ACC Tourney: Thursday Thoughts (Pt. I)

It’s starting to get serious over here in Greensboro. Here are my quick reactions so far:

GAME ONE: #8 Maryland vs. #9 Florida State

I strolled into the Greensboro Coliseum for an interesting matchup between the Terps and Noles. I was impressed with the Maryland contingent. They were vocal and you could sense their fans were desperate not to leave their final ACC Tournament without a victory.

Everybody else…they wanted nothing more than to see Leonard Hamilton’s Seminoles crush the ACC traitors and give them a rude parting gift out the door. ACC purists, including many seated next to me in press row, were licking their chops at the possibility of a Maryland loss.

All in all, it was a competitive first half, however sloppy. Maryland’s Allen tallied 13 points. The Terps held the 34-32 edge. Both teams were shooting at a 43-percent clip from the floor.

Okaro White stepped up with an athletic block that resulted in a sprint to the basket in the other end. There’s no questioning the athleticism of the Seminoles – and their cheerleaders, oh my! But that’s another story for another day.

There were some great spikes in this one. It seemed like a volleyball match at time out there on the court. Mark Turgeon was his usual disgusted self on the sidelines for the Terps. I must say, I’ll miss his sour looks when he departs for the Big Ten next year.

Florida State was smartly getting out on the perimeter, limiting the Maryland three-point shots to perfection and forcing the drive inside – right into the Seminole wheelhouse.

Ian Miller and Thomas were both solid scoring options for Florida State. Dez Wells was doing his best to keep the Terps in the contest. But ultimately, it was the farewell party Maryland never wanted – falling on a last second Bojo dunk. Bojo, the Turtle Slayer!

FINAL: FSU 67 – MD 65


GAME TWO: #5 Pitt vs. #12 Wake Forest

There would be no slow start for Pitt in this one. The Panthers got off to a roaring start – 15-5 with 14:32 to play.

It was a heavy dose of Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna for the Panthers. Tyler Cavanaugh sniping three-pointers is a necessary ingredient to the Demon Deacons. And speaking of Demon Deacons, their mascot has some sick dance moves!

Wake Forest’s players, however, were not quite as enthusiastic as the mascot and cheerleaders. They seemed lethargic, sluggishly getting back on defense and not running solid offense.

Zanna and Patterson duo were proving too much for the Deac defense to handle. At the intermission, the Panthers held the 39-25 lead.
It was an epic halftime show. The mascots of all the ACC teams took over the floor and put on a zany, entertaining display of hoops. The Pitt dance team wasn’t too bad either.

The pace definitely quickened in the second half of play. The energy was ratcheted up for both squads, but again, Patterson was still Patterson. And his speciality was shredding the Demon Deacon defense.

The game got uglier and uglier by the minute, with Wake trailing by as many as 26 points midway through the second half. Head Coach Bzdelik’s funeral procession had begun.

Things got so out of hand that the fans all left for early happy hour and dinner. You could hear individual shouts from the crowd. Patterson finished with 24 points and sat the bench the final minutes.

In the end, Pitt advanced seamlessly on to the quarterfinals and a date with North Carolina.

FINAL: Pitt 84 – Wake Forest 55

Surging Tar Heels Glide By Demon Deacons 105-72, Earn Ninth Straight Win

The North Carolina men’s basketball team downed Wake Forest  105-72 Saturday in Chapel Hill to record a ninth straight win and improve to 20-7 overall and 10-4 in the ACC.

With the loss, the Demon Deacons fell to 14-13 on the season and 4-10 in conference play. With the victory, the Tar Heels have won 20 games for the tenth consecutive time and the 41st time in the last 44 years.

The Tar Heels seized control early on in the contest thanks to efficient balanced scoring that saw six players reach double figures and some lethargic defensive play from the Demon Deacons. At the half, Carolina held a commanding 52-33 lead.

“Four games in eight days is not easy by any means but we’re practicing and guys did a nice job staying focused after that first six or seven minutes of the game, and I thought right before the half we had a nice little run to stretch it out to 19,” UNC Head Coach Roy Williams said after the game.

Wake Forest cut the Tar Heel advantage down to 13 points early in the second half, but Carolina continued to ride its now prolific offense with contributions from Marcus Paige, a resurgent Leslie McDonald, an improving Kennedy Meeks and battling Nate Britt.

All in all, it proved too much for the visiting Demon Deacons as Carolina exacted its revenge from the loss to Wake Forest back in January.

