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ACC – Big Ten Challenge: Part 3 of 3

Editor’s Note: With this week’s ACC – Big Ten Challenge featuring a number of top-ranked teams, we’ve asked our resident experts, Mark McGrath, our Big Ten staff writer, and Bill Thayer, our resident ACC expert to prognosticate the nine games. In this final Part 3 of this series, we’ll break down what really happened. Enjoy!

ILLINOIS AT MARYLAND

Mark McGrath: Illinois 70 Maryland 67
Bill Thayer: Maryland 93, Illinois 89

Final Score: Maryland 76, Illinois 63

Recap: Maryland held on to a 12-point halftime lead over the tired Illini, who were playing their fifth game in nine days. Though they shot poorly from the charity stripe down the stretch, the Terps were aided by Chris Wilcox’s 19 points off the bench. Oh, yeah. Juan Dixon scored 25 for the Terps, as they kept their non-conference win streak alive at 80 games, a streak lasting since the early days of the first George Bush administration.

Kudos: Bill called that Illinois’ Brian Cook and Robert Archibold would have to stay out of foul trouble. Cook fouled-but with 5:11 left in the game, and Archibold had 4 fouls that limited his time in the second half. Also, Bill mentioned that Steve Blake would thrive in obscurity (he was an assist away from a double-double). Mark stressed that Illinois’ Frank Williams and Corey Bradford would have to contain Dixon and Blake. They didn’t, and didn’t do very well themselves. Williams and Bradford were a combined 7-for-30 from the field for 18 points, while the Terps’ tandem racked up 35 points. What was that margin again?

Not so much: Bill suggested that due to Cook’s foul trouble, Maryland’s Lonny Baxter would have a big night. He did – on the pine. Baxter played less than a half, scored 5 points and fouled-out, allowing Chris Wilcox to light it up in sixth-man duty. Mark forecasted a Frank Williams explosion, not implosion.

NORTH CAROLINA STATE AT OHIO STATE

Mark McGrath: NC State 65, Ohio State 55
Bill Thayer : Ohio State 88, NC State 84

Final Score : Ohio State 64, NC State 50

Recap: The Buckeyes used a balanced approach to gradually pull away in the second half of what was a tight game early on. Jim O’Brien’s squad was the recipient of stone hands, bad bounces and cold shooting from the Wolfpack, who at one point went 1-for-15 from the floor with 5 turnovers inside the final ten minutes – not the way to close the gap. Ohio State capitalized on close to 70 percent shooting from the field after the break, and their experienced backcourt of Brent Darby and Brian Brown tallied 40 combined points. Outside of scoring and field goal percentage, this was a statistically close game. Stat of the night? NC State was 4-of-27 from behind the arc. Ugh.

Kudos: Mark predicted that both teams would rely on their backcourts for the majority of scoring, with both tandems of guards scoring over 50 percent of their respective teams’ points. He also gave props to Brian Brown, who ended up posting 18 points while playing in all but the final two minutes, once the game was in hand.

Not so much: Anthony Grundy was the real performer in the Wolfpack backcourt, tying backcourt-mate Julius Hodge in points with 13, and providing 8 boards and 3 steals. Grundy and Hodge were the highlights for the Wolfpack, and that’s not saying a whole lot.

DUKE VS IOWA (in Chicago)

Mark McGrath: Iowa 68, Duke 66
Bill Thayer : Duke 85, Iowa 76

Final Score : Duke 80, Iowa 62

Recap: This game, which was hyped early on as a potential preview of a March Matchup, left the crowd in the United Center wondering how the lowly Chicago Bulls might fare against Coach K’s NCAA All-Stars. Duke overcame a uncharacteristic sloppy beginning and a hot start by the Hawkeyes to show once again that they are the class of College Hoops. Carlos Boozer had his third consecutive double-double (22 pts/14 rbs), and key three-pointers by Mike Dunleavy quashed any potential Iowa rally in this physical game. Luke Recker (15 points) seemed to start a few comebacks for the Hawkeyes, though each attempt was answered by the balanced Blue Devils. First-team All-American Jason Williams scored 25, Dunleavy added 18, and Chris Duhons’ 11 assists and 9 points spread the wealth for the Blue Devils.

Kudos: Bill correctly identified that Jason Williams would abuse whomever Iowa threw out there at point guard (a combination of Chauncey Leslie, Pierre Pierce, and Brody Boyd – combined 9-of-23 for 23 points), and would have to slow down the track meet. Mark hyped Carlos Boozer, and he delivered. And then some.

Not so much: Mark was on the upset pipe when he mentioned that Recker would outperform Jason Williams. Recker was 1-for-8 from three-point land. Bill thought the Hawkeye’s Dan Evans would be a huge presence on the boards with a possible 20-20 game in store. Evans was 3-of-11 from the floor, 2-of-5 from the stripe, and tallied 9 boards and 8 points along with his 4 fouls and 4 turnovers.

