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ACC Notebook

January 19, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Atlantic Coast Conference Notebook

by Michael Protos

How to Win the ACC

Last week, ACC teams played 10 games, most of which were conference games. In all 10 games, the home team won. Winning your home games is one half of the recipe for capturing an ACC title. The other half is stealing a few road wins.

Regardless of a team’s struggles, ACC teams manage to rise to the occasion at home to protect their home court. It’s like they are fighting off a siege, defending the castle until the last man falls. No matter how overpowering the invading force may appear, home teams manage to win.

This year, the ACC’s best probably need to win at least three road games and protect their home court to win the ACC title. With that in mind, No. 4 Wake Forest’s win at No. 10 North Carolina to open conference play could be one of the biggest victories for the Demon Deacons all season. Against No. 3 Duke, Wake Forest did not fare as well, as the Blue Devils annihilated the Demon Deacons, 84-72.

No. 15 Georgia Tech lost an opportunity to make a play for the ACC’s top spot when the Yellow Jackets lost at North Carolina. On the other hand, two losses to the ACC’s elite would all but doom the Tar Heels’ chances for a conference title.

This past week, Virginia and Clemson both beat a much-improved Florida State squad, proving that even the cellar dwellers will protect their home courts. Teams in the middle of the back like Florida State, Maryland and NC State absolutely must win their home games to have a shot at the NCAA Tournament. If they steal a win at any of the top four schools, they have an even more impressive resume. With that in mind, some of the biggest games of this week are: Duke at Maryland on Wednesday, Georgia Tech at NC State on Saturday and Wake Forest at Florida State on Sunday.

Florida State Saves Talent for the Future

Junior forward Diego Romero cleared an NCAA investigation into his eligibility to play for Florida State, receiving news Jan. 11 that he could play for the Seminoles the remainder of this season. A JuCo transfer originally from Argentina, Romero had been suspended while the NCAA determined if he should be ruled a professional player. But Romero and Florida State mutually agreed to redshirt Romero for the remainder of this season.

The move will allow Romero to focus on his academic and athletic skills. One of the most highly regarded big men in last year’s recruiting class, Romero should provide Florida State with a lethal inside attack next season.

Cavaliers Add Some Redd Beef

Virginia added freshman forward Vince Redd to its lineup last week. Redd played outside linebacker on Virginia’s football team and will add greater depth to the Cavaliers’ frontcourt. Redd is not likely to be a leader in scoring, but he has the potential to add to Virginia’s rebounding and defensive prowess. If nothing else, Redd will help instill a warrior’s mentality in the Cavalier hoopsters.

Player of the Week

Shelden Williams, Duke and Rashad McCants, North Carolina

I’ve never named co-players of the week before, but last week both sophomore forward Shelden Williams and sophomore guard Rashad McCants earned the honors. Williams averaged 13 points, nine rebounds and 4.5 blocks, including a monster game against Wake Forest, which asserted Duke’s dominance in the ACC. On the other hand, McCants single-handedly lifted the Tar Heels to victory over the top-ranked Connecticut Huskies by draining to clutch three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. McCants averaged 21 points, three rebounds and three assists for the week.

Rookie of the Week

Luol Deng, Duke
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Luckily, the rookie of the week competition is not as tight as forward Luol Deng averaged 13 points and 7.5 rebounds last week against two talented rivals – NC State and Wake Forest.

ACC Coach Watch

Leonard Hamilton, Florida State

No coaches are in immediate danger of losing their jobs, so the watch continues to be a spot to highlight coaches who need to find a good game plan to win important games. As the Seminoles are in the midst of a four-game losing streak, coach Leonard Hamilton must find a way for the Seminoles to score, as the offense has turned anemic and wins are few and far between. This week, Hamilton’s Seminoles host two tough opponents – Wake Forest and North Carolina.

Team Reports

Clemson Tigers (8-7, 1-3) Last week: 1-1

The Tigers started the week by picking up their first ACC win over Florida State, 53-48. The Tigers smothered Florida State on defense, holding the Seminoles to 37 percent shooting from the field. And most of those misses were grabbed by the Tigers, who outrebounded Florida State 38-27. Sophomore guard Shawan Robinson led all scores with an unimpressive 10 points. Robinson also grabbed eight points as Clemson won behind a fantastic team effort. The Tigers stayed out of foul trouble despite the physical game on the boards.

Clemson fared better offensively against NC State in the Tigers’ second game of the week. But the Tigers could not stop NC State on offense, allowing the Wolfpack to shoot 47 percent from both the field and three-point range. Junior forward Sharrod Ford led the Tigers with 20 points. The Tigers lost the physical battle inside, however, as NC State outrebounded the Tigers by three, but more importantly, forcing Clemson into foul trouble. Junior guard Chey Christie was entirely ineffective, scoring zero points in 19 minutes.

Clemson goes back on the road at Virginia Jan. 20 then returns home to host Maryland Jan. 25.

