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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Second-half explosion propels Duke to rout of Miami

Posted by on Thu, Jan 31, 2013 at 10:27 PM

CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke continues its grind through the ACC schedule, and tonight’s assignment isn’t a whole lot easier.

Duke guard Tricia Liston
The No. 5 Blue Devils (18-1, 8-0 ACC) will host Miami (14-6, 5-4), which likely would have been ranked had it not lost to No. 11 UNC 64-62 at home on Sunday.

The Hurricanes, who are winless in nine tries against the Blue Devils, are coached by former Duke All-American Katie Meier. It’s the first time in four seasons the Hurricanes have been unranked at the time of the Duke game. They’ll play again on Feb. 28 in South Florida.

Duke struggles early but comes up with a huge second half, rolling to an 82-43 decision that’s the most lopsided in series history.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tar Heels topple Eagles to tip off easiest ACC stretch

Posted by on Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 1:52 PM

Hairstons timetable is uncertain
For a frustrated team, there’s no better tonic than Boston College. North Carolina fell to rejuvenated N.C. State for the first time in six seasons last Saturday, and the Tar Heels traveled to Chestnut Hill, Mass., last night to face a 9-11 opponent.

The anemic, announced crowd of 7,062 — a very UNC-friendly crowd, to boot — witnessed a casual 82-70 victory for the Tar Heels and a frightening concussion suffered by Carolina sophomore P.J. Hairston.

Toward the latter portion of the first half, Hairston collided with teammate Dexter Strickland’s elbow along the baseline and toppled stiffly to the floor. After a few minutes on his back, he began trudging to the locker room with assistance from teammates. He then appeared to lose consciousness, however, and ultimately the medical personnel on hand decided he’d require a stretcher.

Doctors diagnosed Hairston with a concussion and it’s unknown when he’ll return to action, but UNC typically — as it should — adopts a very conservative approach with head injuries. Earlier this season, Reggie Bullock sat out after suffering a mild concussion in practice.

Hairston’s injury proved doubly unfortunate, because he began the game on fire, scoring 14 points in only 12 minutes. The fanbase had arisen in unison to protest Roy Williams’ rotation patterns versus the Wolfpack — to wit, the team fared immensely better with Hairston in the game, yet he sat for an extended period in the second half — and against the Eagles he garnered heavy playing time early.

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Peters, Gray lead Duke past pesky Boston College

Posted by on Sun, Jan 27, 2013 at 5:15 PM

CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke returns home for the first time in 11 days, and of course the No. 4 Blue Devils are no longer unbeaten.

Duke forward Haley Peters
A big second half made the difference on Thursday night in the 60-46 win at Clemson, as the Blue Devils bounced back from Monday night’s awful 79-49 loss at old nemesis Connecticut.

Today’s opponent is Boston College (8-10, 2-5 ACC), which is showing signs of improvement under new coach Erik Johnson but lost to Duke 90-53 on Jan. 6 in Chestnut Hill.

Duke (17-1, 7-0) will honor its 2003 Final Four team at halftime.

The Eagles put up a good fight, but Duke prevails again 80-56.

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Sisyphus Shoved: N.C. State downs UNC 91-83, first win over Tar Heels in five years

Posted by on Sun, Jan 27, 2013 at 11:57 AM

Richard Howell rises over Brice Johnson during N.C. States 91-83 win over North Carolina in Raleigh, N.C.
  • Chris Baird
  • Richard Howell rises over Brice Johnson during N.C. State's 91-83 win over North Carolina in Raleigh, N.C.
PNC ARENA/RALEIGH—N.C. State and North Carolina played their first basketball game against each other 100 years ago this week, but this venerable and raucous rivalry has devolved into something of a lopsided lark over the past decade. Coming into their 223rd meeting this weekend, the Tar Heels had beaten the Wolfpack 13 straight times dating back to Feb. 2007. Carolina had won 19 of the last 20 contests—with 14 of those victories coming by double figures—and 36 and of the last 44. Indeed, so disassociated was the Tar Heels from their cross-Triangle foes that UNC’s pregame press guide on Saturday repeatedly referred to N.C State’s home arena as “the RBC Center,” which hasn't been its name since March of last year.

Dexter Strickland's trash talk last October concerning N.C. State’s perennial hope yet perpetual futility against the Tar Heels cast the Wolfpack as a latter-day Sisyphus, the figure in Greek mythology damned to roll a mammoth boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down just as he reaches the summit, and to repeat this action forever. But armed with more talent, more experience and a national ranking, the Wolfpack came into Saturday night’s clash with their best chance in years to crest that mountaintop.

There were times during No. 18 N.C. State’s 91-83 victory over North Carolina that didn't resemble a basketball game so much as an exorcism. And as the Pack amassed a 28-point lead with 13 minutes left in the game, every fast break layup, every dunk and every steal felt like another deep-seated demon being cast out.

In the end, perhaps the most apt summary of this game is the same one issued by the Raleigh News & Observer (posted by N.C. State Athletics on their Facebook page last Friday) after the schools’ first game a century ago, a 26-18 win by State—then named North Carolina A&M—over the Tar Heels: “There wasn't a department in the game in which the Techs of Raleigh did not outshine the classicists of Carolina.”

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    There were times during N.C. State’s victory over North Carolina that didn't resemble a basketball game so much as an exorcism.

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Life is too short to worry about Maryland. No worries for Duke: 84-64

Posted by on Sun, Jan 27, 2013 at 8:35 AM

CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM—“If you ask me, this administration is completely out of control with all of this Marilyn business…Life is too short to worry about Marilyn Monroe.”—Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

In Jackie, Ethel, Joan: Women of Camelot, author J. Randy Taraborrelli explores the relationship between the Kennedy wives. Marilyn Monroe was a strand that they all had in common. The above Jackie O quote came during a host of issues, including a debacle over whether Monroe would be allowed to sing happy birthday to President John F. Kennedy at his 1962 birthday gala in Madison Square Garden. That was just her way of giving Marilyn the middle finger.

Coach "Mike Krzyzewski" K took a similar approach in today’s postgame conference. The big elephant in the room wasn’t the lingering humiliation from 90-63 whooping that Miami gave Duke in Wednesday night’s competition. Not that one. The season is too short to worry about that. What we really wanted to know was how Coach K felt about Maryland’s succession from the ACC to the Big 10 Conference—especially today, after the 84-64 beatdown the Blue Devils put on the Terrapins.

“I don’t feel anything. I feel ecstatic that we won the game, “ he said. “Whatever decision schools want to make; They make them. I only have so much room for feelings.” Or, to borrow from Jackie O, life is too short to worry about Maryland.

Game-wise there wasn’t much too worry about either. Rasheed Sulaimon led Duke’s charge, putting up a career-high 25 points and knocking down 6-of-8 three-pointers. Duke is still re-fitting its offense to thrive without Ryan Kelly and the response from freshman Amile Jefferson has been gradually improving. His 11 points and nine rebounds came buttered with a bunch of rascally, down-low hustle and today he looked like he was a factory piece of the Duke system, rather than a just a replacement part.

Late in the second half, Mason Plumlee grabbed one of Quinn Cook’s rare (for the day) missed layups off of the rim and reverse-dunked it home. You only see dunks like these in dunk contests, when there’s time to plan-out the trick. But, in a hyper-second, Plumlee took the rebound to a freakish level when he swung the ball behind his head with both hands and crashed it through to become what will be gawked at as one of Duke’s (or college basketball’s) top jams ever.

Duke's next two games are on the road against Wake Forest, then Florida St. before, they have N.C. State inside Cameron, where the Blue Devils will be seeking some ill revenge for another shocking loss. In the meantime, click here for the Duke/Maryland box score.

Plumlee's dunk is here:

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    To borrow from Jackie O, life is too short to worry about Maryland.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

State needs this one more—which could play to Carolina's advantage

Posted by on Fri, Jan 25, 2013 at 8:46 AM

N.C. States Rodney Purvis, during a game against Duke earlier this month
Roy Williams often has described himself by saying he’s been married to the same woman and owned the same golf putter for decades.

