North Carolina

UNC faces 3 games in 5 days – and they’re big ones: Duke, NC State, Notre Dame

North Carolina won’t have much time to reflect and refocus later this week as it faces both Duke and N.C. State – 42 hours apart.

No. 21 UNC’s home game against No. 9 Duke is Thursday at 8 p.m., followed by its game at N.C. State at 2 p.m. Saturday.

“We’re not talking about (the State game). I had a guy getting on my butt on Sunday night about North Carolina State,” UNC coach Roy Williams said about playing Duke and N.C. State back-to-back. “God almighty, we’re playing D-U-K-E, I know how to spell the damn place.”

UNC’s schedule with Duke and N.C. State this week is is the shortest regular-season, non-tournament turnaround between the Triangle rivals since 1976, when the Tar Heels won 89-87 on Jan. 17 at Duke and then lost 68-67 to N.C. State the next day at Carmichael Auditorium. UNC also played both teams on consecutive days in 1924.

The last two times UNC played both rivals on Thursday and Saturday was in 1994 and 1995. North Carolina won all four of those games.

On Feb. 3, 1994 the Tar Heels beat the Blue Devils 89-78 and then beat the Wolfpack 77-64 two days later. The 43-hour (9 p.m. start vs. Duke; 4 p.m. vs. NCSU) turnaround time is just an hour longer than this year’s.

The next season, on Feb. 2, 1995, UNC beat Duke in a now-famous 102-100 double overtime win at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Current Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel hit a 35-foot shot at the buzzer to send the game into a second overtime. The Tar Heels then hosted N.C. State 47 hours later and defeated the Wolfpack 82-63.

The Tar Heels also played the two rivals in Thursday-Saturday games in 1978 (43 hours between start times) and 1979 (48).

The series between Duke and UNC began in the 1919-20 season, and UNC has been playing N.C. State since the 1912-13 season.

The most unique stretch of games for the Triangle trio was in 1923. During a five-day period (Feb. 17-21) the Tar Heels hosted and defeated Duke 36-32 on Feb. 17, defeated N.C. State on the road 39-9 on Feb. 19 and then came home and defeated the Wolfpack again 45-26 on Feb. 21 in Chapel Hill.

UNC will again play three games in five days (Feb. 8-12) this season, starting with the Duke game on Thursday. Fifty-three hours after the start of Saturday’s game against the Wolfpack, UNC faces Notre Dame at home on Monday. UNC is the only team in the ACC that has to play a stretch like that this season.

“I don’t necessarily like it,” UNC coach Roy Williams said about playing three games in five days. “I definitely don’t like that we’re the only one doing it. But (senior associate ACC commissioner) Paul (Brazeau) called and said we’ve got a stretch for you and it’s going to be very difficult but we need to do it. I said, alright, let’s do it.”

Joe Giglio contributed.

Sam Newkirk: 919-829-4526, @samnewkirk64

Duke at North Carolina

When: 8 p.m., Thursday

Where: Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill


North Carolina at NC State

When: 2 p.m., Saturday

Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh


Notre Dame at North Carolina

When: 7 p.m., Monday

Where: Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill