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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Liston sets record, Henson gets career high as Duke romps

Posted by on Sun, Jan 26, 2014 at 6:41 PM

CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke returns home for the first time in 10 days after surviving for a week on the road.

In their first two road games since losing Chelsea Gray for the second straight season with a knee injury, the Blue Devils had to scratch and claw for victories.

Tricia Liston drives to the hoop as Pitt’s Briana Kiesel defends. Haley Peters is at right.
  • Photo by Chris Baird
  • Tricia Liston drives to the hoop as Pitt’s Briana Kiesel defends. Haley Peters is at right.

Last Sunday the No. 3 Blue Devils held on for a 74-70 win at much-improved Virginia Tech, and then Thursday night they survived an 85-77 overtime battle with No. 24 Florida State.

Today’s opponent is Pittsburgh, making its first visit to Durham as a member of the ACC. Pitt is 1-4 in the conference under new coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, and the Blue Devils will be heavy favorites.

Duke will play for the second straight game without senior guard Chloe Wells, who is out with a bruised shin.

This one is never close, as the Blue Devils roll to a 111-67 victory, with Tricia Liston breaking Abby Waner’s school 3-point shooting record along the way.

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    Duke wins 20th for 17th straight season.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Duke soccer star Sebastien Ibeagha on his decision to spurn Major League Soccer for Europe

Posted by on Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 12:52 PM

Ibeagha, seen in a game during his senior season. - PHOTO BY ANDY MEAD/ YELLOW CARD JOURNALISM
  • Photo by Andy Mead/ Yellow Card Journalism
  • Ibeagha, seen in a game during his senior season.
On Tuesday, Sebastien Ibeagha turned 22 years old. The same day, Major League Soccer concluded its 2014 SuperDraft of rising amateur talent. Ibeagha, a regular fixture in the U.S. youth national soccer setup since his teenage years, the 2012 ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time college All-American as a defender for Duke University, wasn’t part of the selection process.

In fact, as the draft wound down two days ago, Ibeagha (pronounced ibby-AH-ga) was spending his birthday 3,800 miles away in Aalborg, a city situated near the northern tip of Denmark. There, Ibeagha is training with Aalborg BK (aka AaB Fodbold), a top-flight team in the Danish Superliga. He expects to play in his first preseason matches this weekend, in hopes of eventually showing well enough to merit a professional contract offer.

Ibeagha could already have a professional contract. Indeed, he could have signed a contract with MLS three years ago. Triangle Offense spoke with him by telephone on Tuesday, to discover the reasons this blue chip college talent decided to eschew MLS for the wintry pitches of northern Denmark.

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    "At the end of the day, playing in Europe is a dream for a lot of players, including me."

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

ACC grid sked out; first ever Duke-UNC Thursday night game set

Posted by on Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 4:27 PM

The first-ever Thursday night “Battle of the Blues” between Duke and UNC along with defending national champion Florida State’s visit to N.C. State highlight the Triangle portion of the ACC football schedule released today.

The defending Coastal Division Blue Devils (10-4 last season) will entertain the Belk Bowl champion Tar Heels (7-6) on Nov. 20 at Wallace Wade Stadium in a game to be shown on ESPN.

UNC and Duke will play for the Victory Bell in an ESPN night game this year.

The Seminoles’ visit to the Wolfpack, which went 3-9 last season in Dave Doeren’s first season at the helm, will be on Sept. 27 at Carter-Finley Stadium.

UNC has some of the more interesting road games on the schedule, as the Tar Heels will visit East Carolina on Sept. 20 and Notre Dame on Oct. 11. The Wolfpack makes its first conference-game visit to new member Louisville on Oct. 18.

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    Final BCS champ Seminoles coming to Raleigh

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Duke beats State, 95-60

Posted by on Sat, Jan 18, 2014 at 6:42 PM

Jabari Parker, shown here against Gardner-Webb, was living at the line in the first half of Duke's 95-60 win over NC State. - DUKE BLUE PLANET
  • Duke Blue Planet
  • Jabari Parker, shown here against Gardner-Webb, was living at the line in the first half of Duke's 95-60 win over NC State.
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM—It’s five minutes before tipoff against North Carolina State at Cameron Indoor Stadium, on a cold, clear Saturday in mid-January, and the Duke men’s basketball team is taking warmups. The team looks loose; it’s been five days since their last game, when the Blue Devils fought off gritty Virginia, despite another rough night of shooting from freshman star Jabari Parker.