Roy coaching up the Tar Heels (Todd Melet)

Roy coaching up the Tar Heels (Todd Melet)

“Our kids have shown a lot greater attention to details. They’ve shown a greater sense of urgency. We’ve played pretty good basketball here in this whole stretch, not just in these eight days,” Coach Williams said.

McDonald led the scoring charge for Carolina with 19 points while Meeks put up 15 points on the afternoon.

Coron Williams recorded a team-leading 19 points for Wake Forest, but it wasn’t nearly enough to keep his team in the contest.

Wake Forest won the opening tip and Arnaud William Adala Moto went right to the rim to stake his team out to a quick 2-0 lead.

Kennedy Meeks didn’t wait long to get on the scoreboard either, evening the contest at 2 with 18:25 to play. He responded to a Wake Forest score with another basket in a fast–paced affair early on.

Both teams were answering baskets back and forth. Meeks was off to a roaring start with a pair of free throw makes to draw even at 6-6 with 16:55 to play in the first half of action.

Leslie McDonald sniped an open three-pointer to get the Tar Heels their first lead of the game at 9-6.  Johnson got a bucket quickly after to give UNC the 11-6 advantage and influence a Wake timeout at the 15:58 mark.

Coron Williams netted a shot from behind the arc, but Paige answered the shot on the other end with a three ball of his own to place the score at 16-9 with 13:15 to play in the half.

Tyler Cavanaugh slipped through a pair of Carolina defenders and layed one through the nets to get Wake Forest within 16-13, but Nate Britt popped a score immediately following to jump the lead back out to 18-13.

McAdoo’s athletic slam dunk excited the crowd and gave UNC the 20-13 lead with 10:30 to play in the first half.

A sloppy turnover by Wake handed Carolina the ball. The Tar Heels failed to take advantage of the opportunity.

To the roar of the crowd, struggling Desmond Hubert was able to coax a free throw through the nets.

With 8:20 remaining in the half, Carolina held a 26-16 lead.

McDonald’s fine play carried over from the Duke game as he knocked down another deep shot to earn a 29-16 advantage for the Tar Heels with 7:41 on the first half clock.

J.P. Tokoto made a quick move and found some open space to take an open shot, which he made. The Tar Heel offense was clicking on all cylinders now.

Williams floated in a shot that was much needed for the Demon Deacons. It cut the deficit down to 17 points at 35-18 with 5:44 to go before halftime.

Paige worked his way to the foul line and knocked down all three of his shots to extend the lead out even further, but Aaron Rountree answered with a make on the other end and Williams followed to keep Wake Forest right in the game, only trailing 37-22 with 4:30 to play in the half.

Paige and McAdoo double-teaming (Todd Melet)

Paige and McAdoo double-teaming (Todd Melet)

Brice Johnson broke the 6-0 Demon Deacon run, but the shots were not falling for the Tar Heels as the first half was coming to an end, allowing Wake to rally back to within shouting distance.

But Meeks took the game back over with scores on back-to-back possessions. His efforts, along with Johnson’s eager plays gave UNC the 45-28 lead with 2:12 to play before halftime.

McAdoo knocked down a beautiful jumper to match Wake’s Williams’ make. McDonald fought his way to the free throw line and converted on both attempts.

Jackson Simmons made a pair of foul shots to close out the half. The Tar Heels jogged into the locker room with the commanding 52-33 lead.

The halftime score sheet showed UNC shooting at a 53 percent clip from the floor while Wake Forest shot 47 percent.

Meeks and McDonald led the scoring charge for Carolina with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Williams posted 14 points to lead Wake Forest shooters.

After an opening score by the Demon Deacons, Meeks picked up where he left off in the first half, diving to the basket for a score.

McDonald knocked down a deep jumper to keep pace with Meeks on the stats sheet. With 17:18 to play, Carolina was up 20 points, 57-37.

Devin Thomas wrapped the ball around the rim and through the nets as Wake Forest began to find its range on the offensive side of things. The lead was trimmed down to 16 points.

Paige knocked down a three-pointer, and the Tar Heels led 61-45 with 15:11 to play.

McDonald popped another three-pointer at the 13:32 mark in the second half to push the home team out to a 67-48 advantage.

Cavanaugh responded with an impressive make for Wake to close the gap back down to 69-51 with 12:15 on the second half clock.

But the scoring was coming from everywhere now for Carolina. A score by Britt and a dunk by Johnson proved that for the surging Tar Heels who were up 73-51 with 11:22 to play.

