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ACC Report

 


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/ Dec. 23, 2004

Updated reports on each ACC team, with major headlines that highlight key aspects of the last two weeks. This is up through Tuesday afternoon.

CLEMSON

Future Looks Bright for Hammonds

Tiger freshman Cliff Hammonds won the ACC Rookie of the Week award for the second straight week, becoming just the ninth freshman in school history to win the award multiple times. Hammonds was rewarded for his stellar performance in Clemson’s 73-55 win over Charleston Southern. He scored 14 points (5-5 FG, 4-4 3-PT) and grabbed five rebounds en route to the honor. Sharrod Ford led the Tigers in the win with 16 points and nine boards.

The Tigers ran off two more victories over Norfolk State and The Citadel to raise their record to 7-1. They boast this record as they head into the Rainbow Classic tournament in Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 20-23. They face University of Alabama-Birmingham, one of last season’s NCAA tournament surprises, in the first round. Other participants in the tournament include Georgetown, Hawaii, and Southern Cal.

DUKE

700 Wins for the K-Man

Duke’s 82-54 win over Toledo notched the 700th win in the collegiate career of coach Mike Krzyzewski. The win for “Coach K” is just another landmark achievement to add to the number of accolades he has attained that cements him as one of the greatest coaches in NCAA history. He became the sixth active coach to reach such a plateau. Shelden Williams helped his coach get #700 by dialing in a double-double (18 points, 15 rebounds). J.J. Redick scored 14 points in the win to help Duke maintain its winning ways.

Another bright spot in the early going for Duke has been the offensive play of Sean Dockery. A defensive specialist for his career to date at Duke, Dockery has really improved his offensive numbers. Granted he only scores 6.9 points per game averaging 25.6 minutes each contest, but he’s shot a white-hot 72 percent from the field, including 62 percent from three-point land, and 79 percent from the free throw line. These numbers are all drastically improved from last season, as Dockery shot 41.4 percent from the field, 12 percent from beyond the arc, and 51.5 percent from the free throw line in 2003-2004. Dockery’s substantial improvement is one of the reasons why Duke has remained unbeaten.

Another reason for Duke’s success is the play of Redick and backcourt mate Daniel Ewing. Redick leads the ACC in scoring (21.3PPG) and scored 26 points in the win in the Dreyfus Classic against Oklahoma at Madison Square Garden. Ewing proved that Patrick wasn’t the only Ewing to star at MSG, as he chipped in with 17 points to help Duke overcome a 12-point deficit to win by 11, 78-67.

FLORIDA STATE

Let the Head Scratching Continue

The Seminoles have continued their inconsistent ways, dropping a shocker to unheralded Florida International 65-60. The same FSU team that has looked impressive in wins at Minnesota and at Mississippi continues to lose games that it desperately need to win in order to reach the NCAA tournament. Alexander Johnson scored 11 points to lead FSU in the loss.

Following the shocking loss to a sub-par team was the inevitable well-played game against a ranked opponent that perplexing FSU deserved to win, succumbing in overtime at Maryland, 90-88. The Comcast Center in College Park was the scene for the Al Thornton breakout party, as the sophomore big man notched his first career double-double (16 points, 13 rebounds). Adam Waleskowski had his finest performance of the year (23 points, 14 rebounds), and freshmen Isaiah Swann and Jason Rich played like veterans, hitting key baskets down the stretch to help the ‘Noles chip away and eventually take the game to overtime.

Perhaps the problem for Florida State is that they do not have a go-to guy. The Seminoles feature eight players who average between six and 9.5 points per game, with Waleskowski leading the pack. Von Wafer (8.9PPG) and Anthony Richardson (5.9PPG) have failed so far in their expanded roles. As a team they have more turnovers (175) than assists (139) and shoot just 62 percent from the free throw line.

GEORGIA TECH

Tech Suffers First Loss Since Championship Game

Georgia Tech made like a prepubescent teen getting his first zit, suffering a blemish on their record for the first time this season. The Las Vegas Showdown against Cinderella-turned-national power Gonzaga did not go as coach Paul Hewitt had planned, as Tech lost, 85-73. Will Bynum scored a career-high 28 points in the loss, and B.J. Elder and Jarrett Jack added 16 and 15 points, respectively. The trouble came in the first five minutes after halftime, as the Yellow Jackets did not score for the first 4:46 of the second half. Gonzaga took advantage of this, built up a lead as big as 15 points, and held on for the eight-point win.

Georgia Tech certainly didn’t wow anybody with their 72-47 win over James Madison. That’s right, the 25-point win was downright u-g-l-y. The Ramblin’ Wreck rode their D to victory, forcing 26 James Madison turnovers, and holding the Dukes to shoot 31 percent from the floor. Isma’il Muhammad scored 14 points and Jack added 13 for the Yellow Jackets in the win. As a team, though, Tech shot 18-35 from the free throw line, a pathetic 51 percent. The three-headed monster of Elder, Jack, and Bynum shot a combined 8 of 23 from the floor, with Elder, the team’s leading the scorer, only managing four points. Jack’s assist-to-turnover ratio was a horrendous five to seven, not good for a point guard of his caliber.

