ATB: The Night Basketball in the Triangle Died…Posted by rtmsf on January 21st, 2010
Black Wednesday in RTP. A bit of hyperbole here, as we make reference to Black Sunday (March 11, 1979), the infamous day when both UNC and Duke lost NCAA second round games on the same afternoon. Still, tonight’s surprising losses by both Carolina and Duke to the two ‘other’ schools in the traditional Big Four represent the first time in nearly seven years that they both lost conference games on the same night. How on earth could this have happened? Are big scary red/black aliens shaped in Deacon and Wolf form landing tonight to take us all away? Will tears of blood flow from the sky as God weeps for us? Will high-profile recruits clown Uncle Roy? These are all good questions for the people of central North Carolina to be asking tonight, so we’re here to help them make sense of it all. (ed. note: what? NC State wasn’t shipped out to somewhere like Pembroke in the late 80s?)
- NC State 88, #6 Duke 74. There were a lot of shocking parts to this game, but by far the biggest shocker was the knife-through-butter ease by which NC State repeatedly shredded the Duke defense. The Devils have held their opponents to 41% from inside the arc and 28% from beyond it all season long, but the Pack paid that no mind, shooting a red-hot 58% for the entire game and hitting five timely threes on a reasonable twelve attempts. Even the expected collapse that everyone thought was coming immediately after halftime (and Nolan Smith’s ridiculous catch-and-shoot trey just before the buzzer) never materialized. Instead it was NC State that appeared to have the confidence, pushing their lead back out into double-digits and answering the Devils each and every time they cut the lead to eight. The night belonged to NCSU’s Tracy Smith, the 22d birthday boy who could seemingly do no wrong, dropping 23/5 on 10-12 FGs on a variety of post moves and drives to the hole. The Duke defense, one of the very best in the nation coming into tonight, seemed bewildered and confused by Smith all night long, almost as if he’d been left off the scouting report. Coach K’s group allowed over a point per possession for just the fourth time all season, and at 1.23 PPP tonight, it was easily their worst performance of the year. Something tells us that their level of effort on that end will not go unnoticed by Krzyzewski. With the win, NC State moves to 2-3 in the ACC race, and would you believe that the leaders of this conference are Virginia (3-0) and Maryland (2-1)? Is it too early to start calling the ACC the Pac-10 East with its nuttiness so far this year? Final thought: nice RTC, State students. And, deserved (start at 2:50).
- Wake Forest 82, #23 UNC 69. Freshmen? No, I don’t think so. Wake’s C.J. Harris and Ari Stewart were impolite guests in their first visit to the Dean Dome as collegians, to say the least. In the first half, Wake cajoled UNC into questionable shot selection while taking good ones themselves and went into halftime with a three point lead. When UNC came out quickly early in the second and almost immediately made it just a one-point deficit, you got the feeling that Roy Williams had indeed gone into his magic bag and come up with a speech that would now put things right. You could feel that UNC had finally shown up and that they — the ranked team, at home — would redeem themselves, take advantage of the young Deacon guards, pull out a win, and SURELY avoid a three-game losing streak, something that’s never happened here under Roy Williams. It cannot happen here under Roy Williams. Right? RIGHT? Well… it just did. Harris and Stewart looked like anything but frosh in the second half right about the time UNC started getting their legs under them. First, almost halfway through the second half, it was Stewart. A three. Then another. Then ANOTHER. That last one is in caps because it was from about 22 feet, finishing the triple of triples that came in a span of a minute and 26 seconds. About a minute later, it was Harris, drilling two straight from the same spot on the left. Those five threes were courtesy of assists from four different players. At that point the Deacons’ lead was 15, and the Tar Heels were done. A couple of minutes later Ish Smith — a terror tonight, with 20/7/6 on 9-17 shooting — drilled another three for the official dagger. A team on which each player knows and cherishes his role is a dangerous thing, and that is this Wake Forest team — at least, it was tonight. Aside from the aforementioned guards providing the outside threat, Smith distributes well and is a heady senior point guard. Al-Farouq Aminu, whose 13/11 we haven’t even mentioned, is a fine interior defender and rebounds like a maniac. Chas McFarland might not take many shots (1-3 tonight), but he gets to the line and hits the boards (ten against UNC) and anchors the defense inside with Aminu. And they seem to be buying in to what Dino Gaudio is teaching. Sure, the Heels didn’t have Ed Davis, and this might have been Wake’s best outside shooting night of the season. But this is North Carolina. At home. What can you say about this team at this point? Is Roy about to lose them? It’s been an incredible three-year run. But sometimes after such a period of sustained success, when hard times arrive it can be easy for a young team to fold. They’re 12-7 and 1-3 in the ACC, have twelve games left, with seven of them away. A split does not get them in. The Heels have six days off, and it’s a good time for it. They have a lot to think about. It’s soul-searching time.
