Smith out, Thomas uncertain vs. UNC

Updated: March 7, 2009, 2:55 AM ET
Associated Press

DURHAM, N.C. -- Seventh-ranked Duke will be short-handed when it travels to No. 2 North Carolina this weekend.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski said Friday that point guard Nolan Smith will miss Sunday's game as he continues to deal with a mild concussion suffered at Maryland last week. Krzyzewski also said junior forward Lance Thomas is still uncertain due to a sprained ankle suffered against Florida State on Tuesday.

However, 7-foot-1 junior Brian Zoubek will play despite a broken nose suffered against the Seminoles.

The Blue Devils' injury situation is another variable in the latest installment of the backyard rivalry. North Carolina (26-3, 12-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) has clinched a share of the league title and will win it outright by beating the Blue Devils (25-5, 11-4) for a second time this season.

"Look, that's your hand, let's play it and try to win with it," Krzyzewski said during a news conference. "That's why I don't do a lot with injuries [publicly]. I don't want any excuses. We're going to go there and if Lance plays, he plays. If he doesn't, we still feel we have a chance to win."

Smith has missed the past two games and has not been practicing, though the Blue Devils can play Jon Scheyer and Greg Paulus at the point. Thomas' health could be a bigger problem considering Duke doesn't have as much depth on the interior, an area the Tar Heels have an advantage with reigning national player of the year Tyler Hansbrough, junior Deon Thompson, and freshmen Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller.

The 6-foot-8 Thomas hurt his left ankle after less than a minute of action in the first half against the Seminoles and did not return. He lightly ran in Friday's practice, though Krzyzewski said it was only at about 75 percent and that Thomas would need to practice Saturday in order to play.

"If he's able to play, he'll play and start," Krzyzewski said. "If he can't be at that level, then I would keep him out."

Zoubek was hurt when he was struck during a scramble for a rebound in the second half, but returned and was on the court in the final minutes of a tight game. Krzyzewski said Zoubek would start if Thomas is unable to go and won't have to wear a protective mask.

The school had said Thomas and Zoubek were day to day earlier this week, while Smith is out indefinitely.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press