While Georgia Tech has stumbled through its last few contests, they have two more tune-ups to get into top-notch shape for their New Year’s Day battle in Lawrence, Kansas against the second-ranked Jayhawks in a rematch of last year’s Elite Eight.

MARYLAND

Fofana Transfers, Good Fortune for Williams?

In what is turning into a disturbing trend for coach Gary Williams, the third player in the last four years has transferred out of his program. Sophomore center Hassan Fofana, impatient and frustrated with his lack of playing time, decided to take his raw talent elsewhere, leaving the Maryland basketball program after only a little more than a year. The big-bodied Fofana, whose potential had been likened to other Terrapin stars Obinna Ekezie and Lonny Baxter, leaves behind minutes most likely to be picked up by reserve center Will Bowers and freshman James Gist. Maybe the departure of Fofana is a blessing in disguise for coach Williams. In the 2001-2002 season, after Danny Miller transferred to Notre Dame, Maryland won the national championship. Last year, after Andre Collins transferred to Loyola (Md.), the Terps won the ACC tournament, so who knows what fortune Fofana’s departure could bring.

All distractions aside, Maryland bounced back from its loss to George Washington with a 96-72 drubbing of UNC-Asheville. John Gilchrist led the way with 22 points, and Chris McCray and Travis Garrison added 15 points apiece. The team shot 13-13 from the free throw line, marking the second time in school history that Maryland shot 100% from the line in a game.

The Terps came back from their final exams break looking out of synch, as it took overtime to beat Florida State, 90-88. Gilchrist hit two free throws with 6.6 seconds left to cap the scoring, but the Terps blew leads all game, including a 13-point second half advantage, letting the Seminoles hang around and almost ruin their conference opener. Gilchrist scored 22 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and had eight assists, and was one of six Terrapins to score in double figures.

MIAMI

Canes Blow Away National Champs

By some transitive property, anyhow. Miami smothered Massachusetts, 80-53, just days after UMass shocked defending national champion Connecticut. Sophomore Guillermo Diaz dropped a game-high 20 for the Hurricanes, who continue to impress and have rolled to a 6-2 record. Robert Hite is second in the conference in scoring, netting 20.1 points a game.

Hite notched ACC Player of the Week honors for his play from Dec. 5 to Dec. 12, the first Hurricane ever to garner the honor. He averaged 23.5 points and seven rebounds over the week in wins over Florida International and UMass.

Miami won its fifth game in arrow, crushing Stetson 81-50. Gary Hamilton had his first-ever double-double (10 points, 10 boards), and Diaz scored a game-high 14 points, to lead the Canes. Miami should roll through its next three games before getting into ACC play, opening up conference play at Georgia Tech.

NORTH CAROLINA

Scoring Not a Problem, D Needs a Boost

North Carolina leads the nation in scoring offense at 89.3 points a game. The Tar Heels have run off eight straight wins after dropping their season opener to Santa Clara, and look like the team that most pundits picked as a preseason favorite to win the national championship. While Rashad McCants and Jawad Williams continue to score a combined 34.6 points a game, while Sean May grabs 9.4 rebounds a game and while Raymond Felton remains one of the nation’s top point guards, averaging 7.1 assists per game, the defense needs a little revamping before any hardware is brought back to Chapel Hill.

The Tar Heels are allowing 68.6 points per game, ninth best in the conference. They allow opponents to shoot 40 percent from the field and 36 percent on three-pointers, good for seventh and eighth best in the conference, respectively. They’ve done a good job of forcing turnovers, forcing 21.4 a game. At the rate this team is scoring, an improvement to the scoring defense could work wonders come March.

North Carolina opened up their conference schedule with an 85-51 shellacking of newcomer Virginia Tech. Williams and May each scored 17 points in the rather easy victory. Carolina should be moderately tested only once more before heading into consistent conference play. The very underrated Vermont Catamounts and their star Taylor Coppenrath (26.8 PPG) come to Chapel Hill Dec. 21 to lead off a four game non-conference stretch at home.

NORTH CAROLINA STATE

Pack Lose Against Legit Competition; Freshman to the Rescue?

Finally, North Carolina State played against a legitimate opponent. As many might have expected, they lost. To be fair to the Wolfpack, to play in Washington against the Huskies, one of the nation’s better teams, is no easy task, and the Pack fought hard to the last minute to try and avoid their first loss of the season. Even in the loss, the way NCST played should put teams on notice that they are for real. The Wolfpack defense held Husky star Nate Robinson to just seven points, and held high scoring Washington (89.5 points per game) to just 68 points. Cameron Bennerman led the Wolfpack with 16 points in the losing effort.

Freshman Andrew Brackman’s 20-point effort saved NCST from losing to the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns as he lifted his team to a hard fought 78-72 victory. Brackman broke out in this contest, entering the game averaging 6.4 points per game. On a day when the defense was not nearly as superb as it had been through the first seven games, on a day when the team missed 15 free throws, and on a day when star Julius Hodge did not have his finest performance (16 points, 6-14FT, 5TO), it was the freshman reserve who made key play after key play down the stretch to ensure the win for the Wolfpack.

It appears as Brackman might be key to NCST re-righting the ship. All teams know that Hodge is the main man in Raleigh, and if someone can step up to take the scoring load off of him, it will open more options up for the offense instead of their favorite play, “Give it to 24”. Brackman achieved Co-Rookie of the Week honors with UNC’s Marvin Williams for the week of Dec. 12 to Dec. 19. In the games against La.-Lafayette and Washington, the freshman averaged 17 points and shot 70% from the floor.

VIRGINIA

Smith Drops 40, UVA Drops First Game

Devin Smith poured in a career-high 40 points in Virginia’s 81-79 loss at Iowa State, the Cavs’ first loss of the season. Smith and ISU star Curtis Stinson (30 points) went shot for shot in this highly entertaining battle that came down to the last second. After Stinson hit a three pointer with 18.6 seconds remaining to put ISU up by one, and after the Cyclones missed one of two free throws down the stretch, Virginia missed three shot attempts, including two tip-ins underneath the basket, which would have tied the game.

Smith’s huge game boosted his points per game average to 18.1, good for fifth best in the conference. Elton Brown continues to play solid basketball, averaging a double-double (15.6PPG, 10RPG) on the season. Gary Forbes put forth his best effort of the season in the Cavs’ 79-67 win over Furman, scoring a season-high 21 points.

Virginia’s New Year’s resolution might want to be to upset the big boys, as two of the Cavaliers’ first three games as we hit 2005 are at home against Wake Forest and at Georgia Tech.

VIRGINIA TECH

Should We Have Stayed in the Big East?

The Hokies were welcomed into ACC conference play by North Carolina much like the way a freshman pledge is welcomed by a fraternity senior—they were hazed and then officially initiated into the brotherhood that is the ACC. The 85-51 thrashing at the hands of the Tar Heels seems to be one of many lopsided losses to come for the Hokies in their first go-around in the conference. As well as Virginia Tech has played outside of the conference, this loss might have clued them in that the ACC is a notch above the rest. Zabian Dowdell had a fantastic game in the loss, scoring 21 points (8-15 FG, 5-10 3PT).

After starting the season 4-0, the Hokies have dropped three of their last four games, and have a date with national power Mississippi State looming Dec. 30 in New Orleans in the Sugar Bowl Basketball Classic. Dowdell and Carlos Dixon lead the team in scoring, both averaging 14.4 points a game, and the Hokies will need these two players to shine in order to pull off the upset.

WAKE FOREST

The Wheels On Skip’s Bus Go Round and Round On Time

Chris Paul and Eric Williams learned this lesson the hard way, as they were held out of the starting lineup for the Demon Deacons’ game at Temple for being late for the team bus. The two key players came in after the first official timeout, and helped Wake fight off a pesky, scrappy Temple Owl team, escaping Philadelphia with a 67-64 win. Despite not starting, Williams led Wake with 17 points, and Paul dished out eight assists. Justin Gray added 15 points, and Trent Strickland knocked down two key three pointers late in the second half to help Wake notch its seventh victory of the year. The match-up provided an Atlantic-10 reunion of sorts, as Skip Prosser, former Xavier coach, went head-to-head with longtime Temple leader John Chaney.

Wake was also not very impressive in their 18-point 85-67 victory over lowly Elon (2-7) on Dec. 15. Only up by five at halftime, Wake needed a second half surge to put the opposition away. Paul achieved a career-high (as of then) in assists, 11, and a season-high in steals, six, to lead the Deacs to their eighth win of the year. For the second consecutive contest, Coach Prosser had to discipline a player, this time senior veteran Vytas Danelius, for an unknown reason. Danelius was sent to the locker room with 16 minutes remaining in the contest.

The Deacons shook off the rust they had been displaying to notch their biggest win of the season to date, outlasting Texas at home, 89-88. Wake maintained between a three and one point lead for the final couple of minutes, hitting key free throws (mainly by Taron Downey and Paul), and playing excellent defense on Texas’ final possession. Paul dished out 12 assists, to reset his career-high, and scored 23 points to lead the fifth ranked Deacons to the home win over the nationally ranked Longhorns.







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