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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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Monday, December 30, 2013

Action, comedy and drama in the Blue Devils’ first half of the season.

Posted by on Mon, Dec 30, 2013 at 11:50 AM

CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM—It may have taken all of October and November for a couple of Duke’s veteran players to realize that this year’s basketball season was not a continuation of last year’s, but the Blue Devils may have finally arrived at a point where a good attitude a
Duke's Amile Jefferson lived on the boards against EMU, grabbing a career-high 14 rebounds. - PHOTO COURTESY OF DUKEBLUEPLANET.COM
  • Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com
  • Duke's Amile Jefferson lived on the boards against EMU, grabbing a career-high 14 rebounds.
nd great execution have met where a championship run is eminent.

“This isn’t last year,” said a foggy-eyed Coach Krzyzewski after his 10-2 Blue Devils fought through a staggering Eastern Michigan University zone defense and ran over the Eagles, 82-59. “It’s like a different play. Last year was a drama. This is an action movie or, I guess, some games are comedy.”

In some ways, however, Saturday afternoon’s game was a sequel. The last time these two teams faced each other was in the 1996 NCAA Tournament Regionals in Indianapolis, when EMU, led by point guards Brian Tolbert and Earl Boykins, took advantage of an unhealthy Duke roster, eliminating the Blue Devils, 75-60. Duke assistant coaches, Jeff Capel and Steve Wojciechowski, were both members of that 1995–96 Blue Devil squad, but yesterday’s matchup was less about revenge and high stakes, and more about getting this Duke team to, as Coach K put it, “adapt” to this season’s issues.

Sophomore forward Amile Jefferson (or “Millie” as his teammates call him) rightfully tackled Duke’s ongoing rebounding woes, grabbing a career-high 14 boards against a bigger and longer EMU frontcourt.

“It was just about getting position,” said Jefferson. “They play a really, really wide zone. So, on misses, you kinda get more of a three-step start to the rebound instead of rebounding from one base. I think that really helped—being able to move a lot in the paint.”

Duke outrebounded EMU 47-32, which included eight rebounds apiece from Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood.

Now, back to Coach K’s movie genre analogy.

Below, I’ve highlighted some of the most action, drama and comedy-filled themes from the first half of Duke’s 2013–14 season. Of course, some of these scripts won’t be complete until conference play begins and adds some complexity to a few of these plots. But before that happens, the No. 9 Blue Devils have to face Elon University in Greensboro on New Year’s Eve for their last non-conference game of the regular season. Nevertheless, here are the joys, the buckets, the struggles and, yes, some vomit, from Duke’s first dozen games.

ACTION

The Jabari Parker-Rodney Hood effect— Hood (17.6 ppg), in fact, may be a smarter and more patient player than freshman star Parker (22.2 ppg), while Parker may be the most lethal. Duke made an adjustment from its first several games by sticking Parker in and around the paint rather than let him stalk the wings with the ball. That gave Hood more space to roam, get open, and call for the ball. When Parker can’t dribble and wiggle his way to a down-low bucket, Hood’s left-handed jumper is the next dependable option behind a Dawkins 3-pointer. Parker’s residence further down low also frees up Hood to crash the offensive glass, especially against the kind of zone defenses that teams have been using against the Blue Devils lately. Together, the two are shooting 54 percent from the field, 44 percent from three-point land, and are currently the best scoring duo in college basketball.

Andre all day—Andre Dawkins scored a season-high 20 points against EMU on 6-of-10 shooting from behind the arc, sinking his last five in a row. In mid-November, he dropped five three-pointers against Florida Atlantic University. In Duke’s two losses, however, Dawkins either did not play (then-No. 5 Kansas) or played very limited minutes (then-No. 4 Arizona). The only other time the Blue Devils faced a ranked team (then-No. 22 Michigan), they won, and Dawkins shot a perfect 2-for-2 from the arc in only 10 minutes. So, if Duke wants to win big games, Dawkins needs play at least 15-20 minutes. By now, teams have figured out that his court presence and shooter’s touch is way too dangerous to ignore, so whether he puts up double-digits or just teases the defense, Dawkins will remain a threat for the rest of the season.

DRAMA

Rasheed Sulaimon’s self-rediscovery—With the addition of three highly recruited freshmen and redshirt sophomore Rodney Hood, this year’s Duke roster suddenly ballooned into a breeding ground for a battle for playing time. Unfortunately, last year’s standout wingman sophomore guard, Rasheed Sulaimon, lost himself in the makeover—sometimes playing through an illness, but mostly just not playing (or practicing) well or with the same kind of acuity that he exhibited as a freshman. All of that changed on Dec. 19, when Duke played UCLA on the big stage in Madison Square Garden. Sulaimon’s stats weren’t All-American worthy (8 points, 4 assists, 3 turnovers), but there was something remarkably improved about his confidence, body language and enthusiasm. Sulaimon was back. Then, against EMU, Sulaimon continued his comeback—this time scoring 13 points on 9-of-11 free-throw shooting, 2-of-3 from the field. He also dished off a few assists—one of which was a pretty, no-look pass to Marshall Plumlee for a two-handed jam.

Alex Murphy says goodbye to Duke—It wasn’t a surprise when Duke made the announcement that redshirt sophomore Alex Murphy would be transferring. He needed to. We all wanted him to. As talented a player as Murphy is, he was rotting at the end of Coach K’s bench. His in-game flubs were mostly a result of his limited game time experience at Duke, and with even more top recruits coming in for the 2014–15 season, there was no way his situation would improve. His new home with the Florida Gators has already been warmed up by older brother Erik Murphy—who now plays for the Chicago Bulls—and, under head coach Billy Donovan, the agile Murphy will fit in perfectly with this flowering Gators team.

COMEDY

Rodney Hood throws up—Sports vomit humor doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. It happens in every sport, and can be caused by things like overexertion, illness, performance anxiety or a punch in the gut. Still, it’s funny to watch these fine-tuned athletes at their most vulnerable, stomach-emptying moment. Prior to tip-off against EMU, Rodney Hood left the court to throw up because of an illness. He didn’t make it back in time, so Coach K had to throw Andre Dawkins in the starting lineup at the last second. Three minutes later, Hood subbed in, missed a few shots then hammered down a put-back dunk off of a Parker miss. What wasn’t funny, however, was that Hood had to receive an IV during halftime. Then, in the first seven minutes of the second half, Hood drained a pair of threes as if nothing had happened. The comedy here is that EMU let a sick guy with barf on his breath hit some big shots.

The doomed “Free PJ” signs — The “#FreePJ” hashtag campaign officially ended on Dec. 20 when UNC announced that it would not seek reinstatement from the NCAA regarding the Tar Heel’s former junior guard, P.J. Hairston’s eligibility. It might have began when the Chapel Hill-based clothing brand, Thrill City, printed up a few T-shirts with “SCAM” written on the front in the style of the NCAA logo, and most notably worn by former Tar Heel, John Henson in an Instagram photo. But, the campaign reached its ugliest and most hilarious point during Dec. 16’s Duke–Gardner-Webb game when three Hairston sympathizers held up a couple of “Free PJ” signs from their seats inside Cameron Indoor Stadium. Almost immediately, a Duke fan grabbed one of the signs, ripped it to shreds, then threw it over the balcony. The other sign was later confiscated by security. 
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    Duke rolls past EMU and Coach K likens Duke's first half of the season to an action movie.

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Hatchell watches as Tar Heels outrun scrappy High Point

Posted by on Sat, Dec 21, 2013 at 4:57 PM

UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell watches her team from the de facto skybox.
CARMICHAEL ARENA/CHAPEL HILL UNC’s final game before Christmas turns out to be a very special occasion.

For the first time all season, Coach Sylvia Hatchell will watch her team play in person.

Hatchell, who will watch from the lower media box about 20 feet above the court, has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment for leukemia and isn’t supposed to get near big crowds.

In her absence the Tar Heels have been led by Hatchell’s 27-year veteran assistant Andrew Calder.

Today’s opponent is High Point, which actually leads the series 3-1 but hasn’t played the Tar Heels since the Carter Administration. The Panthers have a couple of local players on the squad in junior Ashante Richard from Northern Durham and freshman forward DeAnneshia Jackson from Harnett Central.

UNC is ranked No. 14 in the AP poll, and barring disaster is going to move up Monday following Wednesday’s 74-66 win over No. 10 South Carolina in Myrtle Beach.

The Tar Heels put six players in double figures for the second time this season and win 103-71.