Since coming back to Chapel Hill in 2003, Ol’ Roy has added the N.C. State men’s basketball team to his list of long-term possessions. Quite simply, Roy Williams has owned the Wolfpack, compiling a 19-1 record against his Raleigh rivals over the past nine seasons.

(In the one loss, back in 2007, Tar Heel shooters were blinded by Sidney Lowe’s stunning red sports coat, allowing State to produce a four point upset.)

Just two weeks ago, all that seemed set to change. N.C. State was the team on the rise, and Carolina was a team staring into the abyss after consecutive losses to Virginia and Miami. State’s huge win over Duke cemented expectations that State could go on to take control of the conference standings.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way. State followed up its Duke victory by coming out of the gate ice cold against Maryland in College Park, eventually losing the game on a last-second shot by Alex Len. Bad, but mildly forgivable. Then State allowed Clemson at home to hang around until the final minutes before finally putting the game away. A warning sign, but not a mishap in itself.

Then came Tuesday night in Winston-Salem. State started impressively, using defensive pressure and repeated drives to the rim to build a 14-point lead against the inexperienced Deacons. Neutral viewers could be forgiven for being tempted to turn the game off at halftime.

Maybe State’s players mentally did that, because they didn’t bother to play much defense over the first sixteen minutes of the second half, allowing Wake to completely turn the game around. The Deacons converted six consecutive field goal attempts in one stretch, en route to 59 percent shooting in the second stanza. State woke up and made an impressive push to nearly overturn a ten-point deficit in the final four minutes, but costly missed free throws by C.J. Leslie in the final minute allowed Wake to close the game out.

That lapse of effort in the second half, causing a clearly superior State team to a lose to an outfit outside the top 100, casts Saturday’s game against Carolina in a different light. After dropping two games in three, the pressure is on Gottfried and his players both to stop the recent bleeding and to finally get that win over the Tar Heels. With Carolina playing significantly better basketball in its last three games, that’s no longer a slam-dunk proposition.

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    Fans from both sides have reason to be excited and nervous about what could well be one of the most memorable evenings of the ACC winter.

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Hat trick for the captain; Canes win their first of the year

Posted by on Fri, Jan 25, 2013 at 7:22 AM

PNC ARENA—The first time the little boy threw the hat, it barely left his hand. The second time, held aloft by his dad, he bounced it off the top of the glass and it fell back in his arms. Finally he threw harder and got it onto the ice.

Third time’s a charm. Just ask Eric Staal.

Eric Staals 13th career hat trick paced the Canes to a 6-3 win over Buffalo, their first win of the season.
  • Photo by Chris Baird
  • Eric Staal's 13th career hat trick paced the Canes to a 6-3 win over Buffalo, their first win of the season.
The Carolina captain’s empty-net goal capped a hat trick, pacing the Hurricanes to a 6-3 win over the visiting Buffalo Sabres Thursday night for their first victory of the year.

“I wanted the win more but once you get the puck on your stick and there’s no goalie, you always want to make sure you cash in,” a smiling Staal said afterwards amid the bedlam of a locker room that was both celebrating and packing up gear. The Canes complete a home-and-home series in Buffalo on Friday night.

The big guns were big guns and the role players played their roles. Jeff Skinner added a pair of goals and Justin Faulk scored shorthanded. Zac Dalpe, Joni Pitkanen and Jordan Staal each had a pair of assists. Even Bobby Sanguinetti, the young defenseman who had struggled throughout the first two games, made nice plays.

Cam Ward found his form in goal, counting several old-school standup saves among his 30 stops on the night.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Opportunistic Wolfpack rips Hokies by 19 to end skein

Posted by on Thu, Jan 24, 2013 at 10:13 PM

State’s Myisha Goodwin-Coleman drives to the hoop as the Hokies Alyssa Fenyn (13) and Lauren Evans defend.
  • Photo by Chris Baird
  • State’s Myisha Goodwin-Coleman drives to the hoop as the Hokies Alyssa Fenyn (13) and Lauren Evans defend.
REYNOLDS COLISEUM/RALEIGH N.C. State looks to end a six-game losing streak and pick up its first ACC win of the season tonight.

