Thursday, January 22, 2009

NO. 1: EASY COME, EASY GO

VIRGINIA TECH 78, No. 1 WAKE FOREST 71 – Wake Forest earned a trip to the top spot in the polls after beating North Carolina. They rolled into last night’s game against the Virginia Tech Hokies the last undefeated D1 hoops squad. Gone, and gone.

Come tournament time, there is always much talk about "quality wins" for teams on the NCAA bubble. That bubble burst for the Hokies last year, but this win should help move them back toward the Big Dance.

Malcolm Delaney scored 21 points and Virginia Tech held on to upset top-ranked Wake Forest 78-71 on Wednesday night for its second victory over a No. 1 team in three seasons. The Hokies forced 16 turnovers and turned them into 25 points.

A.D. Vassallo (#40) and Jeff Allen added 16 points apiece for Tech (13-5, 3-1 ACC) while lighting up the league's best defense – shooting 50 percent against a Demon Deacon team that was allowing teams to shoot just 36 percent.

The upstart Hokies led nearly from the opening tip to the final buzzer, pushed their lead to 16 and made it stand up for their first win over a top-ranked team away from Cassell Coliseum. They beat then-No. 1 North Carolina two seasons ago in Blacksburg.


Wake’s top nothch guard Jeff Teague (#0) scored 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting and James Johnson added 18 points before fouling out with 1:17 remaining for the Deacons (16-1, 3-1), who were playing as a No. 1 team for the first time since November 2004 when Chris Paul was still hanging out in Winston-Salem.

The game would not have been close if Virginia Tech hadn’t gone all Clemson from the free throw line. The Hokies made just 22 of 37 (59.5 percent) from the charity stripe.

(Photos by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

54-0, LIKE DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN…

No. 6 NORTH CAROLINA 94, No. 9 CLEMSON 70 – On Saturday night, Miami took advantage of North Carolina’s soft perimeter defense to lead for most of the first half. The Heels tightened down their now exposed weakness, and went on a 13-0 run. In the second half, UNC, behind a regenerated Wayne Ellington, pulled away from the Canes. Does this sound familiar?

Last night, the No. 6 Tar Heels did the exact same thing once again. They allowed Clemson, who had not won a game in Chapel Hill ever (since 1926, but who’s counting?), to sink jump shot after jump shot and hold the lead until the last 90 seconds of the first half. The Heels then went on a 24 to 4 run to start the second half, and as we like to say at T.A.H. – game over.

Wayne Ellington had 25 points and Tyler Hansbrough added 20 for the Tar Heels (17-2, 3-2 ACC) whose 54-0 run against the Tigers (16-2, 2-2) in Chapel Hill is an NCAA record for the longest home winning streak against one opponent.

Ellington was coming off a 23-point performance last weekend against Miami, and he is clearly partial to Clemson’s purple and orange. Last year, Ellington averaged 29 points per game in three Tar Heel wins against the Tigers. He won the first game in overtime with a buzzer beater, and made big contributions to UNC’s double overtime win at home (number 53 in the streak, but who’s counting?) and the ACC Championship Game.

North Carolina shot 53 percent, while Deon Thompson -- after failing to reach double figures in the first four conference games -- had 15 points.

The Tigers weren’t terribly lucky in the schedule draw, pulling Wake and UNC in back-to-back games after opening 16-0.

Terrence Oglesby scored 17 in the first half for Clemson, and his third 3-pointer of the half gave the Tigers a 38-36 lead with 3:31 left. But North Carolina's offense got going behind Ellington, and a 9-2 run gave the Tar Heels a 45-40 halftime lead.

The Tigers, meanwhile, got nothing going in the second half, missing 16 of their first 20 shots before finishing the half at 10-for-35 (29 percent).

While we hate to agree with Dick “Dookie V” Vitale, he made a valid point when he noted in the first half that it was imperative for UNC to dramatically improve their perimeter defense if they are looking to play deep into March or April. This is especially true when they face arch-rival Duke who has long made a living on dribble penetration and open jump shots.

ACC fans who have been screaming all year that the officials are quick to call fouls on players endeavoring to stop Tyler Hansbrough must have enjoyed last night’s game. Clemson’s front line beat and banged on Hansbrough and whistles rarely blew. Hansbrough shot just nine free throws, well below his game average.

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

MIAMI ENDS FIVE-GAME LOSING STEAK TO NOLES

Yawn.

MIAMI 75, FLORIDA STATE 69 – Jack McClinton scored a season-high 28 points Wednesday, including three free throws in the final 25 seconds as the Canes snapped a five-game losing streak in its rivalry with FSU.

Lance Hurdle had a season-high 16 points for the Hurricanes, who overcame a 12-point first-half deficit. Miami (14-4, 3-2 ACC) last beat the Seminoles on Jan. 29, 2006.