No. 3 Duke Blue Devils (14-1, 4-0) Last week: 2-0

After a week of home games against two tough in-state foes, Duke is the last undefeated team in conference play. The Blue Devils beat NC State 76-57. The scoring margin does not reflect the complete domination by Duke. The Blue Devils shot nearly 60 percent in the game while erasing junior guard Julius Hodge. Hodge fouled out after committing seven turnovers and scoring only seven points. For Duke, sophomore guard J.J. Redick led the team with 20 points, including 4-of-4 from the free throw line, stretching that streak to 54. Redick also made four three pointers, and Duke as a team shot 57 percent from beyond the arc.

Not satisfied with one victory over a North Carolina school, the Blue Devils hosted Wake Forest in a clash of the ACC’s best, so far. And Duke again controlled the game, winning 84-72. The only painful moment for the Cameron Crazies came when Redick finally missed a free throw. He missed his first attempt of the game, ending the record-setting streak at 54. But he started a new streak, making the five other free-throw attempts in the game.

Sophomore forward Shelden Williams provided the difference in the game. Williams was unstoppable, scoring 16 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking eight shots. Williams may be the most improved player in the ACC and provides Duke with its most dominating post presence since Carlos Boozer. With Williams dominating the inside, Duke’s outside attack is all the more potent, proven by 53 percent shooting from three-point range. Senior guard Chris Duhon orchestrated the attack with 14 assists.

The hottest team in the ACC goes back on the road to the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area – first at Maryland Jan. 21, then at Georgetown Jan. 24.

Florida State Seminoles (12-5, 1-3) Last week: 0-2

Welcome back to Earth. The Florida State Seminoles have played fantastic basketball for most of this season, especially on defense. But the Seminoles hit reality last week – the reality that winning ACC games on the road is difficult no matter how good your defense may be. Florida State lost at Clemson 53-48 and then at Virginia 76-67 in overtime, joining the Tigers and Cavaliers at the bottom of the ACC standings. Florida State has lost four consecutive games.

Only one player for either team scored in double-figures in the Seminoles’ game at Clemson. Freshman forward Alexander Johnson and senior forward Michael Joiner each scored nine points for Florida State. Clemson worked harder than Florida State on the glass, outrebounding Florida State 38-27. Florida State couldn’t take care of the ball, committing 20 turnovers.

The Seminoles’ offensive woes continued at Charlottesville, Va., as Florida State shot under 32 percent from the field. Freshman forward Von Wafer led the Seminoles with 17 points and eight rebounds. Teams have shut down Florida State senior guard Tim Pickett lately, frustrating him offensively. Pickett finished with only nine points. Pickett is the senior leader of this team and must be an effective leader on the court.

Florida State will try to end the losing streak at home this week against a pair of tough opponents – North Carolina Jan. 22 and Wake Forest Jan. 25.

No. 15 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (14-2, 2-1) Last week: 2-0

Georgia Tech accomplished what all ACC teams must do to build a case for the NCAA Tournament – win the home games. The Yellow Jackets beat Virginia 75-57 with a balanced attack. Senior guard Marvin Lewis led the team with 17 points, junior guard B.J. Elder added 16 points and sophomore guard Jarrett Jack organized the attack with seven assists in addition to his 12 points. The Yellow Jackets outrebounded Virginia 35-28 and forced 21 turnovers, continuing to win games behind good defense and fundamental basketball.

Another sensational guard led Georgia Tech’s 81-71 win at home over Maryland. Junior guard Will Bynum scored 25 points and displayed the type of athleticism that few 5’11 players have. With junior forward Isma’il Muhammad, Georgia Tech might have two of the most explosive players in the ACC. Junior center Luke Schenscher played well, reaching a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Jack continues to play well, scoring 17 points, grabbing five rebounds and dishing out four assists.

Georgia Tech faces a tough road trip this week to Wake Forest Jan. 20 and NC State Jan. 24.

Maryland Terrapins (10-4, 1-2) Last week: 1-1

The Terrapins won another amazing ACC game over North Carolina, 90-84. Despite trailing at halftime, Maryland mustered a defensive masterpiece in the second half to slow down North Carolina’s attack. Senior forward Jamar Smith outplayed his counterpart, sophomore forward Sean May, finishing with 22 points and nine rebounds to May’s 18 points and nine rebounds. But Smith seemed to always make the crucial plays in crunch time. Sophomore point guard John Gilchrist also showed he can be counted on in clutch time, finishing with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. Maryland shot better than 50 percent for the game, which fueled the furious comeback, to the delight of the fans at the Comcast Center.

The Terrapins could not keep up the torrid shooting on the road against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets held Maryland to 36 percent shooting and won 81-71. Maryland committed 19 turnovers, which helped kill every attempt to close the gap in the second half. Gilchrist bust out for a great game, scoring 27 points. But he was the only Terrapin to reach double-figures.

Maryland hosts Duke Jan. 21 in an attempt to knock off another top-notch school from North Carolina. Then the Terrapins travel to Clemson Jan. 25.

