Friday, February 27, 2009

Comparing Davidson stars: Curry vs. Gerdy

Stephen Curry needs 30 points against Georgia Southern on Saturday to become Davidson's all-time leading scorer, surpassing John Gerdy, who'll be in the stands to watch. Watch for our profile of Gerdy, who has lived an amazing life, in Saturday's Observer and online at

So how do Gerdy and Curry compare?

Physically, Gerdy was 6-foot-5 to Curry’s 6-3. Curry is quicker, but Gerdy was good at creating space for his shots with head and ball fakes. Curry has benefited from a running game that allows him to score often in transition. The undermanned Davidson teams of Gerdy’s day slowed the game down, costing him some shots.

“It’s hard to compare them, they played in two different eras,” says Ernie Reigel, who played point guard to Gerdy’s shooting guard for three seasons and is now a local lawyer who attends many Davidson games. “Besides the short shorts and sideburns, in our time they didn’t play the hand-in-glove defense they do now. Steph has a quicker shot than Gerd did, and he would average more points if he had played back then.

“Of course, John didn’t have the advantage of the three-point line. If we had had the three, I don’t think anybody else besides John would have ever shot, and none of us would have minded. His range was amazing.

“John was 6-5 and about 200 pounds and could jump well, so he could shoot over people. Most guards back then were 6-2 at the most. Gerd was big and he was strong. Of course, Steph has better coaching than Gerd had. I don’t think we got the most out of a lot of our players.

“Steph is also being guarded more closely; I see more trick defenses used on Steph. Steph gets a lot of points out of transition; Gerd could have done that if we had played that way.”

Johnathan Rhyne, a Lincolnton Lawyer and a team manager in Gerdy’s day, said, “People don’t realize how special he was. If he played today, and you put him on one side of the court and Curry on the other, it would be completely unfair.”

-- Stan Olson

Would Ol' Roy Take a Paycut to Help Economy?

CHAPEL HILL - On the heels of UConn coach Jim Calhoun’s tirade when asked if he would would be willing to give some of his salary back to help in these harsh economic times, North Carolina coach Roy Williams gave a more level — if lengthy — response to a similar question posed Friday.

Williams’ salary, which averages more than $2 million per year, is not paid from state funds. But in a nutshell, the Hall-fo-Fame coach said that he is more sensitive than ever to the harsh economy because his son, Scott, recently lost his job with Wachovia Securities; that he continues to give back to the University via building projects and even video equipment; and that he really can’t give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’
answer to the question.

Here’s the full text of the question and his response:

Q: Would you be willing to take a paycut providing that it would help the University system? I am aware of the fact that your salary doesn’t come through the same revenue of other state employees, but even just as a gesture…would you be willing to do that?

WILLIAMS: “Well, I think first of all, there’s no way to answer that question. You way ‘yeah,’ but then somebody’s going to call today and say, ‘give it all to me back.’ And if you say no, you come across as being insensitive. Right now, I’m the most sensitive person in this room to the state of our nation’s economy. My son called yesterday, and it was a great day because they just told him he was finished.

He’s a bond trader for Wachovia Securities, and it was bought by Wells Fargo, and Wells Fargo doesn’t do what Wachovia Securities did.
So I’m more sensitive than anybody in here; I’ve got a son that’s part of the nation’s unemployed. Now he’s a cocky little rascal that think he’s going to have a job by tonight. I said, ‘Son, people aren’t hiring, they’re letting people go.’ ….

It’s a tough time. I’m also sensitive in that I do give a great deal of money to the University every year. I am sensitive to the fact that the initial contract I signed in the spring of 2003, that it was in the contract that we would revisit and renegotiate my contract after the second year. Second year was a pretty good year, we won the national championship, I never asked to have it renegotiated. In fact, I forgot about it. The athletic director came to me six months after we were supposed to revisit, and I said don’t worry about it.
The next year, 2006, I had maybe the most satisfying year I’ve ever had as a coach. I was National Coach of the Year, and he asked me whether I wanted to renegotiate again. And I said I was fine, I was satisfied with it. And we did something the year after that.

I don’t think I’m in the business to make money. If you convince me that me giving something up would help somebody, then we would really have a great discussion. Because I’m willing to do a lot of things; I’m not willing to stand up here and say ‘yes,’ and I’m not willing to stand up here and say ‘no’ because I think it’s a question that there’s no good answer. I just know from my buddy Jimmy Calhoun that I’m not going to tell you to shut up.

These are tough times, these are times that nobody knows. I can look around the room and know that it’s affected the people in the room right here. But it is a fact … I am not paid by state funds, and we’ve had some success, and we’ve made a lot of money in men’s basketball. And if we start losing games and losing money, they’re not going to ask me to give any of the money back, they’re going to fire me. And that’s something else I understand.

But again … I don’t believe there is anybody who is more sensitive to it than I am. I do believe I give a great deal of money whether it’s Carolina Covenant or other programs here in our department or to build other buildings over there, or to help build baseball stadiums.
So I’m very proud of what my wife and our family have done there, and I’m going to continue doing it. We have video equipment in our office that used by … six other teams here that I bought. If they fire me tomorrow, I don’t think I’m going to give a darn about that video system. It was a system that was good for other people, and there wasn’t necessarily a place in the budget for it, so I bought it. And I could care less – if they fire me, I have 13 free weeks at the Maui Marriott. And I am not going to give a darn about that video equipment at that time, so they can keep the sucker."

