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January 14, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Atlantic Coast Conference Notebook

by Michael Protos

And Then There Was One…

Entering January 12th, two teams in the land of Division I collegiate basketball had successfully turned back each and every opponent. These two teams were on a collision course slated to occur in Cameron Indoor Stadium. No. 1 Duke hosted No. 19 Wake Forest Sunday in one of basketball’s most hostile environments. Filled with a raucous crowd that seems to rehearse chants, the Blue Devils’ home would be the most difficult place to date for the young Demon Deacons to score an eleventh consecutive victory to start the season.

And they didn’t. Duke cast Wake Forest out of Durham, sending the Deacons back down Interstate 40 to Winston-Salem with a 10-1 record, while Duke sports an attractive 11-0 record. To the victor go the spoils, and Duke’s prizes will be another week atop polls nationwide and the inside track to win the ACC.

But don’t think the Demon Deacons didn’t come to play. Wake Forest kept the game close for most of the first half, even trading the lead for a few minutes. But the team’s bid for an upset unfortunately ran into a patented Blue Devil run at the end of the first half, with Duke stretching the deficit to 37-27.

The second half turned into a grinding defensive battle as Duke’s stifling press prevented Wake Forest from establishing any rhythm. Senior forward Josh Howard earned 13 points to lead Wake Forest, but Duke allowed only one other player into double figures. For Duke, senior guard Dahntay Jones found his game at halftime and scored 15 of his team-high 16 points in the second half. Freshman forward Shavlik Randolph added fifteen points while the Blue Devils received balance scoring from the rest of the lineup.

What can the rest of the ACC and its followers learn from this game that leaves only one undefeated team left? For starters, Duke’s youth is playing better than any other team’s youth in the ACC, including the youngsters from Wake Forest. The two impact freshmen for the Deacons, forward Eric Williams and guard Justin Gray, combined for just six points.

The next lesson is that Duke’s youth can play in big games. This game was the first game against a currently ranked opponent for Duke. Challenges will continue this week as Duke hosts Virginia Wednesday before embarking on a trip north to College Park, Md., to play Maryland for the right to control the ACC.

A concluding lesson is that an undefeated season is virtually impossible to accomplish in this era. Duke won because the Blue Devils shut down Wake Forest’s other weapons – who are freshmen. Duke is the strongest team in the ACC because it has so many freshmen who can step up and play a crucial role. Stop the freshmen, stop Duke’s winning streak. And that’s the bottom line.

Cav Fans Welcome a Majestic Cameo

Junior guard Majestic Mapp returned to the court Saturday for the Virginia Cavaliers’ 79-72 win against North Carolina. It was his first game since obliterating his right knee in 2000. That’s 70 games he missed because of four separate surgeries to repair the torn ACL. The crowd swelled with excitement to see Mapp play two minutes and attempt one three-pointer before returning to the bench midway through the first half. The promising point guard from the Bronx essentially must start his collegiate career anew. If he can regain the form that excited recruiters, Virginia will gain additional depth, which is the name of the game for teams looking to make long tournament runs in March.

Virginia Coach Pete Gillen Vents After Loss to NC State

After a 75-63 loss to NC State on December 5, Virginia coach Pete Gillen verbally abused the referees calling the game. He criticized the crew by pointing out that the Wolfpack shot 16 more free throws than the Cavaliers. Specifically, Gillen was upset that Cavalier-star senior forward Travis Watson did not receive more free throws. He was held to 10 points, 19 fewer than last year’s performance against NC State in Raleigh.

On Tuesday, Gillen apologized to NC State, the referees and the entire ACC for berating the referees. He said the comments came in the frustration of defeat. According to ACC rules, coaches must not publicly criticize referees. Gillen may have crossed the line in his frustration, but at least he had the class not to enter Miami Heat coach Pat Riley’s territory of ridiculous conspiracy theories. Expect this to be an isolated incident.

Clemson Continues to Rack Up the Wins

The Clemson Tigers sit near the top of the ACC with an impressive 10-1 overall record. Their only loss came against Duke last Sunday. This week the Tigers shoved Morris Brown out of the building, out-rebounding the Wolverines 40-22. If only Morris Brown was one person and not an entire team, the statistic wouldn’t sound so embarrassing. Alas, Morris Brown is the latest victim of Clemson, which has been pounding opponents all season by dominating the boards. This specialty may propel Clemson to some surprising victories in conference plays against teams that may not be as strong on the boards.

Clemson will test the theory Tuesday at Chapel Hill, where they seemingly haven’t won since the beginning of time. Actually, they never have won in Chapel Hill. And the Tar Heels have a distinct void in the paint without injured freshman Sean May. Hmm…interesting storyline, eh?

ACC Player of the Week:

Duke senior guard Dahntay Jones proved his leadership status among the young Blue Devils during two convincing wins this week. Jones averaged 19 points and 7 rebounds in wins against Georgetown and No. 19 Wake Forest.

ACC Rookie of the Week:

Georgia Tech forward Chris Bosh continued to provide a crucial inside presence for the Yellow Jackets, averaging 15.5 points and ten rebounds this week in helping the team get back on track with wins against Cornell and NC State.

ACC Coach Watch:

Since every ACC team has a winning record and several coaches must deal with adversity, this week’s coach watch will focus on Maryland’s Gary Williams. The Terrapins have games against No. 1 Duke and No. 19 Wake Forest this week, which will help define how serious Maryland is about repeating as ACC conference champion.

Games of the Week:

Conference season hits full force this week with games on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday this week. Here are some of the marquis match-ups, plus the most intriguing non-conference game of the week.

Wednesday: No. 19 Wake Forest vs. No. 16 Maryland
Saturday: No. 16 Maryland vs. No. 1 Duke
Saturday: North Carolina vs. No. 6 Connecticut


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