It was early Monday afternoon and North Carolina coach Roy Williams had yet to talk to his team about Duke, UNC’s Wednesday opponent.
Williams has not been one to obsess over the Duke game. His approach has been to take it one game at a time.
“I treat that game just like every other game,” Williams said last week.
Perhaps that is why Williams has been successful in games that follow the season’s first Duke meeting.
North Carolina is 15-0 in the game following the first Duke game during the Roy Williams era. It doesn’t matter whether UNC is coming off a win or loss to Duke, or are playing on the road or at home. The Tar Heels defeated Duke 88-72 on Wednesday.
Eight of those wins have come at home and seven have come on the road.
Williams and the eighth-ranked Tar Heels are hoping that trend continues when they play No. 16 Florida State on Saturday in Chapel Hill. UNC has only played Florida State once after a season’s first Duke game over the last 20 years. Under former coach Matt Doherty, the Tar Heels beat Florida State at home 61-60 in 2003, the season before Roy Williams came back.
The Tar Heels are still dealing with a number of injuries. UNC graduate senior Cam Johnson scored 26 points and grabbed 7 rebounds against Duke, but turned his ankle when he stepped on a photographer’s foot on the baseline late in the second half. He said after the game that his ankle was sore. It was the same ankle that he turned against Virginia.
But Johnson is expected to play and so is freshman forward Nassir Little, who has a sprained ankle and a chest contusion he suffered in last week’s game against Wake Forest.
“My ankle is getting better,” Little said. “Against Wake Forest I had a contusion in my chest and that slowed me up, but I’m getting better.”
However, sophomore forward Sterling Manley (sore knee) and Leaky Black (sprained ankle), are not expected to play. Manley declined to comment on his knee Wednesday.
Black, who is no longer walking with a boot, has not practiced since spraining his ankle against Georgia Tech on Jan. 29, a UNC spokesperson said on Friday.
The Tar Heels’ bench has stepped up in Manley and Black’s absence and UNC has won nine of its last 10 games. UNC (21-5, 11-2 ACC) is currently ranked atop the ACC standings with Virginia and Duke.
In its win against Duke, UNC finished 2 of 20 from 3-point range, but dominated in the paint. Zion Williamson went down with an injury in the first 36 seconds of the game and senior Luke Maye took advantage.
The 6-8, 240-pound forward had 30 points and 15 rebounds against Duke. He was 14 of 24 from the floor.
Florida State started conference play 1-4, but has since won eight consecutive games. The Seminoles’ most recent win was a 77-64 victory over Clemson on the road on Tuesday.
Florida State has the 25th-most efficient offense and 17th-most efficient defense in the country, according to kenpom.com. The Tar Heels have the seventh-most efficient offense and 13th-most efficient defense.
“I just got to get guys to stop turning it over,” Williams said.
The Seminoles do a good job of forcing turnovers. Their 7.5 steal percentage is ranked 30th in the country. The Tar Heels had 16 turnovers against Duke. UNC freshman Coby White was responsible for six, and junior guard Seventh Woods had three.
If they can take care of the ball, the Tar Heels will have a good chance to continue the streak of wins after the season’s first Duke game.
UNC vs. Florida State
When: Saturday, 3:45 p.m.
Where: Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill