DURHAM — Haley Peters says when Duke plays North Carolina in the annual regular-season women’s finale, it’s like the post-season has already started.
The No. 5 Blue Devils (26-2, 16-1 ACC) will host the No. 15 Tar Heels (26-4, 14-3) at 4 p.m. Sunday (ESPN2) at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It also will be Senior Day, with center Allison Vernerey and others being honored in pregame ceremonies.
A sellout is possible, as only a few hundred unsold tickets remained on Friday afternoon.
Duke has already clinched its fourth straight ACC regular-season championship. If the Tar Heels could come up with the upset, they would get the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament starting Thursday at Greensboro Coliseum, while a loss could send them into the No. 3 spot.
The Tar Heels lead the series 47-37, but Duke has won five straight, including an 84-63 romp four weeks ago in Chapel Hill.
Duke will be playing its fourth game without junior point guard and All-America candidate Chelsea Gray, who suffered a dislocated kneecap in the Wake Forest game two weeks ago and will miss the rest of the season.
“We’re going to try to focus on what we did in the second half (against Duke),” said UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell, who has 905 career wins, good for second place on the women’s basketball career list, though she is 31-32 against Duke. “We got off to a really bad start and got ourselves dug in a hole. It was embarrassing, really. We know we’re a better team than that, and hopefully we’ll be able to give them a better game. We’ll just see what happens.”
“UNC senior point guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt said if the Tar Heels can’t get the upset, she’s certainly aiming for a better game than last time.
“They’re pretty deep,” Ruffin-Pratt said of Duke. “Jones and Wells both are great players. They have a lot of scorers and a lot of weapons they can use. Chelsea is more of a set-up – look for the pass and set somebody else up. She can score, but she’s pass first. Jones and Wells can both score as well as pass the ball.
“These games are so close together, you can’t really forget how you played them last time.”