ACC Weekend Review: 02.23.15 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 23rd, 2015

With no match-ups between the ACC’s elite teams this weekend, the focus instead was on two important road contests for teams trying to play their way into the NCAA Tournament. Miami let a big lead slip away to lose at Louisville on the game’s final possession, and Pittsburgh improved its resume in completing a season sweep of Syracuse. Around the rest of the league, both Duke and North Carolina were able to put Wednesday’s emotionally draining overtime epic behind them and score comfortable home wins over Clemson and Georgia Tech, respectively. The Blue Devils played without star center Jahlil Okafor, who is still nursing an ankle injury suffered in that win last Wednesday. At the start of North Carolina’s game, Roy Williams paid homage to Dean Smith by running Smith’s famed Four Corners offense on the Heels’ first possession. In other weekend action, Virginia outlasted Florida State in a defensive struggle; Notre Dame cruised to victory at Boston College; and N.C. State took care of business by beating Virginia Tech in Raleigh. Here are some of the other highlights from the ACC’s weekend action.

Pittsburgh's Chris Jones came off the bench to score 19 as the Panthers keep their NCAA Tourney hopes alive. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)

Pittsburgh’s Chris Jones came off the bench to score 19 as the Panthers keep their NCAA Tourney hopes alive.
(Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Best Win: Pittsburgh plugged a gaping hole in its NCAA Tournament resume by getting its first road win of the season versus an RPI top-100 team at Syracuse. The Panthers’ win at the Carrier Dome featured yet another productive offensive performance by Jamie Dixon’s squad against the vaunted Syracuse zone. Pittsburgh scored 1.18 points per possession on Saturday after posting 1.22 in its earlier win over the Orange, giving the Panthers the two highest totals allowed by Jim Boeheim’s squad all year long. A look at previous meetings over recent years suggests that Dixon may have cracked the zone’s code. In the teams’ last 10 meetings dating back seven years, Pittsburgh has averaged 1.08 points per possession against a Syracuse defense that annually finishes among the nation’s best. If they haven’t already done so, perhaps ACC coaches around the league should study and emulate that strategy (easier said than done).

  • Worst Loss: Miami’s loss at Louisville certainly doesn’t look bad on paper but the way the Hurricanes let the game slip away qualifies as the weekend’s toughest defeat. Miami jumped out to an early 19-6 lead and led by 10 points at the half before Louisville made a late charge. There was nothing wrong with the defensive effort of Jim Larranaga’s squad, as it held the Cardinals to only 34 percent shooting for the game. Once again, point guard Angel Rodriguez struggled to score, going a woeful 1-of-12 from the floor and missing a potential game-winning three at the final horn. Currently considered an NCAA bubble team, the Hurricanes are running out of chances down the stretch to prove themselves a worthy NCAA Tournament participant.
Quinn Cook gets a hug from his coach after leading Duke to victory without Jahlil Okafor. (Bernard Thomas/The Herald-Sun)

Quinn Cook gets a hug from his coach after leading Duke to victory without Jahlil Okafor.
(Bernard Thomas/The Herald-Sun)

  • Most Outstanding Player: This week we recognize Duke senior guard Quinn Cook, who tied his career high with 27 points in Saturday’s win over Clemson. Given Duke’s short rotation, there was some concern that Duke could experience trouble when it was announced that Okafor was not going to play. But Cook took over in the second half, scoring 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting over a 16-minute span that ballooned Duke’s lead from a manageable 11 to a robust 30 points. Afterward, Duke’s senior leader received a hug and accompanying high praise from Mike Krzyzewski, who commented: “Quinn, I’m not sure anyone in the league has played better than Quinn, and he did it again today.”
  • Unsung Heroes: Pittsburgh got a huge boost from sophomore Chris Jones, who came off the bench to score a career-best 19 points while hitting 5-of-6 three-pointers. Jones did most of his damage late in the first half, scoring 11 consecutive points for the Panthers and turning a four-point deficit into a six-point halftime lead. Notre Dame got a similar boost from redshirt freshman Bonzie Colson, who posted season highs in points (16) and rebounds (six) in only 14 minutes of action. Colson, who boasts an impressive 130.1 offensive rating on the season, was again highly efficient on Saturday – making 8-of-9 shots from the field.
  • Most Efficient Offense/Least Efficient Defense: Notre Dame had another excellent offensive outing, scoring 1.45 points per possession on Saturday against Boston College. The Irish did it with outstanding shooting across the board; hitting 70 percent of their two-pointers, 54 percent of their threes and 83 percent from the charity stripe. Displaying a balanced attack, Notre Dame put six players in double figures while senior Jerian Grant got everyone involved by dishing out 11 assists.
  • Most Efficient Defense/Least Efficient Offense: Perhaps we should just rename this category as the Virginia Game of the Week. The Cavaliers’ defense again came through in a big way, holding Florida State to a stingy 0.66 points per possession on Sunday night. Virginia broke open a close game in the final minute of play to win its 25th game of the year, holding the Seminoles to 32.6 percent shooting from the field and forcing 14 turnovers. No defense in the ACC causes scoring droughts like Virginia — the Seminoles were held without a made field goal for the last 10 minutes of action.
  • Bonus – Impressive Stat of the Weekend: Sometimes we overanalyze all the statistics and forget the simplest things — like, for instance, shooting matters, and it matters a lot. A perfect example of this not-so-controversial concept occurred in North Carolina’s impressive offensive display on Saturday in the Smith Center. The Tar Heels experienced their second-worst offensive rebounding game of the season and their second-lowest free throw rate performance of the ACC season. Yet North Carolina put together its best offensive showing in ACC play by far, scoring 1.32 points per possession. That success was almost totally the result of a sizzling 66.4 effective field goal percentage posted by the Heels, showing that when you shoot the ball that well, you don’t have to worry about doing much else, in order to generate a potent scoring game.
Brad Jenkins (383 Posts)

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