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Duke just finds ways to win

by - Published February 20, 2012 in Columns
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CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – Looking at Duke’s numbers, one would think this is another powerhouse Blue Devil team. They are 23-4 overall, 10-2 in ACC play, and are very much in the thick of things in a tie atop the ACC after coasting to a 75-50 win at Boston College on Sunday night. They are also in the conversation for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if it were to begin today. But this is far from their powerhouse teams of the past, as their bottom line is more reflective of a team that scores high in intangibles.

This isn’t a team full of athletes that forces numerous turnovers per game to dominate opponents. It’s also not a team that blows everyone out, although Duke has knocked off some teams by healthy margins. But a win is a win, and this team is proving to be pretty good at getting those.

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Three coaching legends lose on the same day

by - Published January 22, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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It’s not every day that three of the greatest coaches ever lose a game on the same day. Yet that’s what happened on another Saturday full of noteworthy games, as Syracuse suffered its first loss on the season, Duke lost at home to put an end to a long home winning streak and Connecticut lost as well.

And it all happened, ironically, on the day that a football coaching legend appeared close to losing his life. On Saturday night, there were conflicting reports about former Penn State coach Joe Paterno, but we did not learn for sure that he had passed until about 10:30 this morning. We send our condolences to Joe’s family and friends at this time.

The last time Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun and Mike Krzyzewski lost a game on the same day was January 18, 2003. The three coaches have combined for over 2,600 wins, so they have won a little more than they have lost, and one might even be surprised that this wasn’t the first day all three lost.

It started in the middle of the afternoon, with two of the games. Connecticut took on Tennessee in Knoxville, a return of a game played last year. The Volunteers got a double-double from freshman Jarnell Stokes and fended off a late Husky rally for a 60-57 win. Turning the ball over one time in the second half certainly helped, especially as taking care of the ball had been a problem for Tennessee of late. Connecticut shot just 36.4 percent from the field.

Around that same time, Florida State looked like they had a shot to end Duke’s 45-game home winning streak, as they were right there with the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium. They had leads late in the game as well. And finally, with the game tied at 73 in the final seconds, the Seminoles got the ball up the floor to Michael Snaer in front of his own bench, where he hit a three-pointer just as time expired to give Florida State their second big win in as many Saturdays, a 76-73 decision over Duke.

Not only had Duke not lost at home since North Carolina knocked them off in February 2009, but they also had a longer (64 games) home winning streak against unranked opponents. They had a chance to tie their own ACC record of 46 straight home wins, set between January 13, 1997 and February 9, 2000.

Florida State is now looking more and more like the team some thought they would be this season. In the preseason, a good number of prognosticators thought they might be the third-best team behind Duke and North Carolina. Virginia had emerged as that team, and probably still is, but now the Seminoles look like another formidable team in an ACC that is not looking much better than last year. They are in a three-way tie atop the ACC at 4-1, along with the two teams they have knocked off the past two Saturdays.

By the time the evening came around, one already had a sense that Syracuse could suffer its first loss of the season. The team announced earlier in the day that sophomore center Fab Melo would not make the trip to Notre Dame and Cincinnati and that junior forward Mookie Jones had left the school for personal reasons. The Orange are so deep, it would not have been a shocker if they came away with two wins, but if they dropped one it would not have been a surprise. Sure enough, a Notre Dame team that knocked off Louisville a couple of weeks ago beat Syracuse 67-58 in South Bend.

Notre Dame led throughout the game and beat a No. 1 team for the eighth time, which ties for the fourth-highest total. They did it led by junior big man Jack Cooley, who went for 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Fighting Irish out-rebounded Syracuse 38-25. While Melo’s absence hurt there, it wasn’t a big factor in the Orange’s offensive struggles on the night.

 

We take you coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation

With Syracuse losing, that left just one team undefeated: Murray State. The Racers were 82-65 winners at SIU-Edwardsville to improve to 20-0 on the season.

Missouri got perhaps its most impressive win yesterday, going on the road to beat Baylor. That’s two in a row now for Baylor, and it seems that at the moment, Baylor is close, but not there when it comes to the top of the Big 12.

Georgetown got all they could handle from Rutgers, and needed to score the game’s last seven points to eke out a 52-50 win in the nation’s capital.

