WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM Duke’s chances for going to a bowl this season have gotten a lot less likely over the past couple of weeks, but today the Blue Devils get an opportunity for a big upset.
The visitor on a cold, damp afternoon is No. 15 Virginia Tech (7-1, 3-1 ACC), which is already locked into post-season play and could take a big step towards a Coastal Division title and a spot in the ACC title game with a win today.
Duke (3-4, 1-2) has been in four close games and is even in those, but the two hurtful losses have come to Richmond and Wake Forest in Durham. And Virginia Tech has won 10 straight road games, the longest active streak in Division I-FBS.
The Blue Devils play well, well enough to make it scary. But it’s the third close loss at home — by a combined seven points — as Tech prevails 14-10.
This game was played mostly because Pembroke coach Ben Miller worked for Roy Williams as an assistant at Kansas, and the gulf in class between the teams proved obvious and insurmountable. Still, for a half this game resembled the brutal stretches witnessed against Barton College in an exhibition game last season.
Strangely enough, preseason All-American Harrison Barnes shot terribly for the second straight year against a Division II opponent. Barnes actually appeared quicker and more determined to attack the rim — as his 10 free throw attempts attest — but he missed his jump shots and forced the action in the lane against traffic, shooting just 2-for-8 from the field en route to 13 points.
Barnes had company in the frown column. Kendall Marshall performed something of a Larry Drew impersonation in the first half and finished with five points, four assists and three turnovers. Nerves seemed to get the better of freshman James Michael McAdoo, who converted just 1-for-7 from the floor and finished with seven points and six rebounds. As a team, Carolina shot just 46 percent, a number elevated in the second half by easy baskets when the Braves wore down.
But no one should read too much into November — check that, October — struggles. The real point of interest in this game was observing the freshmen in their first outing as well as sophomore Reggie Bullock, who missed most of last season due to a knee injury.
Somebody from North Carolina is going to earn a bowl bid on Saturday at Kenan Stadium.
Resurgent Wake Forest (5-2, 4-1 ACC) will take on resilient UNC (5-3, 1-3) at 3:30 p.m. And while a win would keep the Deacons’ unlikely ACC championship hopes alive, a Tar Heel victory would lock UNC into a post-season spot.
That will be the last of three ACC games involving Triangle teams, as N.C. State (4-3, 1-2) will try to keep its two-game winning streak alive at Florida State (4-3, 2-2) in a noon contest while Duke (3-4, 1-2) looks to keep its fading hopes for a winning season alive in a 12:30 game with Virginia Tech (7-1, 3-1) at Wallace Wade Stadium.
Despite the conference records the Tar Heels are listed as 6 1/2-point favorites over the Deacons. UNC leads the all-time series, which hasn’t been contested since 2007, 67-34-2.
“I really have a lot of admiration for what Coach (Jim) Grobe has done at Wake Forest over the years,” UNC coach Everett Withers said. “A very well-coached team, the quarterback (Tanner Price) is playing real efficient. He’s been in the top-three in the ACC in a number of categories just because of his ability to be accurate throwing the ball. They run the spread, they do a nice job of formations and he has such good ‘escapability’ that he makes a lot of plays just because he can get out of trouble himself and keep his eyes down the field and see receivers. Chris Givens is another talented skill guy that they have, one of the top guys in the conference in receiving yards, all-purpose yards, yards per reception. Again, a talented guy that we’re going to have pay special attention to this week.”
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke unveils its 2011-12 women’s basketball team today with the annual Blue/White game.
The 6-3 center Elizabeth Williams was the biggest prize along with 6-4 forward Amber Henson and 5-10 guard Ka’lia Johnson. Also added to the roster is 5-6 walk-on Jenna Frush out of Northern High.
Scoring is slow at the outset, but the White ends up prevailing 75-53 in a contest in which most of the key players switch jerseys during the competition.
Tricia Liston leads all scorers with 24 and eight rebounds, followed by Haley Peters with 21 points and eight rebounds.
Williams finishes with 13 points and nine rebounds while Henson also chips in 13 points. Chloe Wells adds 11 with seven assists, Allison Vernerey 11 and Johnson 11 points each and Richa Jackson 10 with nine rebounds.
FS SOUTH (TV)—After snuffing the Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins in their home rinks, the Canes went into the back half of a four-game road swing flying high. But on back-to-back nights in St. Louis and Winnipeg, Carolina's first visit to the new home of the ex-Atlanta Thrashers, the team was laid low.