Florida State (15-4, 2-2) was led by Toney Douglas, who matched a season-high with 30 points. The Seminoles shot only 39 percent.

(Photo by Gaston De Cardenas/Miami Herald)

T.A.H. GOES TO WASHINGTON

We said “you’d have to be crazy to go to Washington Tuesday,” with all the bridges into the city from Virginia closed off and the Metro sure to be absolute bedlam. So call us “sort of crazy” – we made a spontaneous trip in on Monday afternoon.

We rode in from Fairfax, VA with a political insider who had both fancy tickets and, more importantly, a parking pass issued by the U.S. Congress and the D.C. Police. Credentials, baby!

We stayed with friends on Capitol Hill and, as we lacked those cool tickets behind the Prez next to fashion designer Dian Von Furstenberg that our buds had, we walked the nine blocks to Inauguration Central about 90 minutes prior to the swearing in of the 44th President of the United States.

For those of you who know your D.C. geography, you’ll appreciate this story. We walked down Independence and wound up entering the throng through a somewhat convoluted route that found us ultimately in the center of 4th street directly in front of the Capitol – we’d call it a Par 9 from the Capitol steps. It appeared that there were about 200,000 people in front of us and about 1.5 million behind us. It was quite a sight.
In fact, there seemed to be as many people milling around the rest of the streets of Washington D.C. as there were on the Mall…

To say it was amazing is a bit of an understatement. All politics aside, an inauguration is both a cultural and patriotic event well worth attending.

Yesterday, there were several news stories about would-be attendees who had tickets but were never allowed into the Mall viewing areas. They complained that while they waited in stagnant security lines only to eventually be refused entry, other non-ticketed folks snuck around/under/over some police tape and walked directly into the festivities.

Hmmmm…that might have been us. Oops.


SPEAKING OF LOSING STREAKS IN THE FIFTIES

New Jersey Institute of Technology ended the longest losing streak in D1at 51 games, getting a career-high 26 points from Jheryl Wilson in a 61-51 victory over Bryant. As bad as the Highlanders are, you had to like their chances against the (3-16) Bulldogs. Two of those 16 losses were at the hands of Maryland and Boston College.

The Highlanders (1-18) won for the first time since Feb. 19, 2007, when they defeated Longwood 78-74. It was NJIT's first home win since Feb. 8, 2007, against South Dakota State. Ironically, NJIT next game is down at Farmville against the Lancers.

The school is in its third season as a Division I program, and the NJIT is 6-71 since making the step up from D2. They went winless last season after posting a 5-24 record in 2006-07.

NJIT officials said the 51-game drought was the longest for a team playing an NCAA D1, but since NJIT is in its final reclassifying year and not yet a full member of D1 until 2009-10, its skid does not eclipse Sacramento State's record of 34 consecutive losses from 1997-99. Is that some classic NCAA mumbo-jumbo or what?

The longest NCAA losing streak at any level — 117 games — is also held by a New Jersey school. D3 Rutgers-Camden did not win a game from Jan. 22, 1992, to Jan. 9, 1997.
(Photos by Tony Kurdzuk/NJ Star-Ledger)

SUPER BOWL CRIME

Chandler, AZ resident morons Rex Perkins, 37 and Ryan Hanlon, 28 pose for a mug shot after they admitted they hung their team's flag in a tree and burned "Go Cards," "Go Kurt," and "I heart AZ" in McNabb's yard with diesel fuel.

How did they get busted, you ask? Well...evidently, one of these geniuses made one of the signs from a piece of cardboard that had a sticker on it with his name and address.
Needless to say, CSI Pheonix figured that one out in record time.

Nice, Cardinal Fans, NICE!

Gotta admit, though, it's a nice touch wearing the Cards lid for the mug shot.

(Photo courtesy of Chandler, AZ Police Department)

PICTURE OF THE DAY

ONLY THE SHADOW KNOWS. Rafael Nadal of Spain plays a forehand in his second round match against Roko Karanusic of Croatia during day four of the 2009 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 22, 2009 in Melbourne, Australia.

(Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

PICTURE OF THE DAY 2

ALOTTA OBAMA. Australian fans hold up masks showing new U.S. President Barack Obama during the second round match between Jessica Moore of Australia and Flavia Pennetta of Italy during day four of the 2009 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 22, 2009 in Melbourne, Australia.

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

PICTURE OF THE DAY 3

THE PROPER TECHNIQUE. While Nate Robinson #4 of the New York Knicks shoots against Louis Amundson #17 of the Phoenix Suns at Madison Square Garden, Suns superstar guard Steve Nash demonstrates the perfect NBA version of strong-side help defense.

Double click on the photo for a better and even funnier view.


