DEAN E. SMITH CENTER/ CHAPEL HILL—The Tar Heels continued their topsy-turvitude last night, losing at home to unranked Texas, which won't be unranked anymore. The 10-1 Longhorns, kind of a discount Kentucky in many ways, just needed a win over a respected program to prove their worth. After the game, their head coach, Rick Barnes, whose infamy in Tar Heel lore has faded over time, pulled the old coaching trick of saying he pays no attention to the rankings but then recalling how he told one of his assistants that Texas was not only unranked; they probably didn't even have a single vote in the polls. (He was right; they didn't). That thing he supposedly wasn't paying attention to may in fact have been motivation for him, and perhaps transitively for his team.
Motivation. Drive. The knack and how to get it. Whatever you want to call it, it's a foundation of coaching young athletes. How do you get players to play hard, anyway? Texas is a very young team, as UNC-Chapel Hill is, even with senior Leslie McDonald reinstated last night. (McDonald immediately became Carolina's no. 2 three-point shooter this season by hitting four of them in 22 minutes. That's how anemic Carolina is as a three-point shooting team.) Still, the Longhorns took it right to Carolina early. They played harder, got nearly twice as many first-half rebounds, controlled loose balls and drove to the lane repeatedly, resulting in either easy baskets, fouls, or second-chance offensive rebounds. At halftime, they had scored a staggering 53 points, and led by 11.
Carolina tightened the rebounding margin, and the score, in the second half—somehow they had a chance to send the game into overtime on the final possession, despite their poor play—but their return to horrific free throw shooting doomed them. (Carolina couldn't overcome one of these failures against Belmont and Alabama-Birmingham; how could they have expected to overcome both?) At home against Belmont a month ago, they missed 26 of 48 free throws and lost by three points. At home against Texas last night, they missed 23 of 47 free throws and lost by three points again. Take away Marcus Paige, who is the only dependable player on the team in any facet of the game, and the Tar Heels shot a combined 37-82 (45 percent) from the free throw line in the two losses.
After the game, Roy Williams said: "You've got to be tough enough to step up and make the dadgum thing or go play soccer." No discussion of form, practice, hands, nothing like that. It's not about execution. Free-throw shooting is mental. You've got to be tough enough. Williams said that twice: tough enough.
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM The seniors on the Duke women’s basketball team get one more shot at this tonight — at least during a regular season.
The game they may have been dreaming about is here, since they’re undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the nation heading into their battle with No. 1 and defending NCAA champion Connecticut in the Jimmy V Classic.
Connecticut has won six straight in the series and leads it 9-3. Duke’s best showing against UConn under seventh-year coach Joanne P. McCallie was a 61-45 loss here two seasons ago.
It’s the first time a No. 1 has visited a No. 2 since Connecticut’s 88-58 romp over UNC in 2009.
And once again it isn’t really close, as the Huskies are never challenged in the second half in rolling to an 83-61 win.
N.C. State has been able to coast through its first four women’s basketball games of the season, beating outgunned opposition by an average of 32 points.
The Wolfpack won’t likely win like that today.
This time first-year coach Wes Moore plays for the first time against a major opponent when Tulane (4-0) visits.
Wake Forest alum Lisa Stockton’s team, like the Wolfpack, was in the WNIT last season. But Tulane won 25 games.
This is the schools’ first meeting in women’s basketball. If State wins today, it could be considered one of the school’s best athletic victories since the baseball sub-regional last spring.
This time State establishes control in the first few minutes and holds a working margin throughout, cruising to a 59-46 victory.
REYNOLDS COLISEUM/RALEIGH N.C. State continues its early-season run of home games against Division I opponents from outside the “power conferences” as first-year mentor Wes Moore starts his tenure at the helm.
Tonight’s foe is Morgan State of the MEAC, which lost its opener at home to Lincoln (Pa.) of the CIAA.
The Wolfpack is 3-0, with easy wins over St. Bonaventure, Towson and Presbyterian under its belt.
This one is as easy as expected, as the Wolfpack rolls 94-52.
When the contract for Tennessee to play last season and this one UNC was originally signed, the matchup was supposed to be between Hall of Fame coaches Pat Summitt and Sylvia Hatchell, who many long years ago was one of Summitt’s assistants with the Lady Vols.
But a year and a half ago Summitt became the Vols’ head coach emeritus, as she resigned because of her Alzheimer’s disease. And then last month, Hatchell was diagnosed with leukemia.
So acting coach and long-time Hatchell assistant directs the No. 12 Tar Heels (1-0), while second-year mentor Holly Warlick heads up the No. 4 Lady Vols (1-0) in front of the national audience on ESPN2. UNC’s No. 1 recruiting class in the country will get its first big collegiate test tonight.
On this night the more experienced Lady Vols are just a little better, holding off the Tar Heels down the stretch to win 81-65.
The wait is over for fans of ACC women’s basketball.
Yes, the action starts today, with two Triangle teams hitting the court.
No. 12 UNC (29-7 last season), which is picked fourth in the conference, will host Air Force (4-26) at 4:30 p.m. at Carmichael Arena.
Then at 6 N.C. State (17-17), picked ninth, will take on St. Bonaventure (10-19) at Reynolds Coliseum.
Conference favorite and defending champion No. 2 Duke (33-3) will open Sunday at 6 p.m. at No. 9 California (32-4) in a game to be shown on ESPNU.
The Blue Devils return five seniors, all members of the No. 1 recruiting class of four years ago including forward Haley Peters and guards Chelsea Gray and Tricia Liston. Also back are junior center Elizabeth Williams, the ACC rookie of the year two seasons ago, and sophomore guard Alexis Jones who was MVP of the ACC Tournament. Joanne P. McCallie’s club also has the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class led by forwards Oderah Chidom and Kendall McCravey-Cooper.