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January 13, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Monday, January 13th, 2002

by Andrew Flynn

Nestled in-between NFL Playoff football and Race 2 between OracleBMW Racing and Alinghi in the Louis Vuitton Cup was a little matchup in Durham, North Carolina. In case it’s been a bit under-publicized, especially with the other weekend activities listed above, this was the last battle-of-the-unbeatens – the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils (10-0) against the No. 19 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (also 10-0). Though in some circles, the fact that it was an ACC conference game added more drama to the highly charged atmosphere of Cameron Indoor.

But the outcome was anti-climactic, as Duke pulled away towards the end of the first half, winning easily 74-55. Early on, it was a pretty evenly matched game, with back-and-forth spurts. Though Duke’s Dahntay Jones was a frigid 0-for-6 from the floor, Chris Duhon kept the squad in it with three key treys midway through the first half, and then pleased the home crowd with some great passes to Shavlik Randolph and an alley-oop inbound pass to Casey Sanders. To counter this offensive, Deacon forward and leading scorer Josh Howard (13/14 split) got into foul trouble, and grabbed some bench.

Wake chose the worst time to get cold from the floor – right as Duke was heating up – with five minutes left in the first half, with the score tied at 27. The Deacons wouldn’t score again the rest of the first half, as Duke went into intermission with a 10-point lead. But the real problem was keeping up with the Jones. Wake came out even colder from the lockers by scoring a total of four points in the first ten minutes of the second half (or, even more astounding – 4 points in 45 actual minutes). All this happened, of course, as Dahntay Jones was lighting up the Deacons for 15 points in this span, as the Blue Devils ran their lead to 24 points. At this point, the game was pretty much over. Skip Prosser’s Deacon squad even went down by 30, when Coach K pulled in the reins a bit and let the visitors close to 19 to make it respectable.

It was the Blue Devils 20th-straight home win, and their 14th consecutive versus Wake Forest – dating back to Tim Duncan’s days back in 1997. Another nifty graphic displayed that Duke has been the No. 1 team at the conclusion of each of the last four regular seasons. But to the point about the ACC conference game, last season it was Maryland that cut down the nets. Wake’s Skip Prosser does have a history of defeating No. 1’s – at Xavier he downed No. 1 Cincinnati twice.

Other notes: I was surprised to see that the game was not on premier media outlets such as CBS or ESPN, before finding the game on Fox Sports Net (though the schedulers wouldn’t have known about the unbeaten status back in September when the lineup was drafted). Additionally, I was pleased to hear the solid commentary of Thom Brennaman (my hometown Diamondbacks announcer during baseball season) and former Duke All-American Mike Gminski. Unlike other “national” games, featuring celebrity announcers that often overshadow or at the minimum compete for the limelight with the game, the Brennaman-Gminski tandem offered the insight and tempo that complimented an over-hyped-turned-blowout matchup into an enjoyable two hours of television.

Also, kudos to the crew as the Fox telecast presented lots of crowd shots of those crazy Cameron crowd (including top-notch audio engineers that allowed you to listen to their orchestrated chants), and local character (the crazy towel guy, the elderly woman that’s kept stats from the same seat for 42 years, a cameo of Lefty Driesell). These are the types of nuggets that not only make a broadcast seamless, but memorable. I’ll be checking on the ACC’s other telecasts, just to see if they caught lightning in a bottle this time around.

Side Dishes

Back at It: Just six days after their worst loss in three seasons, No. 5 Notre Dame edged Big East conference foe Seton Hall 74-64. Notre Dame set out at the onset and led by 10 at the half, but the Pirates closed the gap with a run in the early second half, whittling the lead down to three. However, the Irish responded with a run of their own, and what really made the difference was at the charity stripe, as Notre Dame connected on 22-of-29, while the Hall was limited to 8-of-9, causing Pirate coach Louis Orr to rip the officiating. Chris Thomas scored 22 points for the Irish, and Matt Carroll added 19 points. Andre Barrett led the Pirates with 22 points, and Kelly Whitney notched 12 points and 14 boards.

Just in Time: The squad that last beat Notre Dame, No. 7 Pittsburgh Panthers, had their hands full with New Jersey’s team, the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers. In a surprisingly close match, Pitt and Rutgers traded baskets in the first half, ending the stanza tied at a pedestrian 25. In the second half, the Panthers, who had shot a measly 39% from the field in the first half, heated up with 64% the rest of the way, to overcome the Knights’ trapping defense. Pitt pulled away in the final four minutes on the strength of 8 free throw points and two key treys by Brandin Knight.

West Coast Battle: In what was billed as the first of their three matchups (though Gonzaga and Pepperdine are only scheduled twice – the other is presumably meant as the WCC Championship game), the Bulldogs triumphed by handily disposing the Waves 92-72. Never close, Gonzaga led 50-28 at the break, and kept the margin to 15 or more for the entirety of the contest. Five Bulldogs scored in double digits, led by Cory Violette’s 17/10 double-double and Blake Stepp’s 16/10 split, while Pepperdine was led by Jimmy Miggins with 18 points.

One comes in . . . : In a case of interesting timing, Missouri sophomore forward Najeeb Echols has announced that he is leaving the team, effective immediately. Quin Snyder, coach of the Tigers, indicated that Echols’ next destination was not clear. As you’ll recall, VMI scoring leader Jason Conley last week announced that he was leaving the Keydet program and transferring to Missouri.

Tonight’s Menu:

Several conferences have full slates tonight, which features two ranked squads on the road.

• The big game tonight is No. 9 Oklahoma (10-2) traveling to in-state rival Oklahoma State (12-1), winners of ten in a row. This game also will be the first true away game for the Sooners, who have faced three ranked teams (Alabama, Michigan State, and Mississippi State) in neutral site contests.

• No. 13 Missouri is on the road as it faces up-and-coming Syracuse (winners of eleven in a row) in the Carrier Dome, featuring potential freshman of the year Carmelo Anthony.

That’s it for this Monday. Enjoy!

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