UNC’s post-Duke celebration cut short by quick turnaround

The Tar Heels are scheduled to play NC State at PNC Arena on Saturday, the second in a stretch of three games in five days

Theo Pinson puts his arms up in victory while UNC teammate Joel Berry throws the ball into the air at the final buzzer of the Tar Heels' win against rival Duke earlier this season. (Bob Donnan / USA TODAY Sports)

  CHAPEL HILL — The party that started inside Smith Center on Thursday spilled outside onto Franklin Street and was still going strong well into the night.

  But not for those who helped provide the reason to celebrate.

  Long before the festivities began to subside, members of the North Carolina basketball team had already put their 82-78 rivalry win against Duke behind them and begun moving on to the next task at hand — Saturday’s quick turnaround game at NC State.

  “I’m going to enjoy it until I go to sleep, then we’ll come back here after class (Friday) and get ready for Saturday,” said junior guard Kenny Williams, whose six 3-pointers were instrumental in taking down the ninth-ranked Blue Devils. “We know what we have to do.”

  The 2 p.m. game against the Wolfpack at a sold out PNC Arena is an opportunity for the 21st ranked Tar Heels to avenge an overtime loss to the Wolfpack two weeks ago.

  Emotions are likely to be heightened even more because of a controversial comment made by senior guard Joel Berry earlier in the week in which the UNC captain said that he and his teammates don’t consider State to be as much of a rival as Duke.

  The hostile atmosphere that awaits the Tar Heels in Raleigh is only half of the equation, though. Rivalry or not, there’s also the physical challenge of having to play another highly competitive game in a matter of just 42 hours.

 To that end, UNC’s postgame media availability was cut short so the players could get their recovery process started.

  “We’ll get in the cold tub and get some stretching done, then make sure we’re hydrating and doing things to take care of our bodies,” Berry said. “The guys on our team and our training staff have done a great job of making sure we do what we have to do to be ready on Saturday.

  “You know, we have a little revenge game. I’m going to be ready and my team is going to be ready. It’s just all about getting the body ready.”

  The rematch with State is the middle game in a scheduling stretch that has the Tar Heels (18-7, 7-5 ACC) playing three games in just five days. They also play Notre Dame at home on Monday.

  This is the first time since February 1991 that UNC will play that many games in that short a period. Even then, the second of the three games was makeup date for a game postponed by the start of Operation Desert Storm.

  The last time the Tar Heels were intentionally scheduled to play three times in five days was between Jan. 12-16, 1980, when they 3-0 against Duke, Georgia Tech and State.

  Needless to say, coach Roy Williams isn’t a big fan of the rapid-fire stretch his team is currently facing — especially since UNC is the only team in the ACC this season that has to run such a gauntlet.  

  “I don’t necessarily like it,” Williams said. “I definitely don’t like that we’re the only one doing it. But (ACC associate commissioner Paul Brazeau) called and said we’ve got a stretch for you that’s going to be very difficult, but we need to do it. I said, ‘all right, let’s do it.’

  “Does that say if I’d have said no, would they have changed it? I didn’t get that impression. He was asking for permission. I think he was asking for forgiveness. But it’s a schedule. It’s what the (heck) we play. That’s the way I look at it.”

  It’s not as if State (16-8, 6-5) will have a significant advantage because of the schedule. The Wolfpack has had only slightly more time to bounce back from a road loss at Virginia Tech at 9 p.m. on Wednesday.