DURHAM, N.C.—The Duke Blue Devils sprinted to a 14-4 lead in the first seven minutes Thursday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium, capitalizing on a series of turnovers and a spate of poor shooting from the field by the visiting Tulsa Golden Hurricane. But then the torpor set in: During the most consistently quiet half this season in Durham, the Devils let Tulsa not only creep within reach during the next 10 minutes but even tie the game at 28-28 late in the first half.
During that span, Duke missed five three-pointers and allowed the Hurricane to move to the basket quickly. In fact, in the first half, Tulsa shot against Duke 35 times, just one attempt shy of a season high against the Devils. Still, though the Hurricane hit a higher percentage from the floor than the Devils, Duke headed into the locker room with a four-point lead.
“I thought we felt we were going to be able to knock them out, and they’re not a team that’s going to get knocked out,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said of the first half after the game. “We looked rushed.”
The start of the second half didn’t look any better: Tulsa’s excellent seven-foot senior center Jerome Jordan began the half with another dunk. Tulsa followed with two free throws from guard Justin Hurtt. But as they’ve often done this season, when this streaky Duke team turned it on, they refused to relent. Over the next six minutes, Duke presented one of its most balanced stretches of basketball yet this season, with points, a steal and an assist from Brian Zoubek, an assist from Lance Thomas, points and an assist from Mason Plumlee, two blocks from Kyle Singler, two three-pointers from Jon Scheyer and strong contributions from Nolan Smith on both ends of the floor. At the nine-minute mark, the Devils were up by 20 points.
N.C. Central finished its men's basketball season without a win on the road.
Vincent Davis (pictured) had 25 points and C.J. Wilkerson 22, but the Eagles fell 83-69 at Longwood.
NCCU finished 7-21, including an 0-17 record on the road. The Lancers avenged an 81-78 loss to NCCU 12 days earlier.
Dana Smith led independent Longwood (11-18) with 25 points and 12 rebounds.
Antwan Carter added 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Lancers, while Kevin Swecker finished with 13 points.
Fans of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon know that, in the end, the prized statuette turns out to be a forgery. After a couple of weeks of hints that a major Maltese international striker was on the way (how many MMISs can there be?), the RailHawks finally have produced a parcel containing said prize.
Meet Etienne Barbara, a 6-foot-1, 27-year-old striker from Pietà, Malta. There are high hopes for him indeed: Martin Rennie, having been tipped to Barbara's availability, traveled to the Mediterranean island specifically to scout him. In a team press release, Rennie says:
'I saw his videos and I was real impressed, and I spoke to some people who also told me, This guy is really, really good. I made the decision to go watch him play, and I was blown away by what he did. I'm hoping that will translate to our league, and I believe it will. He's got pace, power and he can finish and he's just an all-around player. He'll add a lot to our squad.'
Barbara will bring a solid record of accomplishment to Cary, with 70 goals since 1999, a period he mostly spent in the Maltese Premier League. Barbara has 30 caps with Malta's national team, although he is not currently listed on the roster. He also had a short stint with the German fourth-tier semipro side SC Verl, a tenure that apparently ended with his dismissal for disciplinary reasons (the source cited on Barbara's Wiki page is a German news site, where it appears that further browsing in Deutsch is necessary).
Following the Internet trail of Barbara's career is fascinating. We realize just how ubiquitous soccer is elsewhere on the planet—where a country as tiny as Malta can have a multi-tiered league system, and, correspondingly, where there can be excellent prospects toiling away that require diligence, pavement-pounding and international connections to locate.
It appears, too, that last summer Barbara merited a close look by English Championship side Sheffield Wednesday when that club was in preseason training in Malta. According to this report, then-coach Brian Laws (now the coach of Burnley) ultimately determined that Barbara, though "definitely a talented player who has trained very hard with us this week," wasn't quite good enough to aid in Sheffield Wednesday's push for the upper echelon of the Championship. (Wednesday is currently in 21st place, one point above the relegation zone.)