There’s an especially marked difference in the body language of Parker, who rolls through the layup line like he’s spent those five days in a massage parlor. A great tension seems to have been released from between his sizable shoulder blades. The monkey is off his back. Maybe he’s read the articles about the struggles of past extraordinary freshman: All-Star Carmelo Anthony’s slump in January 2003, NBA scoring king Kevin Durant’s string of shooting under 40 percent in the first two months of 2007.

Or maybe he just knows he's playing NC State.

“Attacking,” was how Coach Mike Krzyzewski described Parker and his 23-point performance, which included seven rebounds, three steels, an assist, and 10 first-half trips to the free throw line, as Duke thumped the Wolfpack 95-60. “Everything was really good today,” Krzyzewski added.

It didn’t start that way for the Blue Devils. After screaming and swearing with fierce energy en route from the locker room to the floor, they botched the first five minutes of the game, missing shots and allowing copious offensive rebounds. By the second half, it was a highlight reel. A manic Coach Krzyzewski incited his team to such a high defensive fervor that they scoured State with 14 steals and stood defiantly in the path of their own Duke cheerleaders, boxing the nervous young women out of their rightful routines of crosscourt flips. Off a fast break, with 10 minutes to go, Andre Dawkins flipped in a signature three pointer, smooth as a baby’s bottom, one of three he’d make in his thirteen minutes on the court, to put the Blue Devils up by 21, followed by a garbage time installment of the Rasheed Sulaimon Show, in which a rangy Texas slasher takes hapless dudes one-on-one late in the shot clock for easy basket after basket. It looked fun.

“It ain’t fun,” said NC State coach Mark Gottfried. He lauded Duke’s “depth and pressure defense,” while describing several of his own big men as “not the most agile guys.” Besides his sophomore star T.J. Warren, who fought for 23 points on 9-19 shooting, no other of Gottfried’s players managed double digits, while together turning the ball over 21 times—“live turnovers” Krzyzewski called them, meaning they’d led to easy shots and points.

This was the game that Duke fans hoped for and expected after the tough victory against Virginia last Monday night, when the team showed a physical and mental toughness missing from their losses at Notre Dame and Clemson. Asked if this was his team’s best performance yet, Krzyzewski agreed mildly before meditating on the continuing inconsistencies lurking beneath the final score. “We’re more prone to having guys bad then good instead of always good,” the Duke coach said, singling out Rodney Hood—who had a comparatively leisurely 11 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists and 3 steals—as his most dependable performer. “Quinn should be able to do that,” Krzyzewski added, thoughtfully. 

Despite the afternoon drubbing, the Blue Devils have yet to win a true road game, and get their chance on Wednesday night, against Miami, a team that plays ferocious defense and hopes to rekindle Duke’s inconsistencies and Parker’s slump.

Box score here.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Revamped NASL website introduces new features, subscription fee for live matches

Posted by on Wed, Jan 15, 2014 at 12:59 PM

history_landing_page_2014-01-13_0925.jpg
Being a fan of lower-division soccer often carries an expectation of a lower standard of play and presentation. But for fans of the North American Soccer League (NASL), one upside to this has been free online streaming of matches. Now, that is coming to an end, but the league is betting that a newly designed website, with numerous bells and whistles, will be enough to entice fans to pay a $4.99 per month subscription fee.

When Bill Peterson became commissioner of the NASL nearly 14 months ago, one of his stated goals was improving the league’s Internet presence. That aim takes a large step ahead today with the launch of the NASL’s revamped website, which will link the league and all its member clubs under a unified digital platform.

Whether soccer fans will queue up to pay nearly five dollars a month to watch NASL matches online remains an open question whose answer will largely hinge on whether the broadcast quality of matches improves along with its online platform. While clubs like the Carolina RailHawks and New York Cosmos offer widely approved game webcasts, other teams continue to struggle with the quality of their production and on-air talent. Developing uniform broadcast standards must go hand-in-hand with the improvement of the league’s online presence in order to lure premium content subscribers.

According to the league’s press release, the new website is the product of a new partnership between the NASL and PERFORM, a multimedia sports content distributor that owns one of the largest digital sports rights portfolios, including Goal.com, through contracts covering more than 200 sports and their associated leagues, tournaments and events.

Beyond the new website's streamlined appearance and accessibility, the biggest change for NASL fans is that heretofore free live streaming of league matches will now feature as part of a monthly subscription package that will include live and archived matches, as well as the promise of “additional premium video content,” all for a monthly fee of $4.99.