(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

TUESDAY NIGHT HOOPS

No. 2 DUKE 73, N.C. STATE 56 – Duke is good. When they shoot 76% from the floor for one half, they’re really good. Stop us if you’ve heard this before. N.C. State gives it to Duke in the first half, goes in leading at halftime only to get clobbered in the second frame.

For the game, the Blue Devils shot 50% (29-57) including a nice even 50% (7-14) from behind the arc. Combine that with 19 Wolfpack turnovers – game over.

Gerald Henderson scored 21 points Nolan Smith hit consecutive 3-pointers 30 seconds apart to start the decisive run for the Blue Devils (17-1, 4-0 ACC).

With J.J. Redick -- the ACC's career scoring leader -- watching from behind the Duke bench, Kyle Singler scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half and Smith finished with 13 to help the Blue Devils, who closed the game on a 27-5 run. Their 20-for-26 shooting matched the best performance in a second half in nearly three decades under coach Mike Krzyzbnm7ski.

Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley both scored 15 points for the Wolfpack (10-6, 1-3), who led much of the game but hit just one field goal over the final 7:45.

If they aren’t howling for Sidney Lowe’s head down in Raleigh, they may be soon. We didn’t say it was fair or right, we just predict it will happen sooner than later.

BOSTON COLLEGE 80, GEORGIA TECH 76 OT– The slump is dead, the slump is dead. Long live the slump. Finally, the Eagles get back on track at the expense of Georgia Tech. After four straight losses, Boston College (14-6, 2-3) comes out of their funk, and Georgia Tech (9-9, 0-5) remains the only ACC team without a conference victory.

It wasn’t all that easy, though. Tyrese Rice scored 24 of his 26 points after the first half, including six points in overtime as the Eagles recovered after blowing a big second half lead.

Iman Shumpert led Georgia Tech with 16 points. Gani Lawal had 14 points and Moe Miller added 13.

MARYLAND 84, VIRGINIA 78 - Adrian Bowie and Landon Milbourne each scored 17, and Maryland frittered away most of a 17-point lead before escaping with an 84-78 victory over Virginia on Tuesday night.

Eric Hayes had 10 points and 11 assists, his first career double-double, and Greivis Vasquez scored 16 for the Terrapins (13-5, 2-2 ACC).

Maryland never trailed, but couldn't pull away in the 400th ACC victory in school history.
Jamil Tucker scored a career-high 21, and Mike Scott had 16 points, 10 rebounds and went 10-for-10 at the line for Virginia (7-8, 1-3). Calvin Baker also scored 16, on 7-for-10 shooting.

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images and AP Photo/Nick Wass)

PICTURE OF THE DAY

SATURDAY NIGHT in Chapel Hill.

Tyler Hansbrough at the free throw line.

(Photo by T.A.H. Worldwide Media)



Monday, January 19, 2009

WAKE WINS BATTLE OF UNBEATENS, AT LEAST ONE CLEMSON FAN FAMILIAR WITH WWF

No. 3 WAKE FOREST 78, No. 9 CLEMSON 68

Lest we run afoul of some of our Clemson friends, we decided to let AOL’s ACC Fanhouse give you the rundown on the Wake-Clemson game we did not see first-hand:

Wake Forest, depending on the outcome of the Pittsburgh-Louisville game, has a legitimate right to argue it deserves to be the No. 1-ranked team in the nation. The Demon Deacons have now taken out North Carolina and unbeaten Clemson, knocking off the Tigers 78-68 in Littlejohn on Saturday afternoon.

Jeff Teague led the way (again) with 24 points, while Al-Farouq Aminu posted a double-double (12/10); he and Chas McFarland, who posted 12 boards, kept anyone most of Clemson's roster off the glass all afternoon.

The game was a back-and-forth affair until the Deacs amped up the defense and held Clemson scoreless to close out the first half with an eight-point lead. Wake held close to a double-digit margin for most of the second half, but Clemson was able to ratchet down and bring the game within a single point with just under few minutes to go.

Despite nearly having all five starters in double figures though, the Tigers were never able to take the lead back and Wake, which shot nearly 80 percent from the stripe as a team, was able to close out the home team.

Oh, and finally, Clemson fans are, unsurprisingly classy. How do I know? Because we have video proof of a Clemson fan piledriving McFarland after he falls into the stands chasing after a loose ball. But at least they're not bitter.



(AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

EVEN BIG EAST REFS ARE AFRAID OF KRZYUSVBCMN4SKI

No. 2 DUKE 76, No. 12 Georgetown 67

Again, having not seen the game as we travelled to NC for the UNC v. Miami nightcap in Chapel Hill, we didn’t see Big East ref Jim Cahill T-up Georgetown’s best player at a critical point in the second half. The questionable call (by most media sources – see below) saddled Greg Monroe with his fourth foul just when the Hoyas had trimmed Duke’s 15 point lead to just 4 points.