— Robbi Pickeral

Pack PGs: Room for more improvement

On Tuesday, N.C. State assistant coach Pete Strickland was listing the reasons for the Wolfpack’s improved play over the last three weeks.

As explained in a story in Thursday’s Raleigh News & Observer, the Wolfpack’s big lineup, eight-player rotation and faster pace have played major roles. Improvement by N.C. State’s point guards makes all those things possible.

“It’s funny how much gets back to our point guards,” Strickland said.

Better ball handling by the point guards has made it possible for N.C. State to play three post players instead of having an extra ball handler in the game. Javi Gonzalez and Farnold Degand have beaten out freshman Julius Mays to earn spots in the rotation as the Wolfpack is starting to establish continuity on offense.

Gonzalez and Degand are largely responsible for N.C. State’s increase in fast break production because they’re pushing the ball up the floor better.

Their contributions in an 85-78 loss at No. 13-ranked Wake Forest were huge. They helped the Wolfpack stay to the very end on the road against a ranked team desperate for a win to stop a slide.

Gonzalez scored eight points with six assists. Degand came off the bench for 12 points and five assists, attacking the Deacons on the fast break.

Early in the season, such production (20 points, 11 assists, five turnovers) from the point guard position seemed an almost impossible goal for N.C. State. But there’s still room for more improvement.

Late in the first half N.C. State had cut a 15-point deficit to six when Gonzalez made two consecutive careless turnovers. The Wolfpack trailed by eight at halftime and lost some of its momentum.

In the final minutes, Degand missed two free throws and fired a 3-point attempt that didn’t even come close to hitting the rim. Although the shot was open, that was a time to recognize that he’s a better penetrator than 3-point shooter and pass up that shot.

They’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go. That’s why it’s possible to see the Wolfpack getting even better in the coming weeks, and why this team could use a bid to the NIT for more experience to build for the future. – Ken Tysiac

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Duke's Smith out indefinitely with concussion

Duke sophomore reserve guard Nolan Smith is out indefinitely after suffering a mild concussion during Wednesday night's 78-67 win at Maryland, Duke officials announced Thursday afternoon.

"Nolan’s condition improved overnight, but we are going to proceed cautiously,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement. "Our medical staff will continue to monitor his progress and he will return to the rotation when he is fully healthy. Nolan is an important part of this team and we are looking forward to his return."

Smith is averaging 8.5 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. Duke resumes play Saturday at Virginia Tech. - Ken Tysiac

Curry's in the running for, well, everything

Now it's the Oscar Robertson Trophy--Davidson guard Stephen Curry is among 15 finalists for the award, which goes to the U.S. Basketball Writers Association's National Player of the Year. He is also one of 30 mid-season finalists for the Naismith Trophy, the Player of the Year chosen by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.

Combine those with his mid-season candidacy for the Wooden Award (another top player selection) and his being a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, given annually to the country's best point guard. The Wooden will be presented in Los Angeles in April; the other three at the Final Four in Detroit.

Curry, despite slipping a bit of late, still leads the country in scoring at 28.3 ppg. He's tenth in steals (2.6 pg) and 21st in assists (5.8 pg).--Stan Olson

Duke's defense not healed yet

Duke’s defense didn’t get out to a promising start Wednesday night.

Its last four opponents had shot at least 54 percent from the field, and Maryland seemed on its way to doing the same. The Terrapins penetrated almost at will to score 28 of their 34 points and all but one of their 15 field goals in the lane in the first half.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said that wasn’t all bad.

“That means we’re taking away the three,” Krzyzewski said.
Indeed, despite shooting 53.6 percent from the field, Maryland was 0-for-3 from 3-point range in the first half, while Duke shot 5-for-12 to forge a 34-34 halftime tie.

In the second half, Maryland shot just 40.9 percent to finish at 48 percent for the game. The Terrapins did make three 3-pointers in five second-half attempts. But one came when they were playing 5-on-4 because Duke’s Nolan Smith was hurt at the other end.

Two others came on difficult shots at the end of the shot clock. Those two shots disappointed Krzyzewski.

“I tell our guys, at the end of the shot clock, a kid has to take it, so you cannot let up,” Krzyzewski said. “The coach wants him to hit it, but the coach wants him to take it. And you have to hunker down in those situations because it’s a freebie, and those are huge shots. The game could have changed there, because all of a sudden you see a couple of those go in at the end of the clocks, and you think, ‘Maybe tonight’s not the night.’ ”

Overall, Duke held Maryland to the lowest shooting percentage of any opponent in five games. That was an improvement, but it’s too soon to declare Duke’s defense healed.

Maryland point guard Greivis Vasquez scored just two points with no assists in the second half while playing just six minutes because of foul trouble. Four days earlier, he’d scored 35 with 10 assists in an overtime win over North Carolina.

The game could have turned out differently if the Terrapins’ top scorer and set-up man played most of the second half. So No. 7-ranked Duke still has something to prove with another road game coming up Saturday.

Once again, the opponent, Virginia Tech, is desperate for a marquee win over a top team to attract the attention of the committee that selects the NCAA Tournament field. The Hokies have Malcolm Delaney, who’s a skilled penetrator and scorer like Vasquez, and it’s difficult to imagine the opposing point guard getting into foul trouble in two straight games. – Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

ACC gets chance to court new fans

Although the ACC would prefer to have its basketball tournament sold out, having tickets on sale to the general public for the first time in 43 years could have some benefits.

Surely there are fans who aren’t members of an ACC school’s booster club who have wanted to attend the ACC Tournament for a long time. This will be a chance to welcome some of them to the conference’s greatest championship and grow the league’s fan base, particularly in Atlanta.

The tournament will be held in the Georgia Dome on March 12-15, and fans’ inability or unwillingness to travel during the recession has prevented schools’ booster clubs from selling out their ticket allotments.

Some ACC traditionalists probably will seize upon this as evidence that the tournament should never leave North Carolina and the ACC should have never expanded from nine to 12 schools.

The traditionalists have valid arguments against expansion. This isn’t one of them.

In 2001, the tournament was sensational at the Georgia Dome, setting conference tournament records for total attendance (182,525), per session attendance (36,505) and single session attendance (40,083).

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said the atmosphere reminded him of a Final Four. Duke and Maryland played an unforgettable ACC semifinal game there before meeting again in the national semifinals.

Taking the tournament to Atlanta again following the success eight years ago didn’t seem to be much of a risk, especially with the Dome being reconfigured for a slightly smaller crowd of 36,000.

When they awarded this tournament to Atlanta, there was no way to anticipate that the United States would be suffering through its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Sure, the tournament would have had a better chance of being a sellout if it were held in a smaller arena in Greensboro or Charlotte this year. But the extra seats in Atlanta also represented a bigger revenue opportunity that probably would have been fully realized in any other year. – Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

ACC RPI report for Feb. 24

Virginia Tech (No. 66 in the RPI) dropped out of bubble range with their third straight ACC loss, 67-65 at home to Florida State on Saturday.

Close losses are nothing new for the Hokies, who have lost seven games by four points or less. With one or two of those close losses breaking the other way, the Hokies wouldn't be in this position — on the outside looking in.

Maryland's (52) win over UNC jumped the Terps nine spaces from last week's RPI. With wins over the probable Big Ten champ (Michigan State) and ACC champ (UNC), how can the Terps be left out of the field of 65? I hear you, Morgan State, but in general, the committee values big wins more than bad losses.

Florida State (17) jumped Wake Forest (18), which is just 4-5 since starting 16-0.

And one parting thought on Georgia Tech's craptacular season: the Yellow Jackets are 1-12 against arguably the easiest ACC schedule.

They will play Duke (already lost) and UNC (on Saturday) only once each and they got three games against Virginia and N.C. State.

Truly an embarrassing effort, in a string of embarrassing efforts, for coach Paul Hewitt, who will finish with a losing record for the third time in four years.


top 50
UNC 3 10-3 6-1
Duke 4 8-4 6-3
Clemson 8 8-4 5-3
Florida State 17 8-4 4-5
Wake Forest 18 7-5 5-3


top 50
Miami 46 5-8 2-7
Maryland 52 6-6 3-7
Boston College 55 7-6 3-7


top 50
Virginia Tech 66 6-6 2-5
N.C. State 90 5-7 2-7
Virginia 100 3-9 1-8
Georgia Tech 161 1-12 1-6

A shooter (Curry) talks about confidence

Stephen Curry is in something of a shooting slump, largely because of a sprained ankle that is now pretty much healed. But Curry had the ankle in the back of his mind Saturday as he shot 6-for-23 against Butler, including 2-of-13 from behind the arc. He started that game zero-for-8 from the floor, and at some point, you can't help thinking about that next shot...

"If you don't make your first couple, you definitely start thinking a little bit," he said. "You try not to as much as possible but that's natural. I don't think it translated too far down the stretch in the game; I do have a short memory no matter what. But you start thinking and playing mind games with yourself, like 'what am I going to do differently on the next shot?'

"I thought that happened a little bit."

Curry complimented Butler's defensive effort.
"They stay between you and the basket and make you make a play, and their help defense is pretty remarkable. It forces you to be disciplined and make easy plays, and if you get an open shot, you've got to take it and you've got to make it. We didn't do that."

Curry will try it again on Wednesday night against UNC Greensboro in Belk Arena, and should be 100 percent healthy. He said he was "in the high 90s" on Saturday.

"I guess when you come off an injury like that, you don't want to push it too hard," he said. "You don't want to make a sharp sudden movement for fear it's going to hurt. That's probably why I wasn't 100 percent. I thought my ankle held up well."--Stan Olson

Duke-Wake tops 5 ACC games to remember

After Duke defeated Wake Forest 101-91 on Sunday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Charlotte Observer colleague Ron Green Jr. confessed that he was glad he made the drive up from Charlotte for the game.

The intensity of both teams – and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski – was incredible. The crowd was good, and for the most part the play on offense was at an extremely high level.

Suffice to say, it was much better basketball than Ron had seen on recent trips to Atlanta to see N.C. State and Wake Forest play an awful Georgia Tech team.

I’ve been fortunate to see far more good games in person than Ron this season, and Wake Forest-Duke is at the top of the list. Here are my top five:

5. N.C. State 84, Miami 81, OT: After Farnold Degand fouled out, backup point guard Julius Mays came off the bench and promptly hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to win for the Wolfpack. The quality of play wasn’t fantastic because Miami had played an overtime game two nights earlier, but both teams were extremely competitive, and N.C. State saved itself from a 1-7 ACC start.

4. Wake Forest 70, Duke 68: The first meeting between these two teams had some controversy, as forward Gerald Henderson was called for traveling after grabbing a rebound when officials should have called a foul on the Deacons in the final seconds. Wake Forest got the ball underneath the basket instead, and L.D. Williams passed to James Johnson after a Duke defensive mix-up for the winning layup just before time expired.