Louisville continued Pittsburgh’s misery as they went into the Peterson Events Center and left with a 73-62 win over the Panthers, who are now 0-7 in the Big East and have lost eight straight.

UNLV convincingly won a key matchup with New Mexico, the second straight loss for the Lobos as they took on the two favorites in the conference this past week.

Mississippi State won an overtime thriller at Vanderbilt in a key matchup among teams chasing Kentucky in the SEC.

Todd Bozeman returned to the bench at Morgan State, but his team’s struggles continued as they lost for the fifth time in seven games by dropping a 62-61 decision against visiting North Carolina A&T.

Late Saturday night, Long Beach State picked up a key road win at UC Santa Barbara. That makes the 49ers 7-0 in conference play, a full two games ahead of three teams in the loss column.

Coach K closes in on D-I record, passing his mentor en route

by - Published November 15, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

From the hallowed hardwood in Madison Square Garden, a pupil could surpass the master tonight.

When Duke takes on Michigan State in the Champions Classic in New York City, coach Mike Krzyzewski will have an opportunity to pass his mentor, Bob Knight, for the most Division I wins in NCAA history. The Blue Devils beat Presbyterian Saturday to give Coach K win No. 902. A third consecutive victory to open the season would be the record-setter.

In a press conference Monday, Coach K said that “somebody asked me this morning about where would this be in a list of things that you feel really good about, and I said, ‘It’s behind every championship. And not just national championships but league championships.’”

That doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal. Krzyzewski, who turns 65 in February, has been one of the top coaches in the game for several decades after a slow start to his career in Durham. His perseverance and determination are a model of leadership that extends far beyond a basketball arena. In a sport filled with unsavory characters and frequent recruiting violations, Coach K keeps Duke on the up and up. He takes pride in his players’ high graduation rate, and he cares more about the accomplishments of specific Blue Devil teams than his own accolades.

“You want to win a championship with the team that you coach that year, and those are the things that you remember are championship moments — whether they be league championship moments, regular season, ACC,” Krzyzewski said. “Obviously the biggest thing that you can remember easily is national championships. But championships are things that I look back on because that’s a real accomplishment.”

Another coaching legend, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, won’t make it easy for Coach K to celebrate his record-breaking victory. But whenever Krzyzewski gets No. 903, it will be one of the major highlights of the entire 2011-12 season.

We go coast to coast with other news from the college basketball nation.

  • Louisville junior guard Mike Marra will miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL against Lamar Sunday, according to an Associated Press report. Marra’s loss is significant as he was an important member of coach Rick Pitino’s backcourt rotation, averaging 6.4 points per game last season.
  • The good news for Louisville is that freshman guard Kevin Ware has his academics in order now and will be eligible to play for the Cardinals starting in mid-December, after the university’s fall semesters concludes, according to a Lexington Herald-Leader report.
  • Arizona had to dig deep to rally past Ball State, which held a nine-point halftime lead against the Wildcats Sunday. With junior swingman Kevin Parrom back in the lineup just seven weeks after being shot in the leg and hand while visiting family in New York City and four weeks after his mother died, according to the Associated Press, the Wildcats found the will to lock down the Cardinals in the second half for a 73-63 win. Parrom contributed six points and four rebounds in 18 minutes to help get the Wildcats the victory.
  • Instant replay might slow down the game in the NFL, but at least the officials get the calls right more often than not. Vermont probably wishes more stadiums had replay capabilities after falling victim to a lack of technology in a 61-59 loss to South Florida played at Division II University of Tampa. After calling a timeout, the clock ran for an extra second or two, but the referees couldn’t review the time on the clock because there were no available video feeds, writes ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan. The Catamounts hit a would-be game-tying tip-in on their final possession — just after the buzzer.
  • Texas A&M will be without one of the best players in the Big 12, Khris Middleton, while the junior forward recovers from a knee injury suffered during the Aggies’ 81-59 win against Liberty, according to an Associated Press report.
  • According to a CBS Sports.com wire report, Marquette will play its first three games without freshman Juan Anderson for a rules violation. The oftense? Accepting a free ticket to see the Milwaukee Brewers in the Major League Baseball playoffs.

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