MINNESOTA AT WAKE FOREST

Mark McGrath: Wake Forest 55, Minnesota 48
Bill Thayer : Minnesota 77, Wake Forest 73

Final Score : Wake Forest 85, Minnesota 79

Recap: Finally a game that was close. In what has become a trend for Wake Forest of late, the Demon Deacon’s managed to come back from a 79-74 deficit with less than two minutes remaining by running off 11 unanswered points on the Golden Gophers. Minnesota stumbled badly out of the gate with 10 missed shots six turnovers early, but then got hot as Dusty Rychart scored 20 of his 22 in the first half. Rychart also led the Gophers in rebounding, swiping 13. Free throws were the difference, with Wake netting 24-of-28 from the stripe, comparing to only 12 free throw attempts by Minnesota. Wake’s big man Darius Songaila personified the difference, going 13-of-13 from the stripe, showcasing his 23 total points and 10 boards. He was assisted by Josh Howard with 21 and Antwan Scott with 19, as the Deacons turned back a solid Minnesota squad..

Kudos: Mark called the victory, as both Songaila and Howard stayed out of foul trouble, and actually benefited at the stripe because of the Gopher’s fouls. Bill added that talented freshman Dan Rickert would need to keep Songaila off the boards, which he didn’t, but he helped Dusty Rychart control the boards at the other end. Bill also mentioned the “new” Josh Howard, now flourishing in the open Skip Prosser offense, winding up with 21 points, 9 boards, and 2-for-4 from behind the arc.

Not so much: We did pretty well on this one. Other than the aforementioned Dan Rickert not quite stepping up as expected (he’s a freshman, after all, in the fourth game of his career), most of our picks were solid. The Gopher’s Michael Bauer was a bit of a no-show, as he came in as the team’s leading scorer, and produced only 11 points and 5 boards in 26 minutes. This game has highlighted Wake as a force to be reckoned with in the ACC, especially with the Tar Heels collapse – more on that below.

WISCONSIN AT GEORGIA TECH

Mark McGrath: Georgia Tech 62, Wisconsin 50
Bill Thayer : Georgia Tech 78, Wisconsin 71

Final Score : Georgia Tech 62, Wisconsin 61

Recap: An even closer game than the Wake-Minnesota game, as Tech’s Halston Lane made two free throws to give the ‘Jackets a tie, then a win, with a dozen seconds remaining. The raucous Georgia Tech crowd then stormed the floor, riot gear, National Guard, etc., etc. Not really, but Wisconsin buckled like a belt, blowing a 20-point lead in the second half, and forgetting to score in the final four-plus minutes. Wisconsin dominated early, raining 3’s and beating the Tech press handily. Tony Akins, who had battled foul trouble all game, heated up late and wound up with 20 points (4-8 from 3-pt) with 8 assists. Despite 14-point contributions from both Kirk Penney and Travon Davis, it was a brutal blow to the Badgers, as the team crumbled to 0-4 against D-1 opponents.

Kudos: Bill was correct as he identified team chemistry as an issue for the Badgers, having lost over 70 percent of their offense and their head coach from last year. And Mr. McGrath was dead-on, predicting “[Tony Akins] will thrive as he scores twenty and distributes the ball to a much more talented team.” Nice.

Not so much: Mad props all around. Everyone was surprised that Wisconsin was able to handle Georgia Tech for the first 25 minutes of the game, including the Yellowjackets. And then the fragile psyche of the Badgers just plain shattered. Georgia Tech needed this win, as they have tough competition in December (a Wisconsin-fragile Tar Heel team, plus state rival Georgia and highly-ranked Syracuse), before the rugged ACC regular season starts. Wisconsin has Xavier, Temple, and the surprising Marquette to tend with in the upcoming schedule.

MICHIGAN STATE VS VIRGINIA (in Richmond)

Mark McGrath: Michigan State 70, Virginia 58
Bill Thayer : Virginia 88, Michigan State 70

Final Score : Game Suspended – will not be re-played

Recap: With condensation forming from the hockey surface underneath the playing floor, the conditions at Richmond Coliseum were the reason that the game was stopped with 15 minutes remaining in the second half, with Virginia up on the Spartans 31-28. Several players had slipped and fallen during the game, and ball boys earned their keep, mopping up the floors at any opportunity. Michigan State led by nine at the half, but the Wahoos had scored 12-straight points in the second half when the game was called. The game will probably not be replayed, due to scheduling difficulties for both teams.

Kudos: To lead official Andre Pattillo and his crew that finally called the game. They were up against a national television audience, two top-ranked teams (that were pretty apprehensive about going out onto the floor), and the pressures of a larger-than-normal neutral court arena. They made the right decision. Unfortunately it was a cut chin of Virginia’s Travis Wilson on an inbounds play that prompted them to end it. What a mistake it would have been to continue the game and allow for the possibility that a player may become seriously injured due to weather conditions indoors. That’s not what this game is about. Speaking of mistakes . . .

Not so much: Richmond Coliseum general manager Larry Wilson, who blamed unseasonably mild temperatures (they were in the 70s at game time) for the court woes. This was not the first time this arena has had problems, either, though UVA athletic director Craig Littlepage chose the arena to please the large amount of Cav alums in the Richmond area.

