SMITH CENTER/ CHAPEL HILL—The headline says it all. North Carolina, which most recently defeated N.C. State on the road in its most impressive victory in weeks, reverted back to early January form on Sunday night against Virginia, getting smoked 75-60.
The Tar Heels had expected to receive an emotional boost from raucous, stir-crazy fans, many who spent the weekend trapped under a sheet of snow and ice, but for whatever reason the Cavaliers were the team that played with greater purpose throughout the game.
Carolina did essentially nothing right, getting beaten in areas where they typically succeed even in losing performances. One such example was high percentage scoring, where the Wahoos outscored the Heels 30-14 in the all-important category of points in the paint.
Virginia handcuffed the post tandem of Ed Davis (still gimpy due to an ankle injury) and Deon Thompson, limiting the pair to a combined 3-for-10 shooting and 11 total points. And remember, this is the putative strength of the team.
That brings us to the backcourt, where Larry Drew surged late but was ineffective for most of the game, finishing with 15 points on 5-for-13 shooting but also committing three turnovers and generally struggling to contain UVa’s guards defensively.
N.C. State lost its third straight women's basketball game for the first time this season, falling into a tie for last place in the ACC.
The Wolfpack shot a season-low 25 percent in a 69-56 loss at Clemson.
Nikitta Gartrell (pictured) led the Wolfpack (12-10, 2-5 ACC) with 13 points and 12 rebounds while Amber White chipped in 13 points and Bonae Holston 12.
Bryelle Smith and Shaniqua Pauldo had 12 points each for the Tigers (11-12, 2-5 ACC), who won their second straight game after ending an eight-game slide.
Lele Hardy added 11 points and Christy Brown and Lindsey Mason 10 each for Clemson.
The Wolfpack's next game is at home on Feb. 7 against Virginia Tech.
N.C. State will try to end its two-game women's basketball losing streak today when the Wolfpack visits Clemson.
Kellie Harper's club, which has lost four of its last five games, has not had a three-game losing streak this season.
Clemson, coached by NCSU alumna Cristy McKinney, is coming off a big 68-65 win Friday night over visiting Boston College, the Tigers' first ACC victory this season.
The Wolfpack has won two straight at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Lucy Ellison (pictured) the rebounding leader for the Wolfpack, which after today will not play again until a Feb. 7 home game against Virginia Tech.
RBC CENTER/ RALEIGH—Tonight was the seemingly tall tale of how the second-best team in the NHL lost to the second-worst in front of 6,896 of the Hurricanes’ and Blackhawks’ most faithful Triangle fans…or at least, those with four wheel drive. Despite being outshot 41-24, Carolina won its fourth straight, 4-2, over a powerhouse Blackhawks team off Brandon Sutter’s go-ahead goal midway through the third period. Cam Ward played out of his mind to keep the Blackhawks off the board.
“It’s been a fun game,” Ward said. “Tonight we were playing against arguably against one of the best teams in the league and to be able to grab a win is a big confidence booster. We’ll be in good spirits going out west.”
When I say there was no one there to see it unfold, I really mean no one. Even the ‘Canes’ usual goal announcer didn’t brave the mess on I-40. Under seven thousand fans, approximately a third of what the building holds, made the trip while the rest will cash in their tickets at a later date with the approval of the ‘Canes’ brass.
Should they have canceled the game outright? It would have been costly and probably very difficult. Only once, at least as far as I can remember, has an NHL game been scrapped due to weather. That was in Denver, and no one was getting anywhere during that blizzard. The only unfortunate thing was that most North Carolinians were ill-equipped to get out and see a good West-East match-up and what proved to be an exciting game.
The fact that Carolina wasn’t down in the first ten minutes was an accomplishment in and of itself. The Blackhawks were up on the best team in the league, the San Jose Sharks 3-0 Thursday night. However, the Sharks came back to tie it and the ‘Hawks had to close it out in overtime, so perhaps a bit of that sloppiness carried over. In addition, Carolina has jumped out to uncharacteristically early leads in its last several games – all wins. Fancy that.
The first period included some excellent rebound control by Cam Ward and his defensemen even though their team was being out chanced. Ward stretched to deny Chicago from close in and Joni Pitkanen played some smart, legal defense stopped John Madden on a partial two-on-one.
N.C. Central got into the win column on the road in women's basketball, beating Savannah State 54-43 to complete a season sweep of the Tigers.
Joanna Miller (pictured) was the only player in double figures for the Eagles (7-13) with 19 points.
The victory was NCCU's first on an opponent's home floor this season.
Crissa Jackson and Courtney Long led SSU with 11 points apiece.
The Eagles' next game is at Liberty on Thursday night.
RBC CENTER/RALEIGH It's the third meeting between a couple of new Triangle "rivals," what with N.C. Central's move to Division I two seasons ago.
The Eagles got used to playing games at the RBC Center as members of the CIAA, and the tradition has continued with an invitation to play N.C. State each of the past two seasons. State is one of just two teams that has played NCCU for three straight seasons, the other being oddly enough Colgate.
The Wolfpack may be on a two-game losing streak against ACC competition, but will be a heavy favorite today since LeVelle Moton's Eagles have neither won on the road nor against Division I opposition this season.
State has won each of the previous two meetings by at least 25 points. Last season it was because of a ridiculous 52-14 rebounding advantage, and the season before because the Wolfpack held the only two Eagles who could score to a combined 10 points.