This isn't to suggest that Barbara won't be a key ingredient for the RailHawks—it's unlikely that Rennie would have gone to such lengths merely to add a little squad depth—but that this information gives us an idea of where the RailHawks and American D2 soccer fit into the global soccer matrix (somewhere around England's League One, perhaps).
It's an encouraging signing for the RailHawks, who needed another striker option. Last year's team scored 43 goals, third-best in the league, but 21 percent of those goals came in a single game. Returning forwards Sallieu Bundu and Andriy Budnyy had their moments last season, and Matthew Delicâte, on a late-season loan from USL-2 Richmond, provided spark and creativity, but RailHawk attack has lacked a consistently ruthless presence inside the box. Clearly, Rennie hopes Barbara can bring that finishing touch.
Barbara is currently playing for the Maltese side Hibernians, where he will remain until late March.
Press release below.
Three out of four of the teams containing ‘Canes players are headed to the 2010 Olympic semifinals. Woah.
In case you're severely behind or can't stay up late enough to catch all the action from Vancounver, Carolina’s representatives have thrived on the international stage so far. Unless something very strange happens (more than likely involving time travel,) at least one 'Cane is assured of a medal. Tim Gleason is the only one without a goal but has been as advertised, doing exactly what Team USA called on him to do. He’s been physical, solid and consistent, but rarely flashy. Ruutu seems to have fully recovered from his injury and, I would argue from a totally biased perspective, has been one of Finland’s best players on the ice so far. And yeah, he’s good, but who would have thought Eric Staal would be on Canada’s top line? Staal got his foot into the revolving door of Sidney Crosby’s linemates and might stick there. He has a goal and five assists, tallying one most recently tonight in a 7-3 rout of AO and the Russians. As everyone undoubtedly saw (hurrah for ratings!) Staal had the first goal in one of the most widely-watched and anticipated hockey games of the decade: USA vs. Canada in the prelims. He then lost his cool, decided to get scrappy and earned an almost devastating penalty toward the end of the second period after attempting a flying bear hug. But Canada survived. Staal went crashing into the boards awkwardly tonight and Raleigh held its breath, but he looked to be fine.
Even though it’s several days too late, can we talk about “that” game? Staal’s Canada and Gleason’s USA have surprised for several reasons. Canada was a dream squad, a team only 14-year-olds with a game console and no salary cap could dream up. America, while stacked, seemed more like a list of players who just happened to be American. A lot of the guys on that roster aren’t household names. And yet somehow, the scrappy underdogs beat the high-scoring juggernauts at home and looked good doing it (was that not the most beautiful empty-netter you’ve ever seen?) Could they do it again? I’m not sure. But that game was definitely one to remember.
And then…of course…Pitkanen. Joni Pitkanen isn’t exactly known to be disciplined – he takes needless penalties quite a lot, but Carolina doesn’t seem to hold it against him. But the other night, Pitkanen got mad! He elbowed Sweden’s Patric Hornqvist in the head and incurred an automatic one-game suspension, which is already taken care of. His team did fine without him in dispensing the Czech Republic tonight.
The only thing that’s gone truly wrong with these games so far from a local perspective? Finland hasn’t yet been forced to realize how much better it would be with a certain clutch-scoring, Brodeur-angering shootout specialist on its roster. There’s still time.
REYNOLDS COLISEUM/RALEIGH If there has been a women's basketball game this season N.C. State was very lucky to win, it was back on Jan. 22 against Wake Forest.
First-year Wolfpack coach Kellie Harper (pictured) knew it at the time, and went out of her way after the game to say how she could sympathize with what the Deacons might be going through that night.
With 15 seconds left, Nikitta Gartrell hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 49-all. And after the Deacons' Brooke Thomas missed a shot in the lane, Amber White got the rebound and fired up a rainmaker that went through the hoop at the buzzer for a 51-49 win.
That turned out to be the Wolfpack's only victory over a one-month span, but the dry spell hardly killed the season. State and Wake are both 16-11 and 6-6 in ACC play, and will play tonight at Joel Coliseum with outright possession of fifth place in the conference on the line.
