CHAPEL HILL– The surging North Carolina men’s basketball team, winners of seven straight, will take center stage Thursday in primetime for a 9 p.m. tipoff in the Smith Center against archrival Duke.

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One of the keys to the game will be how the Tar Heels fare from the free throw line. Head Coach Roy Williams says he was pleased with junior James Michael McAdoo’s improvement from the foul line.

“I never get too high or too low about free throws because there’s always another day. We keep working on them every day,” Coach Williams says.

McAdoo says the upswing in success for the Tar Heels has ultimately come down to the consistent defensive pressure they’re applying to their opponents.

“I think this biggest thing is probably our sense of urgency on defense. With that, just being disciplined and being really sound. Coach uses that word a lot. I think it has to do with one through five playing together. I think that’s the biggest thing just trying to get the offense out of their rhythm,” McAdoo says.

Sophomore Marcus Paige agrees with McAdoo’s sentiments. He says the improved defense has helped the offense gain some traction.

“Aside from the effort, we’ve been working a lot on guarding the ball so we don’t have to have guys help. I think the fact that we’ve done a better job doing that has allowed our defense to be a little more successful so guys aren’t always in scrambles and rotations. Guys are just defending the ball better. That’s definitely helped,” Paige says.

Despite the winning streak, Coach Williams says he’s hesitant to predict the future success of the team, but he says mentally, it’s easy to build off the momentum of winning.

“I’ve said before, the more you make the more you make. In golf, the more putts you make the more putts you make. I’m not going to say we’re going to win the next 26. But I like the way we’re doing some things. If kids have got more confident, I think that’s a huge part of it,” Coach Williams says.

Coach Williams says the sense of urgency is palpable in his team right now. He says Carolina isn’t taking any game for granted and that is making the difference as the Tar Heels close out the season.

“Now we’re playing and every game is important to us. Our first five ACC games, we were 1-4 and those games were really important. But down the stretch, you want to be a confident team, and I think that’s helping us play well,” Coach Williams says.

The Tar Heels will find out a little more about themselves Thursday in a measuring stick contest against the Blue Devils.  The game will be broadcast on 97.9 FM, WCHL and televised nationally on ESPN.