Continue reading…

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    Tar Heels make case for Top 10 spot with another easy win.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Peters, Gray spark Duke to second-half romp over Albany

Posted by on Thu, Dec 19, 2013 at 9:45 PM

Haley Peters focuses on the hoop. Seated (l-r) are Barry Hastings, Mike Potter, Joe Johnson and Nolan Hayes.
  • Photo by Orin Day, courtesy DWHoops.com
  • Haley Peters focuses on the hoop. Seated (l-r) are Barry Hastings, Mike Potter, Joe Johnson and Nolan Hayes.
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Now we find out how this Duke team will respond to a hard loss.

The No. 2 Blue Devils had a very tough night less than 48 hours ago when they took an 83-61 drubbing in their long-anticipated meeting with No. 1 and defending national champion Connecticut.

Tonight’s opponent is Albany, a nice team from the America East Conference that suffered its first loss in nine games this season on Sunday at home against Quinnipiac.

The Great Danes’ coach is Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, who was on Joanne P. McCallie’s staff when the current Duke mentor was at Michigan State.

Duke plays an awful first half but recovers easily, rolling to an 80-51 win.

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    Duke bounces back from tough loss with big second half.

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Driver, driver, driver, driver, driver, driver, driver, driver: notes on UNC Mens' Basketball losing at home to Texas

Posted by on Thu, Dec 19, 2013 at 9:39 AM

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.

Continue reading…

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    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."

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Connecticut gets ahead big early and Duke doesn't come back

Posted by on Tue, Dec 17, 2013 at 10:53 PM

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.

Tricia Liston drives on Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.

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.

Continue reading…

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    Blue Devils have another tough night against vaunted Huskies.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tuesday Night Special: Duke bench shows up for 79-69 win over Michigan

Posted by on Wed, Dec 4, 2013 at 2:40 AM

CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM—Ten minutes before tip-off of the Duke-Michigan men’s basketball game—a herky-jerky contest the 10th-ranked Blue Devils won with relative ease, 79–69—the Wolverines, ranked No. 22 in the nation, gathered territorially at center court, as if to claim Cameron as their own. During the national anthem, they left the sidelines and stood spaced out across the court riot police-style, ready to face down rebel scum. As the home team was introduced, Michigan reformed their warrior’s circle at the foul line, ringing their leader Mitch McGary, the 6-foot-10, 255-pound sophomore, who strutted and yelled, prowling like a large dog in search of something good to pee on. They’d come to Durham to fight for ground, claim it inch by inch, and stick their flag in Duke’s gullet for their first big win of the year.

Then McGary missed his first two shots, both airballs, Michigan shot 31 percent for 20 minutes, and Duke reached halftime with the 10-point edge the game would end with. “They’re a championship level program,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, as if trying to convince the press corps after the game, who’d all witnessed the same botched Michigan pick and rolls and missed backdoors that in more capable hands had plagued the Blue Devils in games against Arizona and Vermont. “Our defense was outstanding tonight.”

It was a strange low-scoring affair between two normally prolific offenses until the second half, when Duke’s Quinn Cook and Michigan’s Caris LeVert started trading baskets, LeVert dropping 20, Cook 24, including two dazzlers, a beautiful up-and-under from the left and a double spin on the other side.

Some of the biggest crowd cheers of the night came for the Duke bench, whom fans seemed delighted to see, like regulars seeing new dishes appear on their favorite restaurant’s menu. The 7-feet-tall Marshall Plumlee spent just six minutes in the game, but it seemed longer, as he ran conspicuously, blocked shots, grabbed three rebounds, scored two points and checked his tendency to foul. More roars went up for Matt Jones, who hounded Michigan’s best scorer, playing defense and rebounding as if these were things he liked to do. Amile Jefferson didn't miss a shot, scored eight, got one block, two assists and a steal, and yanked six boards from the ether like a bullfrog nailing flies.

And then there was Andre Dawkins, who checked into the game with the Duke lead down to six. Within 60 seconds he’d hit two three-pointers to put his team back up by 12, trying to look serious and hide his joyful smile as he headed back to the huddle. “Dre all day!” cheered the crowd. They've had five years to refine this personalized cheer for Dawkins, whose hard-won and inconsistent triumphs they seem to relish the most. A few minutes later he left the game after getting torched by LeVert for a layup, reminding his vocal supporters why they don’t see Dawkins more. He finished with eight points and a steal. “I’m really happy for him,” said his coach.

In all, nine Duke players logged more than five minutes, just four days after a smaller Blue Devil rotation seemed worn down in the second half against Arizona, who beat Duke by six.