3. Marquette 68, N.C. State 65: N.C. State nearly pulled off its biggest nonconference win of the season, but Marquette demonstrated why it’s one of the best teams in the Big East and the nation. Dominic James came off a ball screen and pulled up for a winning 3-pointer with four-tenths of a second left as his boyhood hero, former Duke player Jay Williams, provided TV analysis at courtside.

2. North Carolina 101, Duke 87: Duke was fantastic on offense while building a 52-44 halftime lead. Ty Lawson was better in the second half, scoring 21 of his 25 points after halftime while being taunted by the Duke students to move the Tar Heels into sole possession of first place in the ACC.
The heat was almost unbearable, the crowd was deafening and Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green finished their careers having played in four wins at Cameron.

1. Duke 101, Wake Forest 91: At one point in the second half, Wake Forest scored on 13 of 14 possessions, drawing within two points after trailing by 22 with 14 minutes elapsed in the game.
But with a career-high 35 points, Duke’s Gerald Henderson had perhaps his best game ever. And the Blue Devils won a game they simply couldn’t afford to lose. – Ken Tysiac

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wellman on committee a plus for ACC

ACC coaches and officials are not going to advertise this.

But at least some of them will be extremely happy that Wake Forest athletics director Ron Wellman has been selected to the Division I men’s basketball committee starting next season.

The committee’s biggest job is selecting the field for the NCAA Tournament.

No one from the ACC has served on the committee since Virginia athletics director Craig Littlepage finished his tenure in August of 2007. And privately, some in the ACC were concerned that the conference wasn’t getting as much consideration as it should when the NCAA Tournament field was selected.

There was a great deal of disappointment in the ACC last season when Virginia Tech failed to gain an at-large bid after finishing with a 9-7 conference record. Despite having the nation’s top conference RPI last season, the ACC got just four teams into the NCAA Tournament.

Although nobody on the committee serves as a representative of their particular conference, it can’t hurt the ACC to have somebody in the room who’s seen the league’s teams up close.
N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said it’s “tremendously important” to have somebody from the ACC on the committee.

“It’s one of those things where, sort of like players, you never really know a player until you coach him,” Lowe said. “This is the same type of situation. I don’t think people will know our league the way he knows our league and will know our players. He can give them a great insight all about our league and all about our players. I think it’s great for us.”

Wellman is one of the ACC’s most influential athletics directors and has a great deal of clout throughout college athletics. He has gained respect for hiring Jim Grobe to invigorate the football program and retaining Dino Gaudio to keep the basketball team stable after Skip Prosser’s death.

There couldn’t be a better ACC representative on the committee, and people in the conference are happy to have Wellman getting ready to serve. - Ken Tysiac

Why didn't Duke start Williams sooner?

Now that freshman wing Elliot Williams is proving his worth, Duke fans are asking why coach Mike Krzyzewski wasn’t playing him sooner.

On the ACC coaches’ teleconference Monday, Krzyzewski explained why.

“He’s a freshman so he’s had to learn,” Krzyzewski said. “In probably in our first dozen games he was averaging 14, 15 minutes a game, but that’s not conference play.

“I think he’s really grown as a result of practice and has had a great attitude. If he was at the level of play he is now, early, then you would have seen it. What he’s done, is he’s worked really hard, and now he’s at that level of play.

“Because we made a change he was given the opportunity to now use the skill he has. He didn’t have that, early, and the knowledge of how to play. He’s done a great job. He’s given us a huge lift.”

In two games since entering the starting lineup, Williams has played 31 and 32 minutes.

He has scored 11 points in each game and provided strong ball pressure in the Blue Devils’ man-to-man defense. In a 101-91 defeat of Wake Forest on Sunday, Williams had three steals in the first 130 seconds to establish Duke as an aggressor in its full-court press.

Krzyzewski said a steady progression of improvement in practice, rather than one event, convinced him Williams was ready.

“In order for me to make that change, I’d have to see something for a period of time which gives me the confidence he is going to contribute in that role,” Krzyzewski said. “That’s a very big role he has. He’s going to guard the ball.”

CIAA tournament pairings


Women: No.8 Livingstone vs No.9 Virginia Union, 7 p.m

Women: No.7 St. Augustine’s vs No.10 Elizabeth City State, 9 p.m.


Women: No. 4 Virginia State vs No.5 St. Paul’s, 11 a.m.

Women: No.3 Johnson C. Smith vs No. 6 Shaw, 1 p.m.

Women: No.1 Bowie State vs No. 8/9, 3 p.m.

Women: No.2 Fayetteville State vs No. 7/10, 5 p.m.

Men: No.7 Virginia State vs No.10 St. Paul’s, 7 p.m.

Men: No.8 Livingstone vs No.9 Fayetteville State, 9 p.m.


Men: No.4 Bowie State vs No.5 St. Augustine’s, 1 p.m.

Men: No.2 Elizabeth City State vs No.7/10, 3 p.m.

Men: No.3 Johnson C. Smith vs No.6 Shaw, 7 p.m.

Men: No.1 Virginia Union vs No. 8/9, 9 p.m.


Women: 1 p.m.

Women: 3 p.m.

Men: 7 p.m.

Men: 9 p.m.


Women: Championship, 5 p.m.

Men: Championship, 8 p.m.