In St. Louis, the Canes' workmanlike performance in Boston carried over early, as Jay Harrison flung a quick point wrister behind Blues' goalie Brian Elliott for his first goal of the year. About seven minutes in, Jiri Tlusty wrested a puck from a corner scrum and chipped it up to Harrison, whose quick shot reached the net while the goalie was still moving. It's a choice that other Canes blueliners might take note of, having found goalies ready and waiting when they've taken the time to catch a pass, settle it, and wind up for a big slapshot. Harrison's decisiveness made the difference between a goal and a glove save.
WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM Duke is home for the second game in its three-week “homestand,” and faces a must-win situation today.
But the opponent is unlikely nemesis Wake Forest (4-2, 3-1), which has beaten the Blue Devils a ridiculous 11 straight times. The Deacons come into the contest as 3½-point favorites.
Duke really, really needs a win, because the stated goal is to play in a bowl game for the first time since 1994. Get to six wins and the Blue Devils will go bowling, but of the remaining five games only in the road game at Virginia will they likely be less than two-touchdown underdogs again.
Today the Blue Devils will play in black jerseys.
And that mourning color turns out to be appropriate as Wake wins 24-23, defeating the Blue Devils in a one-possession game for the fifth time in the past six years.
Saturday will be a really important day for the Triangle’s three ACC football teams, and none of them will be favored.
UNC (5-2, 1-2 ACC) will visit surprising No. 8 Clemson (7-0, 4-0) at Death Valley at noon.
At 12:30, Duke (3-3, 1-1) will host unlikely nemesis Wake Forest (4-2, 3-1) at Wallace Wade Stadium.
And at 3:30, N.C. State (3-3, 0-2) will visit Virginia (4-2, 1-1) at Scott Stadium.
Interim coach Everett Withers’ Tar Heels, who come in as 10 ½-point underdogs, they look for the final win they need to qualify for a bowl game for the fourth straight year. UNC, which trails the series 34-19-1, topped the Tigers 21-16 last season in Chapel Hill.
FSN SOUTH (TV)—In a game interrupted throughout by fights, the best play of the night was a refusal to drop the gloves.
Carolina defeated the defending Stanley Cup winners for the second time already this young season, 4-1, on the strength of Joni Pitkanen's goal and two assists. Anthony Stewart opened the scoring and Eric Staal and Tuomo Ruutu tallied on late power plays to salt the game away.
Cam Ward weathered an intense opening frame to finish with 33 saves, allowing only Rich Peverley's man-advantage goal. At the other end, Tuuka Rask stopped just 19 of 23 Carolina shots.
But this game was more about emotions than numbers. Boston tried to summon the controlled fury that carried them through last season's playoffs to a title. Rather than surging, however, they boiled over, amassing 70 minutes in penalties, including four game misconducts. Coach Claude Julien, his bald head as red as the goal lamp that the Canes kept lighting, was even ejected in the final minutes.
It’s a rare preseason ACC all-star team in any sport with not a single player from a North Carolina school on it.
Actually, all five come from two other states. Miami’s preseason player of the year Shenise Johnson — last season’s ACC player of the year - and Riquna Williams, are on the first unit, joined by Florida State center Cierra Brevard and Maryland’s center Lynetta Kizer and forward Alyssa Thomas.
And if the members of that panel are right, the conference is also going to have a first-time champion this season.
Miami earned 30 of 40 first-place votes - with the other 10 going to Duke - to win the ACC title in a vote from the panel of national and local media along with school representatives.
The Hurricanes, coached by Duke alumna Katie Meier, finished tied with Duke for the regular-season crown last season after a 12th-place finish the year before.
Maryland was picked to finish third in the standings, followed in order by Florida State, Georgia Tech, UNC, N.C. State, Virginia, Boston College, Wake Forest, Clemson and Virginia Tech.
The Triangle was better represented on the “Newcomer Watch List” of the five freshmen deemed most likely to success this season. Duke center Elizabeth Williams and forward Amber Henson were named to that quintet along with UNC guard Brittany Rountree, Clemson wing Natiece Ford from Holly Springs, and Georgia Tech guard Sydney Wallace.
While purists (often justifiably) deride the playoff system in American professional soccer, its survive-and-advance format has the ability to produce some of the finest renderings of the sport in this country, whether it be the USL PRO championship match between Orlando City and Harrisburg City last month or, now, NSC Minnesota’s 5-3 shootout win over the RailHawks to advance to the NASL Championship finals.