NC State Wolfpack (10-3, 3-1) Last week: 1-1

NC State traveled to local rival Duke and fell victim to the Blue Devils and the Cameron Crazies, 76-57. Duke’s defense shut down NC State, especially superstar junior guard Julius Hodge, who fouled out with only seven points. Hodge committed seven turnovers as the Blue Devils forced 20 for the game. Freshman guard Engin Atsur was the only Wolfpack player in double-figures with 14 points, but he also committed five turnovers to get those points. Duke dominated every facet of the game, leaving coach Herb Sendek with several points of emphasis for practice.

Against Clemson, NC State bounced back with a dominating 86-69 victory behind 47 percent shooting from the field and from three-point range. Hodge led NC State with 23 points. The Wolfpack stormed the boards as a team to outrebound Clemson 31-28, despite giving up size to Clemson’s bigger lineup. NC State worked to get the Tigers in foul trouble, then converted 25-of-28 free throws. NC State continues to be one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the ACC, which is a crucial factor in winning close games. And this season, there promises to be many close games that will be decided by the players who can drain the free ones in clutch time.

NC State travels north to Boston College Jan. 20 for a crucial non-conference game. As of now, BYU is the only strong non-conference victory, and the Wolfpack may need this one to build a better resume for the NCAA Tournament. Another strong addition to the resume would be a home win over Georgia Tech Jan. 24.

No. 10 North Carolina Tar Heels (11-3, 1-2) Last week: 1-1

The Tar Heels started last week at Maryland, losing a tough 90-84 battle. North Carolina blew a double-digit lead as the Terrapins refused to back down and stifled the Tar Heels’ transition game in the second half. Sophomore forward Sean May led the Tar Heels with 18 points and nine rebounds, but he was outplayed overall by Maryland’s senior forward Jamar Smith. Sophomore forward David Noel played a fantastic game, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. But the Tar Heels could not finish out the game, allowing the Terrapins to shoot better than 50 percent from the field for the game.

The Tar Heels did not have time to lick their wounds as North Carolina hosted No. 1 Connecticut a few days later. North Carolina again jumped out to a big lead in the first half, carrying a 50-36 lead into halftime. But the Huskies stormed back in the second half behind the dominating play of their big men. Junior forward Emeka Okafor proved why he could be the top pick in this year’s NBA Draft, although I’d love for him to stick around for his senior year. He finished with 29 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. Connecticut rotated big men into the game to take advantage of the undersized Tar Heels.

The Huskies captured the lead late in the second half, leading by three with under a minute remaining. Then the drama reached new heights as sophomore guard Rashad McCants planted his feet behind the three-point line and drained the rainmaker to tie the game at 83. The Huskies could not convert on their offensive possession, and the Tar Heels came back down the floor. McCants got an open look off of a beautiful screen and drained the game-winning three pointer. He finished with 27 points to lead a thrilling upset in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The Tar Heels look to get above .500 in conference play by winning at Florida State Jan. 22 and against Virginia Jan. 24.

Virginia Cavaliers (11-4, 1-3) Last week: 1-1

The Cavaliers struggled to find an uncontested shot against Georgia Tech in Atlanta, losing 75-57 as Virginia shot under 35 percent in the game. Senior guard Todd Billet scored 12 points to lead Virginia. But Billet could not lead an error-free game as his team committed 21 turnovers. Virginia continues to give more minutes to its freshmen, which will help toward the end of the season and next year.

The Cavaliers bounced back against Florida State at home by winning 76-67 in overtime. Junior forward Devin Smith scored all of his 21 points in the second half and overtime to spark the Cavaliers to victory. Billet was deadly from beyond the arc, hitting six three pointers en route to a game-high 26 points. Virginia won behind great defense, holding Florida State under 32 percent shooting.

Virginia hosts Clemson Jan. 20 before going south to North Carolina Jan. 24

No. 4 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (11-2, 2-1) Last week: 0-2

Wake Forest went west for a major test against No. 19 Texas. The Demon Deacons could stop the Longhorns, however, losing 94-81. Sophomore guard Justin Gray led the team with 27 points, and sophomore guard Trent Strickland scored 22 points, but none of Wake Forest’s other players could reach double-figures. Texas destroyed Wake Forest on the glass, finishing with 14 more rebounds. Sophomore center Eric Williams had a terrible game, fouling out in just 20 minutes. Williams frequently found himself in foul trouble last season but has vastly improved his game this year. But Williams may have similar problems against other physical teams like Texas. Fortunately, the ACC does not feature many of those types – Duke, Maryland and Clemson come to mind, and Wake Forest has already humbled Clemson.

After the battle in Texas, Wake Forest returned to North Carolina to visit Duke in Durham, N.C. No easy task for any team, let alone one fresh off a tough, physical loss on the road to a team like the Longhorns. The Demon Deacons tried to fight off an energized Duke team but lost 84-72 as Wake Forest could not find a consistent shooting touch. Duke held Wake Forest to 35 percent shooting. Gray led Wake Forest with 18 points, including four three-pointers that helped Wake Forest keep the game close whenever Duke seemed in the midst of building up a blow out. Junior forward Jamaal Levy registered a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Wake Forest hosts Georgia Tech Jan. 20 then goes back on the road to Florida State Jan. 25.

     

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