Is It Safe to Say Georgetown is For Real? #14 Georgetown 74, #11 Pittsburgh 66. Given last year’s meltdown when Georgetown couldn’t beat anybody in the Big East, it’s understandable that people would be a little gun-shy this year about the Hoyas as they entered Big East play. With away losses to Marquette and Villanova in the past two weeks, the whispers about the Hoyas as a fraud were persistent once again. But tonight should have put much of that talk to rest. Pitt came into tonight’s home game against Georgetown having already vanquished Syracuse, UConn, Cincinnati and Louisville (the first three on the road), and although nobody really believed that Jamie Dixon’s team was the best in the conference, everyone had come to respect the Panthers. So this win tonight by Georgetown, in a building where Pitt had won 31 games in a row and held the lead late into the game, is impressive. How did JT3’s team do it? Chris Wright is one reason. He had 27 points on 11-17 shooting, and often looked like the best player on the floor tonight. Perhaps more importantly, he helped harass Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs into a 3-16 shooting night and eight points, well below his 17.5 PPG average. We know that with Georgetown’s lack of available depth that the Hoyas’ margin for error is small, but there may not be a more efficient starting five in America with Freeman, Clark, Monroe and Vaughn joining Wright in the regular lineup. We’ll known for sure soon enough, as Georgetown travels to Syracuse for Big Monday next week and hosts Duke the following weekend. As for Pitt, Jamie Dixon didn’t think that his defense was up to snuff tonight, but in general it wasn’t bad. The big issue was that the Hoyas hit 7-10 from deep, and that must really stick in his craw considering how well the Panthers have shut down the three-ball this season (27.6%, 7th nationally). Pitt was going to lose eventually, we just didn’t expect it to happen at home.
Yeah, Kentucky IS Having a Great Week. UTEP 72, Memphis 67. OK. It finally happened. We all knew it was coming this year. The 64-game conference winning streak is history, stopping in a tie with a feat accomplished at Kentucky some sixty years ago. The gap between Memphis and the rest of the teams in the CUSA just isn’t there anymore. We all know what Memphis lost over the summer in terms of departing players, recruits, and coaches (no disrespect intended to Coach Pastner, of whom we’re fans), but what’s more, these former CUSA also-rans like UAB, Marshall, Tulsa, UTEP — these are good teams. This was a fantastic game, close throughout, neither team ever achieving a double-digit lead; UTEP’s Jeremy Williams was arguably the best player on the court, leading with 18/12 on 6-10 shooting, which consisted of four monster dunks and two threes. He got an awful lot of help from junior guard Christian Polk, who contributed 17 points in 24 minutes of play off the bench, including a trio of threes that all seemed to come at critical junctures. Elliot Williams did all he could for the Tigers, leading his squad with 23/5/4. Aside from ending the streak, this one will sting in two other ways for Memphis. First, the Tigers were up by three at the half; second, they had their chances down the stretch. You simply can’t turn the ball over five times out of your last seven trips down the floor. Listen, GREAT job by UTEP, coming into a hostile environment and snagging a win like this. But it’s not exactly time to bury Memphis. They’re 13-5 and this was just their first conference loss. Still, now that it’s done, this one is all about…the streak. We know many people out there will disagree, but — like pretty much everyone else — everyone knows we’re on record as saying this broke a 64-game conference win streak, “vacated” games or not. If anyone wants to have the discussion, we’ll have it in the comments section. But there are too many important games ahead for both sides. So, Memphis fans — welcome to the first day of the rest of your conference lives.