-- The men's quarterfinals, men's and women's semifinals and championship games will be televised on ESPN Classic and ESPN2. For more tournament information visit,

Williams' emergence helps Scheyer, too

In the excitement over freshman Elliot Williams, it’s easy to lose sight of the other player who seems to be benefiting from Williams’ role as a new starter for Duke.
Williams has played 31 and 32 minutes and scored 11 points each in the two games since coach Mike Krzyzewski has put him in the starting lineup. His three steals in the first 130 seconds Sunday helped set Duke’s aggressive tone in a 101-91 defeat of Wake Forest at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Putting Williams in the game also caused a shuffle in the backcourt, as Greg Paulus went to the bench and Jon Scheyer moved from shooting guard to point guard to take Paulus’ place.

Scheyer scored 18 points at St. John’s on Thursday and poured in a career-high 30 points against the Deacons. His five 3-pointers against Wake Forest tied a career high.

He has an easier time scoring in the lane and shooting over the defender on the perimeter because he is being guarded by smaller players. On Sunday, for example, he was guarded by 6-foot-2 Jeff Teague rather than 6-4 L.D. Williams. Scheyer is 6-5.

“I think it does help him, because once he gets rid of the ball, then he’s guarded by a point,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. “That’s something we looked at to get his offense going. He had one turnover (against Wake Forest) and I think none at St. John’s. He’s played two games, brought the ball up and has one turnover. That’s pretty good.” – Ken Tysiac

Pack's future looking brighter

It’s easy to get so caught up in N.C. State’s late-season surge that you forget to look ahead to the future.

But the events of the last couple weeks, as the Wolfpack has won three of its last four ACC games, bode well for N.C. State (15-10, 5-7 ACC) beyond this season.

Early in the season, it appeared as though the losses of seniors Ben McCauley and Courtney Fells would be catastrophic. Junior Brandon Costner has yet to announce whether he will return for next season or return pro, so N.C. State might be losing three 1,000-point career scorers after the season.

The emergence of some younger players over the last few weeks has demonstrated that N.C. State could be competitive next season even without those three players.

Sophomore center Tracy Smith has averaged 14.5 points and 9.3 rebounds over the last four games and could be even more formidable as a scorer if he develops a mid-range game in the offseason.

Freshman C.J. Williams has scored 10, 11 and a team-high 16 points in the Wolfpack’s last three wins, cementing his status as a worthy heir to Fells’ starting shooting guard position.
Williams struggled on offense earlier in the season but has made himself a dangerous 3-point shooter.

“Playing at a new level, I had to adjust at the beginning of the year,” Williams said. “It’s a lot more difficult, a lot faster and a lot stronger. So now that I’ve adjusted to it, I’m able to help my team win.”

Junior forward Dennis Horner has averaged 12 points off the bench over the last three games. During one sequence that could have been a preview of what next season’s starting frontcourt could accomplish, Smith scored on three early-second half possessions, then made an inside-out pass to Horner for a 3-pointer against Virginia.

“I’m more confident in my shot,” Horner said. “Guys in the post are getting doubled teamed and kicking it out, and I’m knocking it down for them.”

Even if Costner doesn’t return, N.C. State now looks like it should have a dependable starting lineup in 2009-10. Smith, Williams and Horner appear ready to take on more prominent roles.

It would seem point guards Javi Gonzalez, Farnold Degand and Julius Mays, all of whom return for next season, can’t possibly get worse during the offseason.

A couple promising freshmen from Georgia – guard Lorenzo Brown and forward Richard Howell – are expected to provide immediate help. It’s starting to look like a rotation that could perhaps challenge for a .500 record in the ACC.

That’s a good sign for long-suffering N.C. State fans after the direction of the program seemed in doubt following this season’s slow start.

“Those guys are our future,” coach Sidney Lowe said of the recent emergence of Williams and Horner. “It’s good to see them being a big part of it now, and playing well and gaining that confidence now. So going into next year, they should feel good about themselves. Those two guys have been so important to us coming off the bench, and on both ends, offensively and defensively.

“They know where to be. They’re never in the wrong positions on defense. They know what we’re doing. And then obviously offensively, especially if they’re knocking down those shots, that’s really big for us. We don’t win these games if we don’t have those guys coming off there and giving us that productivity.” - Ken Tysiac

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Curry to play against Butler

Davidson guard Stephen Curry warmed up with his teammates and looks good to go in today's game with No.21 Butler at Belk Arena. Curry had injured his left ankle at Furman last Saturday and missed Wednesday's game with The Citadel, which turned into an 18-point loss.

Wildcats coaches will watch Curry closely, and any twinge in the ankle will result in his being taken out of the game.--Stan Olson

Friday, February 20, 2009

Davidson RPI slip-slidin' away

Davidson's shot at an NCAA Tournament at-large bid almost vanished with Wednesday's 64-46 loss to The Citadel. The Wildcats, who had hovered around No. 30 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), a spot that virtually guarantees an at-large spot, for weeks, have been slipping recently, and entered this week at No. 50.

While The Citadel has been hot over the past month, the Bulldogs entered the week ranked 175th in the RPI, which means that Davidson's 18-point loss at home to a team that far down the list could have disastrous consequences.

The Wildcats could make some amends by beating Butler Saturday at Belk Arena, but that won't help enough. The Bulldogs remain 21st in the RPI at the moment, but that doesn't count Wednesday's loss to Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Butler's second straight defeat.

The Bottom line? The Southern Conference has never received an NCAA basketball tournament at-large bid, and Davidson's loss to The Citadel virtually assures that it won't happen this year, either. The Wildcats will need the automatic bid that comes with the tournament championship.

