DUKE DAY: Blue Devils set to host Tar Heels tonight at Cameron Indoor

by dentonramsey

DUKE DAY: Blue Devils set to host Tar Heels tonight at Cameron Indoor


By Denton Ramsey


The date has been circled since the season began, but that day has finally arrived.

Tonight at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the No. 16 Duke Blue Devils (18-5, 5-4) host the No. 5 North Carolina Tar Heels (20-3, 6-2) at 8:05 p.m. CT as ‘Rivalry Week’ heats up.

This year, though, it’s more than just a match-up.

For Duke, tonight’s game is a must-win after the Blue Devils have once again managed to drop back-to-back losses in the ACC.

Tonight on Coach K Court, the Blue Devils look to regain momentum under the Cameron Indoor lights with their Cameron Crazies cheering them on.

The master of all masters, the greatest coach of all-time, will stand at the helm on the sideline of the court that bears his name.

And tonight, Tobacco Road Rivalry Part One will premiere on the beautiful Duke campus in Durham, North Carolina.

As Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils prepare for this evenings action, fans and students alike remain crammed into tents in Krzyzewskiville, eagerly awaiting tonight’s tip-off.

For the Duke players, as well their lifetime fans, tonight’s rivalry game means much more than just a prideful victory.

Tonight’s match-up is a fork in the road, and our young Duke Blue Devils are in charge of their own fate as Coach K and company attempt to right the ship.

We’ve lost two games in a row and this is a very critical moment for our team’s success,” junior DeMarcus Nelson said. “The game is bigger than just playing North Carolina for us; it’s about our season and it’s about getting on the right path for success.

“Right now we’re definitely angry; we lost two games that we felt we should have won. We have to use that anger as motivation for success. I think when we’re angry we’re at our best and we have to learn how to use that better. [Tonight’s] game is way bigger than North Carolina; it’s about the Duke program.”

Freshman Gerald Henderson pretty much echoed Nelson’s comments and concerns.

I just want to win the game, pretty much,” Henderson said. “We’re in a hole here and it’s a big game for us, Carolina-Duke or not. It’s a big game for our team and for our program. It’s about where you are in the league and your season. The NCAA Tournament is not just given to you. We still have some big games ahead of us but this next game is the biggest game we’re going to play.”

Sophomore co-captain Greg Paulus said it best, though, when he made the comment, “We treat every game the same.”

I understand the Carolina-Duke rivalry, but our approach to the game and preparation as far as scouting and practice times and everything has been the same since day one,” Paulus said. “Rivalry or not, whether you lose one or two in a row, you want to stop that streak. I’m sure that there will be a lot of energy and it’ll be a good atmosphere with a lot of guys going after it.”

After suffering a 68-67 setback to Florida State at Cameron Indoor on Sunday afternoon, Coach K and his coaching staff have approached their team the same way they always do – telling them the truth and how they can get better.

Coach is always telling us the truth as far as where he thinks we’re at and how we can get better,” Nelson said. “That’s his approach. He’s telling us where we could have been better and pointing out the things we didn’t do well and what we need to do well to win tomorrow.”

Motivation is also a key for Coach K.

He’s got so much passion and is motivated every single day,” Paulus said. “He came in [this week] like he does every day, passionate, trying to get us better, watching the film and seeing where we can get better and correcting the mistakes that we made.”

And Paulus summed it up best when discussing a Duke loss to Carolina last year at home.

We took one here and we took one there,” Paulus said. “You try to protect your home court and that’s what we need to. We didn’t do it last time so we need to this time. They score a lot of points and they have a lot guys that can put up points in a hurry. We do have to do a good job of controlling tempo; we’re not trying to get into a track meet because that’s what they do well.”

Tonight, it’s time for the Tar Heels to meet the real Blue Devils.

So lace up those shoes and pull on your Duke jersey because the fun is about to begin.

All the action starts in just a few hours, with tip time set for 8:05 p.m. CT on ESPN.

And I can’t wait…


Denton Ramsey can be reached via e-mail at denton.ramsey@gmail.com