The website also promises game day features such as a Match Center where fans can view live stats and interact via social media while watching streaming matches.

“We are investing in enhancing our live streaming of matches and are making them available as part of a monthly league-wide subscription package that we believe offers great value,” said NASL Commissioner Peterson in a statement. “Sporting events around the world are increasingly being viewed via online platforms and this partnership with PERFORM will push the NASL to the forefront of how soccer fans access matches in the future.”

The new NASL.com goes live today, and individual club websites revamped for the PERFORM network will go online over the coming weeks.
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    Whether soccer fans will queue up to pay nearly five dollars a month to watch NASL matches online remains an open question.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Blue Devils platoon their way to victory over Virginia: 69-65

Posted by on Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 3:06 PM

Coach Krzyzewski used a five-for-five substitution pattern called "platooning" against Virginia on Monday night. - PHOTO COURTESY OF DUKEBLUEPLANET.COM
  • Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com
  • Coach Krzyzewski used a five-for-five substitution pattern called "platooning" against Virginia on Monday night.


CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM—Two days before the No. 23 Blue Devils squared off on Monday night against unranked Virginia (12-5, 3-1), Duke freshman Matt Jones received the news that he would get his first start of the season. But neither he nor his teammates knew that Coach Krzyzewski would be implementing an unorthodox substitution strategy against the Cavaliers.

In the game’s opening minutes, Duke took a 5-0 lead against Virginia, following a Jabari Parker 3-pointer, a steal and offensive rebound from Amile Jefferson and a couple of made free throws from Matt Jones. The lineup looked strong and intent upon bouncing back from last week’s loss at Clemson. But at the 16:46 mark, Coach K sent an entirely new team to the scorer’s table to sub in for the team on the floor. The strategy is known as “platooning,” and it worked for Duke throughout the entire game.

Rasheed Sulaimon, who scored a season-high 21 points, was in the starting lineup but had no idea what was happening when the substitution horn blew. “I didn’t know he was going to sub five in and five out,” said Sulaimon. “But he just told us to be ready. It was strange but it worked out really well.”

Coach K did this four times in the first half and the lineup overhauls worked out extremely well on Virginia guard Joe Harris, who was held to only 5 points on 1-4 shooting in the first half. It may have been a point of emphasis, defensively, for the Blue Devils, who fought off a repeat of Harris’ career-high, 36 point performance in Virginia’s 73-68 shocker over Duke last year in Charlottesville.

After the game, Coach K called Harris “a coach’s dream,” and pointed out that in the final seconds, after a Sulaimon three-pointer bounced high off of the rim and then sank back in to give Duke a two-point lead, he knew Virginia would probably go to Harris for the winning bucket or for the tie.

“It’s not so much that we knew exactly what we were going to do,” said Coach K. “But if I had Harris, I’d try and get him the ball. The kid is a great player.”

That greatness, however, couldn’t get off a great, late shot against an eager Duke front court, led by Amile Jefferson’s 15 boards and a key pass deflection in the final seconds of the game.

“We’ve got to protect our home,” said Jefferson. “This is our home. When you walk out that door, you see there’s white tape down. And that’s us saying that when we cross that line right there, were going to be Duke.”

The Blue Devils move to 13-4 on the season and 2-2 in ACC play. Click here for the complete box score. 
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    The Blue Devils, led by Rasheed Sulaimon's season-high 21 points and Coach K's substitution strategy, win down the wire against the Cavaliers.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Winter weather brings wins to the Canes

Posted by on Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 3:54 PM

Jordan Staal - FILE PHOTO BY JUSTIN COOK
  • File photo by Justin Cook
  • Jordan Staal

Weird things happen on New Year’s Eve. We all have our stories. I once woke up on a stranger’s lawn in an unfamiliar town in the twilight of the next morning. You just roll with these things. Don’t ask questions; just let it play out.



After losing five games in a row, the Carolina Hurricanes found themselves down 3—0 to Montreal after two periods on New Year’s Eve. For 40 minutes, they’d given their fans plenty of reasons to need drinks later.



But, striking like lightning reanimating Dick Clark’s body, the Canes suddenly held a 4—3 lead just eight minutes later. They finished off Montreal with an overtime goal by Alexander Semin, sparking a five-game winning streak that Columbus ended last Friday night.



