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January 6, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Atlantic Coast Conference Notebook

by Michael Protos

ACC/SEC Challenge?

One of the more intriguing series of games in the early season is the
ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but the ACC has owned the challenge each season. This
year, circumstance has three of the ACC’s elite teams playing against SEC
teams in the same week. Apparently an official ACC/SEC Challenge would be
equally lopsided as the SEC won all three games.

The marquis game put No. 10 North Carolina on the road to No. 8 Kentucky.
The Tar Heels frustrated the Wildcats and their fans for the first half and
a smattering of boos greeted the Wildcats as they left the floor at halftime
trailing 28-20. But coach Tubby Smith rallied the troops and Kentucky shot
lights out in the second half. North Carolina coach Roy Williams responded
by benching all of his stars in favor of the reserves in hopes of slowing
down the Wildcats.

In the end, Kentucky hit the clutch shots while North Carolina could not hit
any shots. The Tar Heels failed to make a field goal for nearly six minutes
late in the second half. Kentucky’s Gerald Fitch led the Wildcats to a 61-56
victory as only two Tar Heels reached double-figures. The game was
competitive, but neither team managed to play well for 40 minutes. Both
teams have work to do before the NCAA Tournament, or else higher seeds could
easily upset these teams.

Kentucky and Florida have both reached No. 1 in the polls this season while
no ACC team can make that claim. No. 14 Florida played No. 23 Florida State
this week in Gainesville, Fla., and showed why the Gators reached the top
spot. Anthony Roberson broke through Florida State’s solid defense for 28
points and Florida put up 87 points on the Seminoles, winning 87-73. Florida
State could not withstand Florida’s athleticism and energy, which forced 21
turnovers by the Seminoles. Florida State, which lacks a marquis victory on
its resume, needed to win this game.

The last ACC/SEC match up should have been the most winnable game for the
ACC. No. 2 Georgia Tech traveled to Athens, Ga., to play its rival, Georgia.
Neither team could establish dominance, but the Bulldogs led for most of the
second half. The Yellow Jackets came back, though, behind B.J. Elder’s 25
points, and forced overtime. Twice. But in the end, Georgia’s Jonas Hayes
was too much and guided the Bulldogs to an 83-80 victory. Hayes finished
with 25 points.

These games come early in the season but mean a lot for March. Although,
Georgia Tech, Florida State and North Carolina all have the talent to
dominate conference play and earn a top seed in the tournament, the SEC made
a statement this week about which conference is stronger. Come March, the
tournament committee may need to decide between an SEC team and an ACC team
for a top seed. These games could easily sway the committee’s decision in
favor of the ACC.

Every game has meaning in college basketball.

Coach K: 600 Served at Duke

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski won his 600th game as the head coach for the No.
3 Blue Devils when Duke blasted Clemson, 73-54, Jan. 3. Krzyzewski becomes
only the 13th coach in NCAA men’s basketball history to win 600 games at the
same school. His record at Duke stands at a gaudy 600-176. Coach K has 673
wins in his career, which includes a 73-59 mark in five seasons as coach of
Army. Coach K needs 207 more wins to break the all-time Division I coaching
record of 879 set by Dean Smith of North Carolina. In the previous seven
seasons at Duke, the Blue Devils have won 214 games.

Tar Heel Infirmary Report

Last week against UNC-Wilmington, junior forward Jawad Williams received an
elbow to the head. Later reports confirmed that Williams suffered a
concussion, and he missed the No. 10 Tar Heels’ game against Coastal
Carolina Dec. 30. Williams played against No. 8 Kentucky, but he was shut
down by a stingy Kentucky defense. The Tar Heels need Williams to shake out
the cobwebs and play effectively because he has emerged as one of North
Carolina’s most reliable leaders.

Meanwhile, another critical piece of North Carolina’s lineup, sophomore
forward Sean May injured his left ankle against UNC-W. X-rays did not reveal
a fracture, but May wore an air splint earlier this week as a precaution.
The Tar Heels’ postseason hopes are as thin as their lineup. Without May and
Williams, this team will limp through conference play. But if they stay
healthy, this team is as good as any in the country.

Georgia Tech Sets School Record

Prior to losing to their instate rival, Georgia, Jan. 3, the No. 2 Yellow
Jackets set a new school record by beating Virginia Commonwealth Dec. 29.
Georgia Tech established their best start in school history by stretching
their record to 12-0. The Yellow Jackets’ momentum could not carry them
through two overtimes at Georgia, where Georgia Tech has not won since 1976.

Cavalier Back On Board

Virginia gains some more frontcourt depth with the addition of junior
forward Jason Clark. Clark rejoined the team this past week. He has not
practiced with the team this season, but he averaged 4.7 points and 2.5
rebounds per game last season. More importantly, he averaged nearly 16
minutes a game and was the team’s defensive player of the year, so Clark is
capable of providing some productive floor minutes for a young and shallow
Virginia team.

Player of the Week

Julius Hodge, NC State

Junior guard Julius Hodge played 39 of 40 minutes against UNC-Wilmington and
helped NC State win 68-50 by scoring 24 points, grabbing 12 rebounds,
dishing out five assists and stealing the ball four times. Hodge is a
dominant player at both ends of the court and when he takes over games, the
Wolfpack usually win.