CLEMSON AT PENN STATE

Mark McGrath: Clemson 60 Penn State 52
Bill Thayer : Clemson 71, Penn State 64

Final Score : Clemson 79, Penn State 66

Recap: The final wasn’t much of a surprise. What was mildly interesting was that Penn State actually had an 11-point lead in the second half. But as you have read above, the Big Ten seems to have difficulty protecting a lead, in this tournament especially. Tigers’ Chris Hobbs had a double-double (17/10), as Clemson spread the wealth, having five players score in double figures, and out-rebounding the Nittany Lions 46 to 22 for the game. To their credit, Penn State also distributed the scoring around, with four players in double-digits, led by sophomore guard Jamall Tate, who tallied 18 points.

Kudos: Bill identified that undersized big man Chris Hobbs would pick up the scoring slack since that Tony Stockman was out with injury. He did quite nicely.

Not so much: The game wasn’t as ugly as Mr. McGrath predicted, but the second half fold, along with the football woes of Coach Paterno, the fans aren’t happy in Happy Valley.

INDIANA AT NORTH CAROLINA

Mark McGrath: Indiana 72 North Carolina 68
Bill Thayer : Indiana 76, North Carolina 68

Final Score : Indiana 79, North Carolina 66

Recap: Well. You knew this could happen, but you didn’t really think it would, did you? Yes, the Heels are 0-3 for the first time since Herbert Hoover, (or was it Cal Coolidge? – you get the idea). The Hoosiers had a hot first half from sophomore AJ Moye (20 points, 6 boards, and 4-treys) and junior Tom Coverdale (17 points and 5 boards) to go up by 10 at the half. Indiana’s Moye and Coverdale tandem lit up the Heels from behind the arc, going 7-for-8 combined before the break. It’s fair to say the two teams played evenly over the final twenty minutes. On the plus side for Carolina, Kris Lang had 27 points, 8 boards and 4 blocked shots in the paint. He just didn’t have enough support from his ‘mates.

Kudos: Kris Lang’s performance and Jared Jeffries contributions (11 points and 5 boards) made Bill look like he knew what he was talking about. Ronald Curry didn’t even play for the Heels, and Jason Capel was solid, with 16 points and 9 boards, but 7 turnovers and 0-for-7 from three-point land.

Not so much: While Dane Fife might have been a defensive presence, he didn’t contribute much, fouling out with 4 points, one board and two assists. That’s not what he gets paid for . . .er, uh, gets training table for. Carolina is hurting, with now answers in sight. Not only that, they face Georgia Tech this weekend, and need a win to avoid their first 0-4 start since . . .ever.

FLORIDA STATE AT NORTHWESTERN

Mark McGrath: Florida State 75, Northwestern 58
Bill Thayer : Northwestern 65, Florida State 60

Final Score : Northwestern 57, Florida State 50

Recap: Another team pulled away in the second half. This time it was Northwestern, who was able to get their offensive in synch after a clumsy first half. The Seminoles had the lead at the break by one, 28-27, but a balanced attack from sophomore guard Jitim Young (19 points / 6 boards) and junior forward Winston Blake (18 points with 4 treys) elevated the Wildcats to a 4-1 start on the season. The ‘Cats needed this production from the perimeter, as Florida State owned the lane, with regular big man Mike Mathews throwing down 10 points and 11 boards, and really big man Nigel Dixon (6-10, 350) adding 8 points and 5 boards. The Seminoles out-rebounded the Wildcats 39 to 30.

Kudos: Jitim Young was spotlighted by Bill as the up-and-comer on the Wildcats, and he didn’t disappoint. Also, Florida State held up their reputation as a slow team (maybe that 350 pounds has something to do with it) that turns the ball over too much. The Seminoles turned the ball over 15 times – not as many as usual, but more than the ‘Cats 11, and several came late in the game to seal the game for Northwestern.

Not so much: Mark was going for experience over speed when he predicted an FSU blowout. And Bill missed the mark when he hyped Michael Joiner. While he is good, he simply didn’t show up for the game, going 0-for-8 with 3 boards in only 21 minutes. Also, this was the weakest event of the entire ACC-Big Ten Challenge, as the announced attendance at Northwestern was a lowly 3,371.

WRAPPING IT ALL UP

Well, the ACC won the third consecutive ACC-Big Ten Challenge, five games to three, with the one DNF in Richmond. We witnessed a few teams that need to answer some tough questions, and others that gained confidence going into tough conference play.

As for our Hoopville prognosticators, Bill Thayer was last seen zipping down the Garden State Parkway to Atlantic City after his 7-for-8 performance – he was in the zone. Mark McGrath stumbled a little out of the gate – I’m guessing it was a combination of subconscious Big Ten allegiance and a touch of the upset bug. He came back strong, however, winding up with a final tally of 4-of-8, including going 3-and-1 on Wednesday’s games. We’ll never know about the cancelled Michigan State – Virginia game. We leave you with the following quotes:

Bill Thayer: “The experienced Cavs will win easily.”
Mark McGrath: “State will win easily.”

I guess we’ll never know.

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