Happy New Year. We’ll take the Jekyll with the Hyde.



So why the sudden change of fortune? It could be the standings, where the Canes had been in danger of falling well off the pack. Or it could have been trade winds a-blowing.



Case in point—the New Year’s Day swap with Toronto of gritty (read: slow) defenseman Tim Gleason for offensive (read: motivated) defenseman John-Michael Liles. Liles promptly tallied for the Canes versus his old team, while Gleason delivered an ill-tempered slash in the waning moments of the lopsided Leafs loss. Raise your hand if you miss Gleason. Anyone? Didn’t think so.



Cam Ward pulled up lame after presiding over the comeback against the Habs, but still surrendered a late, tying goal in the third period to spoil a chance at a regulation win. Anton Khudobin, meanwhile, stepped right off the injured reserve list to win his first four games back. He seemed to fight the puck early in the games, but calmed down by the middle of the opening period each night. I even grabbed him for my fantasy team. Ward is day-to-day.



Jeff Skinner continues to melt the ice. His hat trick in Washington was just one highlight in a five-game stretch (7G, 4A, what?) that garnered the NHL’s first star of the week. Jordan Staal has thawed as well, with a four-point night in Toronto, including a shorthanded goal on a wrist shot that should be framed and put in the North Carolina Museum of Art, replacing those Porsches.



Big brother Eric (day-to-day) hasn’t been as lucky. He’s missed three straight games with a lower-body concern, which could mean any kind of injury of any severity, anywhere beneath the belt.



An irksome aside on Canes television broadcasts: Does it chafe anyone else that the impeccable John Forslund and the excitable Tripp Tracy call the Staal brothers by their first names? Yes, the alternative is to call them both “Staal,” which would be confusing. Oh, except it wouldn’t. They wear unique numbers and move completely differently on the ice. When I hear “Skinner passes to Jordan,” I think of a) MJ and b) girls’ youth-league soccer.



Notes: Three Canes punched tickets to the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Justin Faulk (USA), Tuomo Ruutu (Finland) and Andrej Sekera (Slovakia) were selected for their national teams, while Semin and Eric Staal, both Olympians in Vancouver in 2010, were left off the Russian and Canadian teams, respectively… The slumping Winnipeg Jets fired coach Claude Noël on Sunday, replacing him with two-time Canes boss Paul Maurice, who brings his dour visage to PNC Arena on Feb. 4… Rookie Elias Lindholm, lent to silver-medalist Sweden for the World Junior Championships, returned to tally a goal and two assists in the 6—1 drubbing of Toronto. Lindholm (2G, 7A, 6GP) was among the tournament scoring leaders… Credit the Polar Vortex with an assist for snowing out a date with the Sabres on Jan. 7 and affording the boys an extra day of rest. They’ll shuffle back to Buffalo on Feb. 25…

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    After dropping eight of nine games, Carolina reels off its longest winning streak in three years

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Jackson, Blue Devils blow past scrappy Boston College

Posted by on Sun, Jan 12, 2014 at 6:25 PM

Duke’s Richa Jackson eyes the hoop ahead of BC’s Kat Cooper (44) and Katie Zenevitch.
  • Photo courtesy Duke photography
  • Duke’s Richa Jackson eyes the hoop ahead of BC’s Kat Cooper (44) and Katie Zenevitch.
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke finally gets to play its first ACC home game of the season today, and the Blue Devils are definitely on a roll.

With impressive road wins over Georgia Tech — which oddly won’t visit the state of North Carolina this season — and Syracuse, the No. 3 Blue Devils are 15-1 and 2-0 in conference play heading into today’s matchup with Boston College (10-6, 1-1).

The Eagles, who play the toughest schedule in the country over a four-day period, are coming off a 95-53 loss at No. 2 Notre Dame on Thursday night.

On North Carolina’s worst weekend for major men’s sports in at least a generation, Duke contributes heavily to the ladies’ breaking the spell with a 78-57 win and picking up the program’s 800th victory.

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    Blue Devils gain program's 800th victory.

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

ABC: UNC loses to Miami, and loses face

Posted by on Thu, Jan 9, 2014 at 12:41 PM

A lull in the action during the UNC-Miami game, which tipped off several minutes past 9 p.m. - PHOTO BY JUSTIN COOK
  • Photo by Justin Cook
  • A lull in the action during the UNC-Miami game, which tipped off several minutes past 9 p.m.
DEAN E. SMITH CENTER/ CHAPEL HILL—"People have taken their chances and beaten up on us for quite a while, but we’re gonna survive this. I’m really proud of my kids."