One player, however was missing against Michigan: the enigmatic Rasheed Sulaimon, who was not injured or sick or even grumpy looking yet did not play for the first time this year, after an Arizona game when his ill-advised drives into traffic were blocked brutally, again and again. He sat on the bench, cheering his team, his long legs folded in front of him. When he stood to huddle, he looked not unlike LeVert: both 6-foot-5 slashers, long-armed, hard to stop when they get going. As Michigan’s offense sputtered, LeVert found his place and role, but with Duke’s offense working fine without him, Sulaimon seems lost. “He has to play better than the guys who played tonight,” Coach K said curtly, when asked about the young star’s absence. “He contributed great from the bench,” he added. “I’m glad you asked about him.”

[Box score]

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Who’s Afraid of Jabari Parker? (after Duke’s one point win over Vermont)

Posted by on Mon, Nov 25, 2013 at 9:53 AM

CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM—Five minutes into the second half of Duke’s weird 91-90 win over the 1-4 Catamounts of the University of Vermont, Jabari Parker, the 6-foot-8, 235-pound future NBA All-Star, stole the ball from a green-clad guard named Candon Rusin, loped down court, and dunked delicately with two hands, as if dropping a bomb down a foxhole. The crowd went nuts. Vermont called a timeout. The score was 61-49, Duke.

“Right after that,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski post-game, “was our worst.” He looked and sounded like a Michelin chef who’d just eaten three microwaved corndogs. “Those are the kind of situations when we show our immaturity.”

Ten minutes later, Vermont led by 3. They’d been getting layups all night long, as Duke’s defenders failed to rotate back under the basket, leaving dudes wide open. Now Vermont started making jumpers. The cheering section behind the Catamounts bench lost their mind and kept losing it, lead by one young brown-haired soprano whose whoop seemed to cut through Cameron’s nervous up-and-downs of frightened hush and roar.

Vermont senior Sandro Carissimo was the first player who seemed to believe, directing traffic, driving hard, drawing fouls, hitting shots. Hector Harold was next, a 6-foot-7 junior coming off the bench to drop 24 points on Duke’s Rodney Hood and Parker. Other men with excellent names like Clancy Rugg haunted the unprotected rim, helping Vermont shoot 65 percent from the floor.

Meanwhile, Blue Devil veterans Rasheed Sulaimon and Tyler Thornton vied for world's dumbest foul, as they slide-tackled jump-shooters at the three-point line. Defense was rarely performed, and even the occasional Parker blocked shot was promptly wasted by Vermont’s weak side rebound and score.

In the end, Duke survived this game at the line, forcing shots, drawing fouls and making 25 of 30 free throws. Parker had 26 points and Hood had 22, including some dazzlers, but nobody was fooled.

"From watching the old stuff,” Parker told the Fayetteville Observer back in early November, recalling Duke teams of yore, “they always brought energy. They were never comfortable, and teams were afraid of them. I think nowadays, teams aren't afraid of us but are more highly anticipated in looking forward to beating us. We need to have that mentality back from the late ’90s where teams were afraid to play and schedule us."

With 11 seconds left in the game, the score was 90-89 Duke as Vermont’s Rusin stepped to the line to try an extra point to finish a four-point play and tie things up. Cameron Indoor Stadium seemed to lift off its supports in the din of people: students, season ticket holders, the casual fan who’d spotted this game on the schedule and knew they could score tickets. An 80-something guy there to cross Cameron off his bucket list, the little blue haired boy in spandex sitting courtside, a crew of Durham locals screaming their heads off in the Duke student section. The Vermont fans shook their fists like Visigoths poised to sack the Roman Empire. Every basketball player has imagined that moment of standing on the edge of history, stepping up for one last shot.

Vermont’s Rusin made the free throw and tied the game. Hood drew the foul and hit one of two. And then Rusin had the ball again, driving the left baseline, reaching out one long arm to let it fly. The ball was still in his hand when the buzzer sounded and the game-ending red light on the basket lit, and he could only watch as the ball floated through the air and nestled softly through the net.

“It feels like a loss,” said Hood. “Unacceptable,” said Coach K. “It’s like telling a kid not to do something and he keeps doing it,” said Duke's Quinn Cook.

More than an hour after the game had ended, Hood and Cook and their coach were nowhere to be seen, but the Vermont players were back on the court at Cameron, hugging their parents and fans while the stadium crew cleaned up. Their bus was waiting, but they didn’t want to leave.

