CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The latest chapter in one of college basketball's best rivalries wasn't even over when the next one was being discussed.
"Man, the game on the 28th should be great," a fan in the front row of the Smith Center said to the person next to him during the final TV timeout of No. 2 North Carolina's 97-73 victory over top-ranked Duke on Thursday night.
They will meet again, this time at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium, on Feb. 28 in their final game of the regular season. There's a chance the rematch could be the 33rd between the top two teams in the poll. It's certain the game will be intense, again.
"We were the better team tonight," North Carolina sophomore point guard Ed Cota said after getting 12 points and 12 assists as the Tar Heels (23-1) moved into a first-place tie with Duke (20-2) in the Atlantic Coast Conference at 9-1. "We'll meet them again at Cameron. That's the game we need to win."
The Tar Heels have won nine of the last 10 meetings in the series. Thursday night's game looked like it would be easy for North Carolina, as Antawn Jamison scored 23 of his 35 points and the Tar Heels led 50-34 at halftime.
The game drew a record crowd of 22,050.
"We played too much of the game before we even got out on the court," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We weren't the team that we've been all year. I think there was something missing. We were excited to play, but we weren't ready to play this type of game."
The Blue Devils put together a 25-9 run to get within 73-69 with 5:48 to play. But the Tar Heels closed the game with a 24-4 run, including the final 18 points of the game.
"I thought both teams came out a little tight early," North Carolina coach Bill Guthridge said. "I think that can be attributed to both teams wanting to win very badly. Mike and I have both said that tonight is just another league game and we both have big games this weekend."
Duke has six more games before the rematch, North Carolina five. Many feel there could be a third meeting in the ACC tournament championship game and possibly a fourth, deep into the NCAA tournament between two likely No. 1 seeds.
"They're the real deal. They're a great team," Krzyzewski said of the Tar Heels. "They're a legitimate contender for the national championship."
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