And the Wolfpack (8-11, 0-7) might actually be favored.

The opponent is Virginia Tech (7-10, 1-5), which has never beaten the Wolfpack in a dozen meetings. And Tech is the Wolfpack’s first unranked opponent at home in 36 days.

The Hokies, under second-year head coach Dennis Wolff, had a solid start to the season before running into troubles in conference play.

It’s the Hokies’ first visit to Raleigh in three years.

And this one goes exactly the way the home fans want, as the Wolfpack rolls to a 58-39 win.

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Tar Heels stretch win streak to three prior to weekend showdown versus Wolfpack

Posted by on Thu, Jan 24, 2013 at 12:55 PM

For Tar Heels, this week has been pleasant
  • For Tar Heels, this week has been pleasant
You have to admit, progressive UNC fans, the past 72 hours have been very kind. N.C. State loses to Wake Forest and suffers Twitter heartburn thereafter, the Tar Heels get a top-10 recruit, Hillary Clinton kicks the shit out Republicans over Benghazi, Miami really kicks the shit out of Duke and mocks the Blue Devils in the process, and Carolina cruises past Georgia Tech 79-63 to improve its ACC record to 3-2.

All that’s left is for you people to go out and get laid.

OK, you’re back. The Heels have reversed negative mojo from earlier this month, winning three straight after losing their first two ACC contests. UNC has played its way back into the NCAA Tournament picture and is performing at by far its highest level this season.

Last night’s game actually proved illustrative for its similarity to Carolina’s previous struggles. The Tar Heels shot just 43 percent from the field and 35 percent on threes, along with a woeful 59 percent from the foul line. The Yellow Jackets also out-rebounded them 50-45. That’s the kind of effort that felled UNC during the early season, yet against Tech the Heels prevailed easily.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sandwiching the pyramid? MLS and USL Pro strike deal for restructured Reserve League

Posted by on Wed, Jan 23, 2013 at 11:15 PM

Update, 2 p.m., Jan. 24: Today, USL Pro released their 2013 regular season schedule, revealing further details of this year's edition of the restructured MLS Reserve system. Eighteen of the 19 MLS clubs will participate in some form—only Chivas USA will not have a USL affiliate or play a home-and-home series against a USL Pro opponent.

Interestingly, the four rumored USL Pro affiliates for 2013—Rochester, Orlando City, Richmond and Harrisburg—will not play a home-and-home series against their reported MLS parent club—New England, Sporting K.C., D.C. United and Philadelphia, respectively. According to a USL Pro league official, this was done so that loaned MLS players would not have to play their MLS clubs. However, during a media conference call this morning, MLS EVP of Competition and Player Relations Todd Durbin indicated that loaned players would be cup-tied to their USL Pro club should it face their MLS affiliate in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and available to face their MLS parent club in the tournament. It is unclear what competitive difference there is between facing a MLS parent club during the regular season as opposed to the U.S. Open Cup. It appears this might also be a way to incorporate as many MLS clubs as possible into the restructured Reserve League arrangement in 2013, since MLS has 19 clubs and USL Pro currently has 13.

Many descriptions have already been breathlessly applied to today’s long-rumored announcement about a restructured Reserve League collaboration between Major League Soccer and third divison USL Pro: “groundbreaking,” “milestone,” "unprecedented," “ of the biggest announcements” in the 18-year history of MLS.

The precise details of the partnership—many of which are still unknown or being formulated—are far less exalted. In 2013, each of the 13 existing USL Pro clubs will play an interleague home-and-home series against one designated MLS Reserve team. Oddly, these two interleague games will count toward each team’s official USL Pro standings or MLS Reserve League standings.

The second prong of the arrangement is that affiliations will be forged between certain MLS and USL Pro clubs. The terms of this affiliation include at least four players from each parent MLS club going on long-term loan to their USL Pro affiliate. Each of the 19 total MLS clubs will either field a Reserve League team or establish an affiliation with a USL Pro club. MLS clubs who enter into a USL Pro affiliation will not compete in the MLS Reserve League. However, MLS clubs are not currently required to enter into a USL affiliation.

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