tar Heels -- and quite possibly everybody else in the country -- to look ahead to Wednesday.

Duke-North Carolina. For the 224th time.

"I think they're playing better than anybody in the league right now," UNC coach Roy Williams said of the No. 2 Blue Devils (19-1, 7-0 ACC) on Monday. "They've been beating the dickens out of everybody, even though they've been behind at the half in the last two games. They've come out in the second half and just annihilated people."

"It's February, and we've got to keep moving," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said, summing up his team's philosophy heading into its rivalry matchup.

At stake is first place in the ACC, the No. 3 Heels (21-1, 6-1) trailing Duke by a game. There's also the not-so-small matter of bragging rights, which UNC has had over the Devils for three straight games.

The winner won't woof too much -- Wednesday's nationally televised game is the first of two Devils-Heels games this year. There probably won't be anything decided, standings-wise, until the last matchup on March 8.

But no one's tossing this one aside to concentrate on the next one.

The biggest question surrounding the game is the status of Tar Heels point guard Ty Lawson, who sprained his ankle against the Seminoles and is questionable. Williams said an X-ray showed no break but that Lawson wouldn't practice Monday.

"We won't have any idea of if he will play or how much he will play until after practice (Tuesday)," Williams said.

If Lawson can't go, the Heels are down to their last point guard -- Quentin Thomas. UNC already lost point guard Bobby Frasor to a season-ending injury earlier this year.

Of course, there's always another option.

"We worked Tyler Hansbrough at point a couple of times there last week," Williams said, which was followed by dead silence on the teleconference. "You guys don't have much of a sense of humor today."

• FREE BASKETBALL: The Tar Heels' win over Florida State (13-10, 2-6) featured yet another example of the apparent ACC trend this season -- overtime.

There's already been nine overtime sessions in conference games this year, two this past weekend when UNC and FSU tangled and when Virginia Tech (14-8, 5-3) beat Virginia (11-9, 1-6). It was the second time this year the Hokies beat the Cavaliers, each game going to OT.

Tech, Virginia and Clemson have played the most overtime games, with three each. The Hokies have won each of theirs while the Tigers (16-5, 4-3) survived in two of theirs, a win over Florida State going to double overtime.

Virginia, meanwhile, has fallen short in each of its three OT games.

• SLIPPING: Boston College began the year without departed senior Jared Dudley, the ACC Player of the Year last season. It didn't seem to matter when Tyrese Rice picked up the slack, leading the ACC in scoring in conference games and pacing the Eagles to a 12-4 record, including 3-0 in the ACC.

It matters now.

BC (12-8, 3-4) has lost four straight as opponents have focused on shutting down the other four players on the court and letting Rice do his thing. With scarce support, Rice has been keeping his 21.3 points-per-game average afloat, but nobody else is helping.

"Obviously we're not playing very well right now," coach Al Skinner said. "This conference is not very forgiving when you're not playing well."

It seemed to be a foreshadowing when BC lost a head-scratcher to Robert Morris, but the Eagles rebounded to beat Wake Forest and then-No. 21 Miami. Then they were ripped by Virginia 84-66, the last-place Cavs' only ACC win, and were outlasted in overtime by Virginia Tech.

Their last two games have been 22-point drubbings to UNC and Clemson. Boston College plays Maryland (14-8, 4-3), who it beat 81-78 on Dec. 9, on Wednesday.

• WA-UGH: It's also been a rough stretch in Virginia, where the Cavaliers (11-9, 1-6) continue to search for something besides dynamic guard Sean Singletary.

Singletary is third in the ACC in scoring (18.5) and second in assists (6.25). A first-team All-ACC pick a year ago, Singletary teamed with J.R. Reynolds to guide Virginia to a tie for the regular-season title.

With Reynolds gone, the Wahoos have struggled to find a steady scoring presence. They're usually in most games but can't find an answer during crunch time.

"We've just got to dig down and find a way to rally ourself and be able to play well," said Dave Leitao, last year's ACC coach of the year. "I think it's much more mental than physical. When he hit that wall, you have to find a way to climb over it."

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