Other Games of National Interest.
- #3 Kansas 81, Baylor 75. Baylor shot 52% from the field, outrebounded Kansas by eight, and got 44/9 assts from its superb backcourt of LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter… and still lost the game. That’s how difficult it is to beat KU in their building (53 in a row now). The difference was turnovers, as the Jayhawks forced twenty while committing only seven themselves. Sherron Collins was once again the Man, dropping 28/4 including a gigantic three with a minute left that finally put the pesky Bears away.
- #4 Villanova 94, Rutgers 68. Props to Dane Miller’s 26/8/6, but Rutgers’ only lead came at 2-0, and it was barely competitive after that. Nova led by 22 at the half and the closest it ever got in the second half was 16. Dominic Cheek came off the bench with 16/4 to lead the Wildcats, who are now off to their best start in — yeesh — 46 years.
- #7 Michigan State 70, Iowa 63. It was another lackluster performance for the Spartans, but the result remained the same. A win over a Big Ten squad to go to 6-0 in the conference race. Raymar Morgan led MSU with 16/3, but it was a balanced effort for the team, an effort that almost didn’t cut it as Iowa cut the lead to three twice in the final two minutes. Tom Izzo isn’t happy with his team’s intensity right now, and it’ll have to change quickly with six of their next eight games away from East Lansing.
- #12 West Virginia 68, Marshall 60. This was a two-point game with 27 seconds left, but WVU hit their free throws down the stretch and managed to hold off an underrated Thundering Herd squad. Hassan Whiteside (remember the name) stepped up with 18/6 for the Herd and Chris Lutz added four threes, but 12 of Da’Sean Butler’s 16/6 came when they were needed — that is, in the second half. Marshall is 15-3 and 4-0 in the CUSA, and this was close the whole way, so the ‘Neers deserve credit for a tough road win here.
- DePaul 51, Marquette 50. DePaul got its first win in its last 25 Big East games as Mike Stovall (9/5/3 assts) hit a game-winning jumper with 0.7 seconds remaining in tonight’s upset victory over Marquette. Perhaps interim head coach Tracy Webster wanted to make sure that DePaul AD Jean Lenti Mosetto knows he heard today’s directive loud and clear? Marquette isn’t doing itself any favors here, missing two FTs with a one-point lead and eight seconds on the clock to give DePaul the daylight it needed; the Golden Eagles move to 2-4 in the conference.
- Tulsa 57, Oral Roberts 52. For much of the first half of this game, Tulsa couldn’t buy a bucket, going nearly ten minutes without a point. But a 17-6 run to start the second half got the Golden Hurricane back in the game and when push came to shove in the last few minutes, it was the home team that collapsed under the pressure. Ben Uzoh was held well under his season averages, with 7/6/3 assts, but he did hit the final two FTs to provide the final margin. Tulsa won its first game of the year after trailing at the half, and their win tonight was the second in a row in the Mayor’s Cup between crosstown rivals.
- VCU 81, William & Mary 59. Old Dominion and Northeastern both won tonight to go to 7-1 in the CAA, so W&M couldn’t afford to lose this one in Richmond tonight if they wanted to keep the pace (now 6-2). Why is this of national interest? Because W&M, like Northwestern, is a great hard-luck story and we love seeing programs like this have a shot at the Dance after all these years of futility. Two of the Tribe’s next four games are against ODU, so they’ll have opportunities.