That sounds like the sort of thing UNC head basketball head coach Roy Williams could have been expected to say after his team lost, glumly and weakly, to Miami last night on their own home court, 63-57. The Tar Heels fell to 0-2 in the ACC for the second straight year, but this time their prospects for improvement do not look as good.

But Williams wasn't talking about his basketball team when he said that. He was talking about a CNN.com article, published yesterday, about literacy in college athletics. The article led with an anecdote based on the testimony of Mary Willingham, a specialist in UNC's Center for Student Success and Academic Counseling.

She told CNN that a UNC basketball player came to her and asked for help: He couldn't read.

ABC doesn't just mean "Anybody But Carolina" anymore.

Continue reading…

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Great expectations: Duke wins ACC home opener against Georgia Tech

Posted by on Wed, Jan 8, 2014 at 12:17 AM

Andre Dawkins ushers in the ACC season against Georgia Tech at Cameron Indoor Stadium - PHOTO COURTESY OF DUKEBLUEPLANET.COM
  • Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com
  • Andre Dawkins ushers in the ACC season against Georgia Tech at Cameron Indoor Stadium
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM – It  was  a one point game at halftime of  the Duke-Georgia Tech men’s  basketball game, which the 16th-ranked  Blue Devils would end up winning, 79-57, on what meteorologists were  calling the coldest day since the 1990’s—back when Georgia Tech used to beat Duke from time to time, the ACC had nothing to do with Indiana, New York and Pennsylvania, and the only one-and-done college players were the guys who got expelled or flunked out.

“I don’t know if the weather, the start of school,” said Coach Mike Krzyzewski after the game, searching for an explanation. “We seemed dead.” Or as one fan in the Cameron Indoor Stadium concession line at halftime put it: “If they keep playing like that, I’m turning in my season tickets.”

It didn’t last.

Duke opened the second half with a 10-2 run, then poured it on the last seven minutes, after watching freshman star Jabari Parker pick up his fourth foul and leave for the remainder of the game. This time, they didn’t need him. Rasheed Sulaimon and Rodney Hood, the two Blue Devil slashers who so far this season had not found ways to use their scoring powers effectively together on the floor, torched Georgia Tech with the pick and pop from the left side, leading to four Hood three-pointers, part of his 27-point night. Amile Jefferson continued his ownership of the boards, grabbing ten, as Duke became the first team to outrebound Georgia Tech this season.

It was a game that everyone expected Duke to win, handily, just as expectations were high for Parker to bounce back hard from his subpar, 7-point, 4-rebound game against Notre Dame last Saturday, which Duke lost, 79-77. He finished this one with 12 points on 4-12 shooting, along with two turnovers, the four fouls, and one shot that got blocked so badly his head bounced on the floor. “People ask me, ‘What’s wrong with Parker?’” said Krzyzewski. “What’s wrong with him? He’s played great this year. He didn’t play well in the last game, he played pretty well tonight, a little bit better. It’s a long season.”

“In some respects,” Krzyzewski added of Parker, “he’s a little bit out of position because if I had a bigger team, I’d be playing him on the wing, which is probably eventually what he’s going to do.”

It was true that Georgia Tech’s lone big man, the stolid, 6-foot-11 inch redshirt senior Daniel Miller, gave Parker and the rest of the Blue Devils problems inside, scoring 14 points and shooting 64 percent, with relative ease. The biggest difference of the game came at the free throw line, where Duke shot 22 for 25 and the Yellow Jackets missed all their foul shots, which totaled six. “No comment,” said Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory on the subject.

Outside, after the game, it was still as cold as the 1990s, when Georgia Tech’s Dennis Scott used to jaw with the rowdy Cameron crowd, sinking half-court shots in warmups and eating the Twinkies that fans threw at him to mock his weight. Scott would go on to have a 10-year career in the NBA, but his time in college seemed joyful, playful and full of fun. Being a college star today is different. “Wiggins, Randle and Parker—they’re 18, 19, years old,” said Krzyzewski of Duke's young star and his freshman counterparts at Kansas and Kentucky. “They’ve been promoted and marketed as way beyond what they should be. But that’s the way it is.”
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    As one fan in the Cameron Indoor Stadium concession line at halftime put it: “If they keep playing like that, I’m turning in my season tickets.”

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