Rookie of the Week:

Chris Paul, Wake Forest

Guard Chris Paul stepped up to lead his team when Wake Forest needed a jump
start against Nevada. Paul finished with 18 points, six assists and five
steals to lead the Demon Deacons to a 70-61 victory.

ACC Coach Watch:

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke

Coach K earns a spot on the watch this week for winning his 600th game at
Duke. Krzyzewski seems to build dominant teams every year and with another
top-rated recruiting class coming in next year, the Blue Devils figure to
remain one of the best teams in the nation for years to come. It will only
be a few more seasons before people seriously talk of Coach K becoming the
all-time Division I coaching leader.

Team Reports

Clemson Tigers (7-5, 0-1) Last week: 1-1

The Tigers welcomed future-ACC member Boston College to Littlejohn Coliseum
Dec. 30 and won a critical game 72-62. Clemson has few good wins this season
and a victory over the Eagles would support a case for the Tigers to make
the NCAA Tournament – if they also win at least 11 conference games. The
Tigers have struggled at times in the early season, but new coach Oliver
Purnell had Clemson ready to shut down Boston College. Freshman guard Vernon
Hamilton fell one assist short of a triple-double for the Tigers, finishing
with 19 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. Hamilton offers the Tigers a
glimpse of a bright future.

But the future was delayed against Duke. The Blue Devils shut down Hamilton
and the rest of Clemson’s squad. The Tigers shot under 40 percent and
committed 16 turnovers. Junior forward Sharrod Ford led Clemson with 12
points. JuCo transfer Lamar Rice played well, scoring 11 for the Tigers.
With the emergence of Rice and Hamilton, Clemson may find a strong rotation
that will allow the Tigers to upset a few of the ACC’s heavyweights – just
not Duke last week as the Blue Devils stormed Clemson for a 73-54 victory,
giving coach Mike Krzyzewski his 600th victory at Duke.

This week, Clemson travels to No. 4 Wake Forest Jan. 10.

No. 3 Duke Blue Devils (10-1, 1-0) Last week: 2-0

The Blue Devils bombarded Davidson with three-pointers in a Dec. 29 matinee.
Duke shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc, making 11 three-pointers en
route to an 88-54 drubbing of Davidson. Sophomore J.J. Redick lit up the
scoreboard with 6-of-10 shooting from three-point land. Redick led all
scores with 22 points. Freshman forward Luol Deng scored 18 points,
supporting his bid for ACC rookie of the year.

Duke was efficient in defeating Clemson 73-54. Junior guard Daniel Ewing led
Duke to victory with 19 points, but three other Blue Devils also reached
double-figures. Sophomore forward Shelden Williams continues to play well
with 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. Duke’s frontcourt limited
Clemson’s trio of talented forward to only 21 points. Senior forward Chris
Hobbs did not score a single point.

Duke hosts Fairfield Jan. 6 before traveling to Charlottesville, Va., to
play Virginia Jan. 11.

No. 24 Florida State Seminoles (12-2, 1-0) Last week: 1-1

Florida State prepared for a clash with instate rival Florida by beating up
on an instate creampuff – Stetson. The Seminoles won 87-72 behind 17
three-pointers. That’s more than half of the scoring for Florida State.
Senior guard Nate Johnson shot 6-of-6 from three-point range to lead Florida
State with 20 points. Ten players logged at least 10 minutes for Florida
State and seven of them made at least one three-pointer.

Despite the Seminoles’ hot start, they have played few of the nation’s elite
teams. The game against No. 14 Florida was a must-win for Florida State to
earn a spot among the ACC’s elite. But Florida State’s vaunted defense
crumbled under the full-court running game played by the Gators, who won
87-73. Florida shot better than 50 percent and only turned the ball over 12
times, two statistics that Florida State usually dominates. The Seminoles
committed 21 turnovers to fuel Gator fast breaks. Sophomore guard Anthony
Roberson was unstoppable, scoring 28 points. Senior guard Tim Pickett led
the Seminoles with 25 points, but only one other Florida State player
reached double-figures.

Florida State has a week to figure out how to stop teams that like to run
before hosting another one in NC State Jan. 11.

No. 2 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (12-1, 0-0) Last week: 1-1

Georgia Tech stretched its season-opening win streak to 12 games when the
Yellow Jackets defeated Virginia Commonwealth 86-65. Georgia Tech forced 20
turnovers and fed off the hot shooting of senior guard Marvin Lewis who
drained 5-of-9 three-pointers to finish with a game-high 19 points. If Lewis
can stay hot, the Yellow Jackets should fare well in conference play.
Georgia Tech has a solid eight-man rotation but needs its sharp-shooters to
step up in crunch time, and ACC games have a tendency to come down to crunch
time multiple times a week.

