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“People talk about THE shot. I just look at it as a shot,” Rivers said. “It does give you confidence, and I think after that, I went back to the kind of swagger or confidence I usually have. And since then, that’s what I’ve been playing with.”

It seems to have rubbed off on his teammates. Duke hasn’t lost since, starting a seven-game winning streak that kept them atop the league standings.

The Blue Devils have had a few hiccups along the way. They trailed N.C. State by 20 before rallying to win. Most recently, they blew much of a 23-point lead in an eight-point victory at Wake Forest.

But the way the players see it, the emphasis should be on how they managed to win those games, not what they did to nearly lose them.

“People this year have tended to point out our flaws. . Like every other team, we have flaws,” forward Ryan Kelly said. “But we’ve taken those flaws and said, `we’re going to win anyways.’ That’s something that Duke teams in the past have done that, too, and it shows certainly our level of maturity in that we’ve looked past those things and found ways to win regardless.”

With all the attention paid to Duke and its run, perhaps one thing has been overlooked: the Tar Heels haven’t lost since then, either.

The preseason ACC favorites have kept pace by winning six in a row, with all but one of those decided by at least nine points. Now, the schools will play their third winner-take-all finale in five years, with the previous two going to North Carolina.

“If we’re not going to be fired up Saturday, my gosh, we need to have our heart and head both examined,” Williams said.