(Box Score)

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    Krzyzewski looked and sounded like a Michelin chef who’d just eaten three microwaved corn dogs.

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Wolfpack foils Tulane for first big win of Moore's tenure

Posted by on Sun, Nov 24, 2013 at 6:31 PM

Lakeesa Daniel drives to the hoop against Tulanes Chinwe Duru. States No. 3 is Miah Spencer.
  • Photo by Alexis Baird
  • Lakeesa Daniel drives to the hoop against Tulane's Chinwe Duru. State's No. 3 is Miah Spencer.
REYNOLDS COLISEUM/RALEIGH This time it gets serious.

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.

Continue reading…

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    State improves to 5-0 for first time since '02.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hood's shots and Parker's blocks give Duke the edge in 83-74 win over ECU

Posted by on Wed, Nov 20, 2013 at 8:22 AM

nit_logo.jpg
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM—“This team is not gonna go away,” is what Coach Krzyzewski said to his No. 6 Duke Blue Devils during Tuesday night’s second round of NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament play against a relentless Eastern Carolina University squad.

Of course, he gave this warning sometime after the Blue Devils opened the first half with an 11-of-11 field-goal shooting barrage. While their early perfection suggested that this game would be their third, 30-plus point victory in five days, ECU—led by guards Prince Williams and Antonio Robinson—eventually rallied from behind and cut Duke’s lead to one point midway through the second half.

Even if Coach K thought that the atmosphere in Cameron was ruined by questionable NIT ticketing procedures, the two, large, and rowdy ECU fan sections still couldn’t outdo the Cameron Crazies. Pirates head coach Jeff Lebo played for four years as a Tar Heel underneath Dean Smith, so that might have given ECU cause to increase the octaves. However, as many times as ECU tried to make a run to take the lead or tie the game, these things would happen: Quinn Cook would get his shooting groove back, Jabari Parker would make back-to-back blocks (two of his six on the night), Parker would get a rebound and weave coast to coast through the whole ECU team for a dunk, or Rodney Hood—who scored a game-high 30 points—would sneak his way to the rim for a layup.

ECU didn’t go away. Duke put them away.

Sulaimon’s defense convinced me of this. The NCAA’s new hand-checking rules give quick ball handlers like ECU’s Prince Williams many more opportunities to expose the weaknesses of slower, less agile defenders. If an on-the-ball defender can no longer use his hands to keep his man in front of him, that defender must rely solely on his feet and positioning. Sulaimon is a master at this—the zig-zag drill, the shifting on a dime, the shuffle. In the 22 minutes he played, he stuck with Williams, keeping him flustered and tired enough to throw off ECU’s offense.

Here, (at least on defense) we saw flickers of the Sulaimon from last season. This season, on offense, the sophomore slasher has played like an outcast to this new Duke system, which is currently being ran by Hood and Parker’s magic. He may not know where he fits in. But Sulaimon doesn’t need to touch the ball as much as those guys do, he just needs to look less clueless and less anxious when he does get a touch.

Following Duke’s first-round win over UNC Asheville, Coach Krzyzewski confirmed that Rasheed Sulaimon was still playing through a lingering illness and had been for the last two games. “He didn’t play very well. That was pretty obvious, right?” Coach K said to me after the game. “You don’t even have to quote me on that. You can just make an astute comment. But I’ll verify it. I’ll have your back.”

It wasn’t as obvious tonight against ECU, but Sulaimon still needs to have Duke’s back on both ends of the court.

Next week, Duke (4-1) will head to Madison Square Garden in New York to play against Alabama (3-1) in the semifinal round of the NIT Season Tip-Off. But first, the Blue Devils will play another home against University of Vermont, on Sunday, Nov. 24 at 6:30 p.m.

Click here for the Duke/ECU box score.
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    Jabari Parker's defense and Rodney Hood's career-high 30 points help Duke escape an upset to ECU.

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I find myself not caring about any of this. Amazing how such a "strong, proud, powerful people" could lose the …

by 10yearwalk on A short history of the Dutch in South Africa, 1652-2010 (Sports)

Gaffe-r is right...he f8cks up all the time. "A lot of success over the last 3 years"....less smoke blows out …

by DonGarbageBlows on Colin Clarke returns as head coach of Carolina RailHawks (Sports)

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