But the nation’s hottest team ran out of steam against instate rival
Georgia. Georgia Tech has not won in Athens, Ga., since 1976 and must wait
for another year to try again because Georgia won 83-80 in two overtimes.
Jonas Hayes led Georgia to victory with a career-high 25 points. Junior
guard B.J. Elder matched Hayes’ 25, but the Yellow Jackets could not get
consistent support from the rest of their lineup. Junior guard Will Bynum, a
transfer from Arizona, scored 15 points, his highest total at Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets lost the battle on the boards, 40-33, which facilitated
Georgia’s upset victory.

Georgia Tech will be the last ACC team to open conference play when the
Yellow Jackets take on the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, N.C., Jan. 11.

Maryland Terrapins (8-3, 0-1) Last week: 1-0

Maryland dominated Mount St. Mary’s from start to finish, winning 89-56.
Maryland’s defense frustrated the opposing shooters as Mount St. Mary’s shot
under 30 percent and committed 17 turnovers. Most importantly, the Terrapins
dominated the boards, outrebounding Mount St. Mary’s 49-32. Senior forward
Jamar Smith continued to build a case for ACC player of the year by
registering 14 points and rebounds. Sophomore guard John Gilchrist led
Maryland with 16 points and added six rebounds and assists.

The Terrapins wrap up their non-conference schedule this week against
Maryland-Eastern Shore Jan. 6.

NC State Wolfpack (7-2, 1-0) Last week: 1-0

Despite struggling from beyond the arc, the Wolfpack ran over
UNC-Wilmington, 68-50. The Seahawks kept the game close until the second
half. NC State held UNC-W to 35 percent shooting. The Wolfpack leaned on
their stars as junior guard Julius Hodge scored 24 points and grabbed 12
rebounds while senior forward Marcus Melvin scored 22 points. Hodge played
all but one minute of the game. The Wolfpack are well-prepared for each game
as free-throw shooting demonstrates. NC State made 20-of-24 free-throw

The Wolfpack face a tough non-conference foe in BYU Jan. 7 before traveling
to Florida State Jan. 11.

No. 10 North Carolina Tar Heels (8-2, 0-1) Last week: 1-1

The Tar Heels entered a potentially devastating game against Coastal
Carolina without forwards Sean May and Jawad Williams. A loss to the
Chanticleers could possibly have shuttled North Carolina out of the rankings.
So in a time of need, sophomore guard Rashad McCants responded by scoring 28
points, which ties his career-high. Fellow super sophomore Raymond Felton
scored 11 points and dished 11 assists to lead North Carolina to a 105-72
blowout of Coastal Carolina without two stars.

May and Williams returned to the Tar Heels’ lineup against Kentucky. But
both struggled against Kentucky, combining for only 11 points. North
Carolina stymied Kentucky in the first half, holding the Wildcats to 20
points. The Tar Heels built a 10-point second half lead before the Wildcats
caught fire, led by senior guard Gerald Fitch’s 21 points. Junior guard
Melvin Scott continues to be a major player for North Carolina, leading the
team with 16 points. But Felton was the only other starter to reach
double-figures and North Carolina could not buy a bucket toward the end of
the game as Kentucky held on for a 61-56 win.

The Tar Heels host soon-to-be ACC member Miami Jan. 7 then try to win their
first conference game against Georgia Tech Jan. 11.

Virginia Cavaliers (9-2, 0-1) Last week 1-1

The Cavaliers have a strong record but have played few good teams this year.
Last week, Virginia hosted two of the best non-conference opponents on the
Cavaliers’ schedule in Iowa State and Providence. Iowa State entered the
game undefeated and looked to beat Virginia inside. But senior forward Devin
Smith refused to let Virginia fold without a fight. Smith led a 19-5 run
late in the second half and the Cavaliers won 85-74. Iowa State obliterated
Virginia on the boards, outrebounding the Cavaliers 40-21. But Virginia
forced 23 rebounds and made 8-of-18 three-pointers.

Virginia could not stop junior forward Ryan Gomes when the Cavaliers played
Gomes’ Providence Friars. Gomes scored 27 points and the Friars shot nearly
60 percent from the field while Virginia shot just over 37 percent. Junior
forward Elton Brown led Virginia with 16 points in a 84-69 loss. Despite
forcing 24 turnovers, Virginia could not capitalize as the Cavaliers
committed 20 turnovers of their own.

Virginia plays William and Mary Jan. 5 before hosting Duke Jan. 11.

No. 4 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (9-0, 1-0) Last week: 2-0

Forcing 27 turnovers, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons used a balance attack to
beat North Carolina A&T 91-67. Wake Forest used 15 players in the game, but
sophomore center Eric Williams led the charge with 17 points and six
rebounds in 18 minutes. The Aggies remained winless while Wake Forest
remained undefeated.

Wake Forest struggled for much of the first half against Nevada but finished
strong to win 70-61. The Demon Deacons typically score at will behind the
dominating inside game of Williams and their dangerous perimeter shooters.
Freshman guard Chris Paul led Wake Forest with 18 points and six assists.
Wake Forest’s defense did not create fast break opportunities to light up
the scoreboard, but the defense helped the Demon Deacons work back into the
game and then pull away in the end. Nevada shot under 36 percent and
committed 19 turnovers.

Wake Forest plays Brown Jan. 6 and Clemson Jan. 10.


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