Thursday, December 4, 2008

10-0

For the tenth straight year the ACC has won ESPN’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge. This time it was close as victories last night by ranked teams North Carolina and Wake Forest proved the difference in the 6-5 final tally.

No. 1 NORTH CAROLINA 96, No. 13 Michigan State (Spartans, 46,045 students, East Lansing, MI) 61—What’s frightening about North Carolina (8-0) is that even when they don’t’ look like they’re routing a ranked opponent, that is exactly what they are doing. In the process of dismantling the Spartans (4-2), another double/double by Tyler Hansbrough seemed to be a seamless component of a methodical onslaught.

The reigning Player of the Year scored the first basket of both halves finishing with 23 points and 11 rebounds. A number of Spartans, like countless previous opponents, thought Hansbrough’s head-high shot delivery was easy to block. This common miscalculation sent Hansbrough to the line frequently yet again where he made all 13 of his free throws. We explained this phenomenon last season in detail in the post “Fouling Tyler Hansbrough.

Oddly enough, there were actually people who doubted whether Hansbrough would play in this game. What were they thinking? As teammate Ty Lawson suggested Hansbrough would play in a big game on a broken ankle (never mind one with a lingering sprain).

Lawson added 17 points and eight assists in another turnover-free 28 minutes for the Heels, while Raymar Morgan led the Spartans with 21 points.

While final score looks like the demolition that it was, the Heels performance was deceptively ordinary. Early on, they appeared to be suffering a bit of jet lag from the relatively short trip from Chapel Hill to Detroit, walking the ball up the court while reverting to a bad habit of last year—relying on jump shots in their half-court offense instead of their strength in the paint.

A few turnovers by the Spartans and two straight threes off the bench from Danny Green seemed to reignite the jet engines, and the Heels were off and running to a 14 point halftime lead.

Coach Roy Williams isn’t shy about utilizing Carolina’s considerable depth, but last night he allowed his starting five to take control of the game in the latter stages of the first half with an 11-3 Tar Heel run that ultimately determined the outcome of the game.

After intermission, it appeared that Ol’ Roy effectively reminded his squad that the key to their Formula 1 offense is good defense. The Heels held Michigan State to just six points in the first ten minutes of Act 2 while the Spartan’s shot 20 percent from the field for the entire second half. Part of that stat was UNC’s defense and the other part of it, no doubt, is the Tar Heel’s not-so-secret weapon—fatigue.

No. 15 WAKE FOREST 83, Indiana (Hoosiers, 38,990 students, Bloomington, IN) 58—Keep an eye on the young Demon Deacons as they look to solidify the number three spot in the ACC behind UNC and Duke. The young and talented Wake team had an easy go of the Hoosiers (4-3). Sophomore James Johnson led the Deacons (7-0) with 21 points, and junior L.D. Williams netted 16.

Penn State (Nittany Lions, 44,112 students, State College, PA) 85, GEORGIA TECH 83 —Stanley Pringle scored 22 points and the Nittany Lions (7-1) survived a bad night from the charity stripe. Gani Lawal's tremendous effort scoring 34 points for the Jackets (4-1) went for naught.

MARYLAND 75, Michigan (Wolverines, 41,042 students, Ann Arbor, MI) 70—Greivis Vasquez had 23 points, a career-high 12 rebounds and six assists to lead the Terps over Michigan. Eric Hayes added 13 for Maryland (5-2) while Manny Harris led Michigan (5-2) with 15 points.

Northwestern (Wildcats,18,028 students, Chicago, IL) 73, FLORIDA STATE 59—Craig Moore scored 20 points and Kevin Coble added 15 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists for Northwestern (5-1) as they dealt Florida State (7-1) their first loss of the season. Toney Douglas led the Noles with 21 points.

(Photos by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images and Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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