--Stan Olson

Coach K, fans reach same conclusion

NEW YORK - It’s rare that a team’s fans and its coach reach the same conclusion about a change in strategy.

Coaches attend practice every day.

Fans do not.

A coach might know that the backup quarterback can’t tell the difference between a cover-two and a covered wagon. Many fans don’t understand the cover-two either, and coaches don’t always appreciate getting ideas from those fans.

One reporter’s suggestion that North Carolina’s Roy Williams should have used a full-court press more against N.C. State was met with a typical coach’s frustration (the Tar Heels “stink” in full-court pressure) plus some extra colorful language that had him apologizing afterward.

That’s what makes Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s adjustment Thursday night so unusual. If Krzyzewski has been getting the same type of communication that enters my e-mail inbox, the message from fans was clear from fans frustrated with four losses in a six-game period.

They wanted to see more of freshmen Elliot Williams and Miles Plumlee. And that’s what they got in No. 9-ranked Duke’s 76-69 defeat of St. John’s at Madison Square Garden.

Williams started on the wing and scored 11 points in 31 minutes. Plumlee played seven minutes off the bench.

“I thought our two freshmen really gave us a huge boost,” Krzyzewski said. “Elliot was inserted in the starting lineup, and his ball pressure was outstanding and he came up with 11 points.

Plumlee had four points and two blocks and came up with a really big play to keep a double-digit lead for us when he stole that ball under our bucket and put it in.”

It was as though Krzyzewski had discovered an unexpected gift in practice this week. Williams seems poised to keep his starting spot and play a significant role with five regular season games remaining.

Plumlee’s role will be more limited, especially when senior forward Dave McClure returns from illness. McClure spent Thursday night back at the team hotel with flu-like symptoms.

But Krzyzewski said he had found two good things, so it seems as though Plumlee will continue to provide depth that Duke needs in the post as 7-foot-1 Brian Zoubek’s role is diminishing.

Starting with Sunday’s home game against No. 8 Wake Forest, Williams, Plumlee and the rest of the Blue Devils (21-5) will face bigger challenges than St. John’s (12-14), which hasn’t been a relevant part of the New York sports scene in almost 10 years.

Still, it looks like Duke fans who have been on the bandwagon for the two freshmen can pat themselves on the back. Turns out they knew what they were talking about. – Ken Tysiac

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Duke's McClure out for St. John's

NEW YORK - Duke senior reserve forward Dave McClure will not play in Thursday night's nonconference game against St. John's at Madison Square Garden.

Team spokesman Matt Plizga said McClure made the trip but stayed back at the team hotel because of symptoms that resembled food poisoning.

The Blue Devils (20-5) are trying to stop a two-game losing streak.

Davidson kicks in for charity

Davidson’s noon Saturday basketball game with Butler at Belk Arena will also support Kicks from ‘Cats, which is raising funds for a shoe drive started by forward Andrew Lovedale.

When Lovedale has gone home to Benin City, Nigeria, in the past, he has jammed his suitcases with dozens of slightly-used Davidson basketball shoes and jerseys. Then he has passed them out to youth from his neighborhood.

Kicks from ‘Cats plans to expand his shoe-collecting efforts dramatically, sending him home with many hundreds more. Sponsors are Davidson and Samaritan’s Feet.

There will be a White Out at the game, with special white shirts available in the school bookstore and online. Proceeds will support the cost of shipping the shoes to Africa.

People coming to the game are also asked to bring a new pair of shoes, preferably basketball shoes in men’s size 3 and up. The shoes will be distributed in Benin City and possibly in other areas of Nigeria.—Stan Olson

Q&A: Tar Heels' Tyler Zeller

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina forward Tyler Zeller scored two points and had four fouls Wednesday night in his first game back after a 13-week absence.

After third-ranked UNC’s 89-80 victory over N.C. State, the freshman 7-footer talked about why he gave up a redshirt season to return, how his healed left wrist is feeling, and what it was like to check in to a standing ovation:

Q: Were you concerned about giving away a season for the opportunity to play five regular-season games, plus the postseason?

A: Yes. But no at the same time. Yes, because it is one of those things where I’m losing half a season, but no at the same time because these are my teammates; I’ve got to help support them. If I can help them in any way, I have to come back. I feel like I’m obligated because they’ve been great to me the whole time I’ve been injured, and as I come back I feel like if there’s anything I can do to help them get to the goal of winning a national championship, I need to do it.

Q: What made you decide to come back now, instead of redshirting?

A: It’s just one of those things, I talked to coach a little bit about it, and I thought it was the best thing to help me prepare for next year, to get ready. Because in these games, I can learn a lot ... just little things to work on. And you can’t get that kind of experience if you don’t play.
... I also feel like I can help our depth, just playing. Because it does get difficult ... I feel like I can give guys couple-minute breaks, so they can go back in and be fresh.

Q: What was it like, being back out there?

A: Being back out there was definitely different. Being out for 13 weeks ... I’m a little behind with my reaction speed, which is why I got so many fouls. But it felt great just to be back out there.

Q: Your first turnaround jumper, was the just instinct taking over?

A: It was all instinct on offense. Offense, I’m fine, because I’ve been able to shoot, been able to do stuff. It was more on defensive end, just reacting to people’s drives -- going around people, just getting there, reacting to help, stuff like that, where I was struggling.

Q: What went through your mind when you went to the scorer’s table, and the crowd gave you a big ovation?