Wake Forest took advantage of little let-up in intensity by UNC, finding holes in the defense and converting in the paint. The score stood at 84-61 in favor of the Tar Heels with 7:56 to play.

Even Wade Moody came off the bench to knock down a three-pointer for Carolina late in the game.

The versatile play of Carolina continued down the stretch in the Smith Center as the Tar Heels exerted their dominance, displaying the kind of form that could make them a threat to anyone in the country come March.

Carolina pageantry (Todd Melet)

Carolina pageantry (Todd Melet)

Next up for Carolina is a Wednesday trip over to Raleigh to face the N.C. State Wolfpack for an 8 p.m. tipoff.

Click here for the full game photo gallery.

Final Box Score

No Rest For The Weary: Revenge-Minded Carolina Hosts Wake Forest Saturday

The North Carolina men’s basketball team, 19-7 overall and 9-4 in the ACC, will be aiming to exact some revenge on 14-12 Wake Forest, 4-9 in conference, when the two programs meet Saturday at 12 p.m. in the Dean Smith Center.

Carolina is coming into the game on a roll having won eight straight, including a thrilling rally against No. 5 Duke Thursday night.

The Demon Deacons fell at Maryland 71-60 in their last outing on Tuesday, but the Deacons defeated the Tar Heels earlier this season 73-67 over at Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem.

But Wake Forest has found it a lot more difficult to produce wins away from their home court this season, falling in nine of their 11 road trips.

And although the visiting team is reeling with six straight losses, the Tar Heels will need to guard themselves from a possible letdown after all the energy they invested in the rivalry game a couple nights ago.

Tar Heel fanatics (Todd Melet)

Tar Heel fanatics (Todd Melet)

One positive development for Carolina was the emergence of Leslie McDonald against Duke. The senior found his shot, scoring 21 points to help lead the Tar Heels to victory.

If the Tar Heels win one more ACC game this season, they will earn their 38th 10-win ACC season and their ninth in the last 10 years under Head Coach Roy Williams. No other ACC school has as many 10-win ACC seasons as Carolina. Duke is second with 32.

Carolina leads the all-time series with Wake Forest 155-66. Saturday’s game will be broadcast on 97.9 FM, WCHL and televised on the ACC Network.

Williams: Don’t ‘Tiptoe Through The Tulips’ In ACC Opener

CHAPEL HILL– The No.19 North Carolina men’s basketball team begins their run at an ACC regular season championship Sunday night on the road against Wake Forest.

***Listen to the story***

The 10-3 Tar Heels will be focusing on building off their demolition of UNC-Wilmington on New Year’s Eve while the 10-3 Demon Deacons, winners of four of their last five contests, look to take advantage of UNC’s erratic play so far this season and garner a signature win.

Head Coach Roy Williams, 7-3 in conference openers, says he’s still trying to figure out the bipolar nature of his team.

“Our consistency I have not liked. At times, we’ve shown some things that we’re going to be okay defensively. Sometimes we’ve been a really good rebounding team, and sometimes we’ve been a sorry rebounding team. Sometimes, we’ve been extremely unselfish, and other times we’ve been selfish,” Coach Williams says.

The 8 p.m. Sunday start for the Tar Heels is not something Coach Williams is looking forward to. He says the late Sunday tip-offs throw off the whole weekly routine.

“It screws up the whole week. You got a game, and then all of a sudden they got five days of classes. You’re playing a Sunday night game, you’re sitting around all day, and you’re not in class. It’s not a normal day,” Coach Williams says.

With all the youth on the roster, Coach Williams says he’s unsure how prepared they will be for the intense grind of the conference season.

“They have no idea. All three of the freshmen have had more opportunities to get better. But it is a big time jump. It really is a big time jump. I always have the saying that the kids laugh at. You can’t come in their tiptoeing through the tulips. You got to come in and be ready to make a stand. Hopefully those guys will do it right from the start,” Coach Williams says.

James Michael McAdoo says he’s excited for the more normal routine that ACC play brings.

“I think it’s a lot of fun playing so many games and not have having to wait so long between games. It’s just the feeling of conference play and just being able to get into it and the excitement that comes with it each and every game,” McAdoo says.

Carolina leads the all-time series against Wake Forest 155-65 and beat the Demon Deacons handily in the Smith Center a year ago. But Sunday marks the first road game for the Tar Heels since their upset victory over then No.1 Michigan State back on Dec. 4.