There's not going to be much of a crowd today, as the entire Triangle is locked down by about five inches of snow. It's eventually announced at 2,217,
NCCU has lost 18 games this season and its three worst whippings have all come via ACC teams, all by at least 30 points. It doesn't look like that's going to happen early in today's contest, but the Wolfpack eventually breaks away for a 77-42 win.
The Wolfpack doesn't have things easy in the first half as the Eagles have point guard Michael Glasker walk the ball up the floor. NCCU leads by as many as seven points early on, and State's first lead doesn't come until Dennis Horner hits a short jumper to make it 19-18 with 6:38 left in the half.
That turns out to be the only lead change of the game. State leads 27-20 at halftime and the lead gets steadily bigger the rest of the way. The Wolfpack's biggest advantage is the final score.
Tracy Smith (pictured) leads the winners with 23 points, going 9-for-11 from the floor. Horner adds 13 for the Wolfpack.
LeVelle Moton will be a head coach in a college basketball game in his Raleigh hometown for the first time this afternoon, and knows his N.C. Central team won't be favored.
The Eagles (4-18) will take on N.C. State (13-8) in a game that is going to be played at the RBC Center despite the snow that has paralyzed much of the state.
NCCU has visited the Wolfpack each of the past two seasons - the only other team the Eagles have played each of the past three seasons is Colgate - and although the team under Henry Dickerson at the time kept things respectable but didn't keep the games close.
The Wolfpack won 87-59 last season and 54-29 in 2008.
Both NCCU teams are on the road today, as Joli Robinson's women's team will be looking for a season sweep at Savannah State.
Moton, said he's looking forward to at least getting some fan support with a nearby road game.
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke gets its first really big home test in ACC action tonight.
The No. 7 Blue Devils are hosting No. 13 Florida State, which has its eye on tying the Blue Devils atop the conference standings.
It's their only meeting of the regular season. FSU won their matchup in Tallahassee last season 82-75 in overtime, while the Blue Devils got revenge in a huge way with a 75-58 romp in the tournament semifinals.
If the Seminoles are the best team in the ACC they certainly have the opportunity to prove it over the weekend, as the conference schedule has them going to UNC on Monday night.
There won't be much of a crowd tonight, as most of the fans have been scared away by the big snowstorm. What they miss - at least in person since it's all on cable TV - is a 73-43 Duke romp that's never really in doubt once it gets going.
Duke completely dominates the first half.
The Blue Devils lead 7-0 and then 20-2 before the Seminoles get anything going, and are up 30-13 at the break. Duke shoots 36.4 percent over the period to FSU's 21.4 and is winning the rebound battle 26-17.
The Seminoles never get closer than 15 points back in the second half, at 30-15 on Courtney Ward's layup with 19:27 left and on an Alysha Harvin free throw to make it 53-38 at 6:21.
But Jasmine Thomas (pictured) answers with 10 of Duke's next 12 points to make it 65-41 with 4:07 to go.
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke gets a visit from a nationally ranked ACC team for the first time this season, entertaining No. 13 Florida State.
It will be the first game for Duke since Sunday night's 58-57 win at Maryland, the Blue Devils' first victory in College Park in three years.
Duke and FSU played twice last season, with the Blue Devils rolling to a 79-57 win in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament after falling 82-75 in overtime in Tallahassee.
"They're a very good team, and we did not execute and do the things we wanted to do down there last year," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie (pictured) said. "We did do the things we wanted to do during the ACC Tournament, but right now we're in the regular season and you kind of remember those experiences. They're very good and very talented, and there is some motivation because we didn't do some things we wanted to do down there. So we'd like to play a whole lot better.
RBC CENTER/RALEIGH - There's something fishy going on at the ol' RBC right now...like, alternate dimension fishy. Carolina won its third in a row and fourth of five, the latter two of which were on back-to-back nights with commute. In addition, Eric Staal and Ray Whitney stretched their points streaks to seven games apiece and Staal reached a nice personal and franchise milestone with his assist on the empty-netter. The 'Canes have tapped into some long-dormant potential and can't seem to stop scoring, early and often.
Now, I'm someone who doesn't mind admitting I'm wrong. It's a good skill, I think, especially when it's been known to happen. Chad LaRose is nowhere near the worst thing to happen to hockey since the "glowing puck" fiasco of the mid-90's. Getting those free agents from Boston didn't turn out to be quite the boon I thought it would be. And Staal seems quite taken with this whole captaincy thing, even though it initially appeared to be a no-win situation. The 'Canes don't seem to mind having him at the helm either. Staal scored the game's first goal off his own rebound, his eighth in five games since donning the 'C.'
And he's not the only one. From the bottom up, Carolina looks better. All of the sudden, when any hope of recovery has all but gone the way of the dodo and players are just about to start being pawned off for draft picks, someone flipped the "on" switch on the back of the 'Canes' helmets. Three straight explosive starts, 21 goals in five games, some pretty decent numbers for Ward...maybe Taylor Hall shouldn't be picking out red-and-black wallpaper just yet.
Ward says he sees the guys in front of him "making plays and not second guessing themselves."
Let's say it all together, folks: "Where has this team been all season?!" It's not a matter of players coming back or a trade shaking things up. The exact same squad that stunk to high hell a few weeks ago is now looking like its posturing for home ice advantage. Could Staal really have had that much of a difference? Naaaah. (Right?)
Ward certainly thinks so. "He's picked everyone else up. He's the leader of this team and he's playing at the top of his game right now," he said.