A: It was one of things where I kind of expected it, but when you have 20,000 people cheering for you, It’s a great feeling. It was amazing when I got up and went, but by the time I got in and found out who I was guarding, I didn’t really hear much after that.

Q: How does the wrist feel?

A: It’s fine, I don’t really have any problems with it, stiffness or anything. Still doing a little bit of rehab ... but for the most part, I have all the motion back, and really no pain.

— Robbi Pickeral

So how close was Curry?

Davidson guard Stephen Curry, recovering from a sprained left ankle, looked good in early warmups before Wednesday's home game against The Citadel. But when the team came back out a few minutes before tipoff, Curry wasn't with it, the decision finally made to hold him out at least one more game.

Without him, Davidson was, well, terrible, shooting 25.4 percent and making 3 of 23 three-pointers. The Citadel won, 64-46, holding the Wildcats to their lowest point total since 1991.

So how close did Curry come to playing?

"We analyzed how effective he would be," said Davidson coach Bob McKillop. "Offensively, he would have probably gotten shots. Defensively, I think he maybe could have further aggravated it. And we were really concerned what would have happened (Thursday) morning as he woke up after playing 35 minutes on that ankle, in the condition that it was in."

As for Saturday's home game against No.21 Butler, McKillop said, "It's going be a day-by-day thing; he's making great progress. We're thrilled at the progress he's making."

Read that as, it will be a surprise if Curry isn't ready to go.--Stan Olson

Four Tar Heel signees lead McDonald's roster

North Carolina leads all schools with four signees selected to the 2009 McDonald’s All-American game rosters, which were announced Tuesday.

Three 6-foot-10 forwards – John Henson and twins David and Travis Wear – joined 6-3 guard Dexter Strickland as North Carolina signees scheduled to play in the game on April 1 in Miami.

Both of Duke’s signees – 6-10 Ryan Kelly of Raleigh Ravenscroft and 6-11 Mason Plumlee of Christ School in Arden, N.C. – also were selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American game.

Clemson has just its third McDonald’s All-American signee out of high school ever in Milton Jennings of Cottageville, S.C., who plays for Pineville Prep in South Carolina. Sharone Wright was Clemson’s most recent McDonald’s All-American signee, in 1991.

The ACC leads all conferences with nine McDonald’s All-American signees, followed by the Big East with five. Three McDonald’s All-Americans – N.C. State target DeMarcus Cousins, Lance Stephenson and Renardo Sidney – haven’t picked a school yet. – Ken Tysiac

Williams' expletive surprises Tar Heels

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough wasn't surprised to hear that coach Roy Williams dropped the F-bomb on Wednesday night — just that it happened during his post game press conference.

"Oh, man,'' the senior said, growing wide-eyed and a bit red-faced when told his coach had used the expletive he usually replaces with 'frickin,' 'friggin'' or 'flippin''

"I've definitely heard it more than you guys,'' Hansbrough said. "It's usually once every other ballgame, he drops it in the huddle, and we know he means business then. But I think he may beat himself up over that because he usually counts how many cuss words he says in the huddle and in practice.

"When he gets really mad in practice he says, 'Now, that's four cuss words, and I didn't plan on saying any today.'"

Williams was talking about his team's failure to execute the full-court press after it beat N.C. State when he said: "We stink."

Asked why they stink, Williams responded: "If I knew the answer to that do you think we'd still be [expletive] stinkin'?"

After nervous laughter in the room, Williams apologized for using the curse word.

"I can't believe I said that," Williams said. "I only say that on the golf course."

The press conference was being broadcast live on both the Tar Heel Radio Network and Wolfpack-Capitol Sports Network.

Told of his coach's word choice, senior forward Danny Green seemed as stunned as Hansbrough.

"I don't really want to comment on coach's comments,'' Green said. "But if he gets mad, if you get him mad enough, and he keeps trying to tell you something over and over, he'll say some funny words -- but it's usually not the F-bomb as much ... but flippin', frickin'."

Asked if he thought Williams should run after practice as punishment, Green said no: "I don't think that will happen. Next to his name it says 'head coach,' so he gets to do whatever he wants to do. So I don't think we'll be making him run; he's the guy that makes us run."

-- Robbi Pickeral

Pack aiming for postseason

The scoreboard showed that N.C. State lost 89-80 on Wednesday night in what might have been senior Ben McCauley’s last game against rival North Carolina, but McCauley wasn’t discouraged.

N.C. State trailed just 39-36 at halftime and played well except for an early second-half defensive lapse against the nation’s No. 3-ranked team at the Smith Center.

Consecutive wins over Wake Forest and Georgia Tech preceded the loss to the Tar Heels, and McCauley still had the sense that the Wolfpack (14-10, 4-7 ACC) is playing well.

“We would have loved to have gotten this one,” McCauley said, “but we’re not going to sell ourselves short. We’re going to play hard these last five games and hopefully give ourselves a shot at postseason play.”

The postseason is something McCauley said N.C. State players are talking about among themselves now that they’re playing perhaps their best basketball of the season. It probably would take five straight wins plus a couple more in the ACC Tournament for the Wolfpack to gain an NCAA bid, but McCauley said the players haven’t given up on that.

Two more wins would make N.C. State a strong candidate for the NIT after the team missed the postseason with a 15-16 record last season.

“The option of playing in the postseason is definitely still there,” McCauley said. “I think guys kind of realize that. And that helps us. If you feel as though you’re done with the season after the season is over, then you’re not going to win any games. But I think guys are still pretty confident. Unfortunately we came up a little short today, but we’ve got five games left to finish strong, and I think we will.”