A Georgetown fan behind the bench was attributed with the offending comments by several (legitimate) media outlets, and the proper call for Cahill to have made would have been to call the technical on the G-Town bench. The very same bench he had his back to when the comment was made.

Monroe, a model student and all-around nice kid, supposedly said something to the official about a foul on another Georgetown player. "I can't say if I heard someone else, but I know I definitely didn't say anything," Monroe said afterward.

Did it cost Georgetown the game? Who knows? We’d guess probably not, but it does add another chapter to the bizarro world of officiating of Duke games. Remember “clockgate” from a few years back at Clemson?

Here is some related coverage courtesy of D.C. Sports Blog…it includes various links to media outlets that may be perceived to be less biased by those Duke supporters who find nothing “unusual” about this series of events.

All of that aside, there was a game. Gerald Henderson scored 23 and Kyle Singler added 15 points and 16 rebounds. Jon “Crazy Face” Scheyer had 11 points for the Blue Devils (16-1) who won their eighth straight overall. They shot 48.6 percent and closed their home nonconference schedule by winning their Division I-best 68th consecutive non-ACC game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

DaJuan Summers scored 21 points in his 17th straight double-figure game, and Austin Freeman added 15 for the Hoyas (12-4).

(By Ellen Ozier - Reuters and AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

UNC: GOOD DEFENSE + HOT SHOOTER = WIN

No. 6 UNC 82, MIAMI 65

Down nine in the first half, Tar Heel Nation was getting restless. Then suddenly, out of who-knows-where, the Heels remembered that you can’t win conference games with soft defense that allows your opponent’s star player to take over the game a la Tyrese Rice and Jeff Teague.
With the Dean Dome crowd on their feet and howling, North Carolina (16-2, 2-2 ACC) shut down Canes’ sharpshooter Jack McClinton and went on a 13-0 run that gave the Tar Heels a four point lead at the half.

Carolina nursed that lead for the first three minutes of the second half when guard Wayne Ellington blew up. Ellington had not a single point for the first twenty-three minutes of the game before he made a lay-up with 17:01 left in the game.
Evidently, that broke the seal and Ellington promptly canned seven 3s in a row breaking open the game. He ended up with 23 points in a little less than 12 minutes. Ellington's seven 3s were the most by a Tar Heel since Rashad McCants hit eight against Clemson in 2004.

Tyler Hansbrough added 24 points, but still struggled with both getting shots and making the ones he gets. Hansbrough continues to make a living at the free throw line, and this was his 11th 20-point game in 14 outings. Jack McClinton had 21 points for the Hurricanes (13-4, 2-2).


(Photo by Zeke Smith/CarolinaBlue.com)

SATURDAY HOOPS: THE BEST OF THE REST

FLORIDA STATE 76, MARYLAND 73 – Toney Douglas scored eight of his 25 points in overtime to lead Florida State (15-3, 2-1 ACC) over the Terps. Douglas, who had just five points at halftime, scored the Seminoles first seven points of the overtime. Maryland (12-5, 1-2) was led by Milbourne's 17 points.
N.C. STATE GEORGIA TECH OT – Dennis Horner came off the bench and scored six of his eight points in the final 90 seconds of overtime to lead North Carolina State past Georgia Tech.

Brandon Costner had 22 points and Ben McCauley added 18 for the Wolfpack (10-5, 1-2 ACC), but it was little-used Horner who made the plays at the end. Freshman Iman Shumpert scored 22 points for the Yellow Jackets (9-8, 0-4).

VIRGINIA TECH 79, BOSTON COLLEGE 71 – Plain and simple, it sucks to be B.C. (13-6, 1-3 ACC) After knocking off then No. 1 UNC in Chapel Hill and paying a brief visit to the national polls, the Eagles have lost four straight. Saturday, the Hokies Jeff Allen scored a career-high 30 points and grabbed nine rebounds as Virginia Tech held Boston College to just one field goal in the final three minutes to pull away 79-71.

Down the stretch, Virginia Tech (12-5, 2-1) hit 9 of 13 free throws in the final minute to pull away.

(AP Photo/Phil Coale)

PICTURES OF THE DAY


SUPER STEELERS AND CRAZY CARDINALS. The Super Bowl is good to go.

Fullback Terrelle Smith #45 and tackle Gabe Watson #98 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrate after the NFC championship game against the Philadelphia.
The Cardinals defeated the Eagles 32-25 to advance to the Super Bowl.

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Limas Sweed #14 of the Pittsburgh Steelers can't make the catch on a deep pass against the Baltimore Ravens during the AFC Championship.
Sweed dropped this sour TD pass, but the Steelers prevailed just the same.

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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