If the Wolfpack can spoil the Deacons' Senior Night game tonight and then win its own Senior Day contest on Sunday against Georgia Tech, it will finish fourth in the regular-season standings and earn a bye in the first round of the ACC Tournament beginning March 4 in Greensboro.
N.C. Central becomes the first Triangle Division I college basketball team to finish its season tonight, when LeVelle Moton's men's squad visits independent Longwood in the back end of a home-and home set.
The Eagles have won two straight in the series, prevailing 81-78 at McDougald-McLendon Gym 12 days ago.
With seven wins, Moton (pictured) has led his alma mater to its best season since 2006-07 in his first season as head coach.
NCCU has played an independent schedule this season. Next season the Eagles are set to play a MEAC regular-season slate, although they are will not be eligible for the conference tournament and post-season play until 2012.
SMITH CENTER/ CHAPEL HILL—Much of the North Carolina fanbase is screaming for someone to press the stop button on the 2009-10 season, but the basketball gods instead continue to cruelly press repeat.
At home on Wednesday night against a beatable Florida State team, the Tar Heels dug themselves an early hole and never were able to climb high enough to smell fresh air, ultimately losing 77-67.
It’s been similar to the opening scene in There Will Be Blood, except instead of Daniel Day-Lewis falling and breaking his ankle, the Tar Heels’ plummet resulted in two shattered legs, a dislocated shoulder and a ruptured spleen.
The obvious joke to make now is that the Carolina injured its heart as well. The team’s body language was poor and its performance equally subpar, the Heels showing little fight and trailing by 15 points at halftime.
It's been a disappointing season for Sylvia Hatchell and the UNC women's basketball team. Perennially among the nation's elite, they've dropped out of the top 25 and currently suffer the indignity of a losing conference record.
Things didn't get better on Sunday; they lost by a 73-64 margin to cross-town rival N.C. State and its first-year coach, Kellie Harper. N.C. State now sports a .500 conference record (6-6) to go with its overall record of 16-11. With this loss, the Tar Heels drop to 5-7 in the ACC, and 17-9 overall.
Fortunately for all concerned, there was a more important cause: The game was a part of the WBCA "Pink Zone" games to raise awareness about the Kay Yow/WBCA cancer fund, a nonprofit created to raise money to support the search for a cure to breast cancer. Each team warmed up in pink tees with the fund's logo and UNC played in special pink uniforms. Fans were even encouraged to attend the game wearing pink.
For N.C. State, Bonae Holston and Marissa Kastanek led the effort, with 20 and 17 points, respectively. Kastanek, a freshman guard, carries the distinction of being the last recruit of the late Yow, who died last Jan. 24 of breast cancer. Cetera DeGraffenreid and Italee Lucas were the dominant performers for UNC, scoring 22 and 15 points, respectively. The box score is here.
Triangle Offense photographer Arianna Hoffmann attended the game and took these images.
Duke's junior guard Jasmine Thomas is one of eight nominees for the Nancy Lieberman Award.
Criteria for the award are the floor leadership, play-making and ball-handling skills that personified Lieberman during her Hall of Fame career.
The finalists will be narrowed to three and the winner announced at the NCAA Final Four in San Antonio.
Thomas, who is also a candidate for the John R. Wooden award and State Farm Wade Trophy for national player of the year, is the ACC's only nominee for the honor.
Matt Lubick, who spent the last three seasons on the staff at Arizona State, has been added to the Duke football staff.
Lubick will serve as Duke's passing game coordinator and recruiting coordinator while coaching the wide receivers.
At ASU, Lubick was assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator while coaching the safeties.
Lubick is replacing Scottie Montgomery, who left to take a coaching position with the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers.
Lewis, Oghobaase to NFL Combine
In other Duke football news, 2009 senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase are headed to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
The event, which begins Wednesday and runs through March 2, will include 329 draft-eligible players.