Coach Sidney Lowe said he’d rather focus on each of the remaining games individually than the postseason, but there’s no doubt that he believes the team is playing better than at the end of last season, when N.C. State lost its final nine games.

It won’t be easy to continue that strong finish. Virginia (9-13, 3-8), which didn’t seem to have a pulse a week ago, is Saturday’s opponent at the RBC Center and is coming off back-to-back wins over Clemson and Virginia Tech.

The Wolfpack’s other two home opponents, Maryland and Boston College, are fighting for consideration for the NCAA Tournament. Nonetheless, with point guard Javi Gonzalez improved and center Tracy Smith averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds over the last three games, Lowe sounded encouraged despite the loss Wednesday.

“I’m happy with the way we’re playing,” he said. “If we continue to play the way we’re playing now, and sometimes better, we’ll be fine.” – Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's the half...

No curry; he's sitting on Davidson's bench in a tie. The Wildcats miss him in the worst way; they are trailing 28-21 and can't hit the ocean from the beach.

Without their 29-point-a-game scorer, the Wildcats made seven-of-28 floor shots in the first half. They were also out-rebounded 26-19 so things could have been worse.--Stan Olson

Curry looks like a no-go

Unless Davidson is practicing some medical magic on guard Stephen Curry back in the locker room, he looks like a no-go for tonight's game with The Citadel. Davidson was going through its layup line about 20 minutes before tipoff, and Curry was not among the participants.

Curry is recovering from a sprained ankle suffered Saturday at Furman. He looked good in early warmups, but the team wants to take no chances with him.

With Curry looking doubtful and likely to show up on the bench in street clothes at any moment, expect either backup point guard Brendan McKillop or sixth man Will Archambault to start in his place.--Stan Olson

Curry, up or down?

So it's five minutes ago and I'm standing behind the Belk Arena baseline, watching Davidson's players warm up. Stephen Curry, recovering from that left ankle injury, was the first player on the court, wearing a brace on the ankle and moving well through his shots.

Finally, Curry heads over to the bench and sprawls in a chair, obviously satisfied one way or another. He sees me, and I give him a questioning and pantomimed "thumbs up or thumbs down?"

Curry grins broadly, then stretches his arms out, palms up in a "who knows?" gesture.

This one is definitely a game-time decision, but I'm betting on him playing.--Stan Olson

Memorable Tar Heel wins over Wolfpack

When you've beaten N.C. State as many times (26) as UNC has since 1994, the victories tend to run together but here are five to remember for the Tar Heels, who are 11-1 against the Wolfpack under coach Roy Williams, to go with our earlier list of five memorable Wolfpack victories:

1) Feb. 22, 2006 @ N.C. State

"Herb's Waterloo"

You could write a book about the implications of this game but here's the Reader's Digest version:

In what was a rebuilding year for UNC, the Tar Heels came to Raleigh with two freshmen starters (and Wes Miller) and beat a veteran N.C. State team by 24 points (95-71).

It's not that UNC won, it's the way the Heels won and Herb Sendek lost, a sixth straight to Williams.

Two months later, Sendek would retreat to Arizona State.

2) Feb. 12, 1997 @ N.C. State

"Dean's Last Stand"

The second of three classic State-Carolina games in Dean Smith's final season and Sendek's first.

For a game in the 40s — UNC won 45-44 — it was a whale of a contest. The Old Barn was electric from tip, to State's 28-19 halftime lead, to the final game-winning sequence for the Heels.

Ed Cota's baseline runner gave UNC a 45-44 lead with 4.8 seconds left. N.C. State's Danny Strong, who had already hit four 3-pointers, had a chance to win the game at the buzzer with a 3 from the right corner but Vince Carter leapt out of the rafters to block the shot and give Smith a win in his final game at Reynolds Coliseum.

3) Jan. 15, 1997 @ UNC

"The Steve Norton game"

At 0-3 in the ACC, UNC desperately needed to beat the Wolfpack. But with 2:34 left in the game, UNC was down nine points.

A series of follies in the final minute, including an errant inbounds pass by reserve Wolfpack forward Steve Norton — who inexplicably played 27 minutes that night — led to an epic UNC comeback.

The Heels scored the game's final 12 points to win 59-56 and they would go on to win the ACC and reach the Final Four.

4) March 9, 1997 @ Greensboro

"The Shammond Williams Game"

The final installment of the Herb-Dean trilogy. State, playing for the fourth time in as many days at the ACC Tournament, pushed the Heels into the second half but Williams' outburst — 19 of his game-high 23 points came in the second half — carried UNC to a 64-54 win and ended State's memorable run.

It turned out to be Smith's 13th and final ACC title.

5) Jan. 28, 2004 @ UNC

"Enter Roy"

UNC's four-game losing streak to N.C. State from 2001 to 2004 was the longest in the series since the Wolfpack won nine straight in the early 1970s, with a little help from David Thompson.

The four-game streak ended with Roy Williams' first game in the series as a head coach. UNC beat State, 68-66 at the Smith Center behind the trio of Raymond Felton, Sean May and Rashad McCants.

Williams went to win the next six games and 11 of 12 in the series.

-- J.P. Giglio

Memorable Wolfpack wins over Tar Heels

N.C. State's a 20-point underdog for tonight's game at No. 3 UNC. The Wolfpack has pulled off an upset at Chapel Hill before. It might not happen tonight, so here are five Wolfpack wins, since 1994, to remember. See also our list of memorable North Carolina wins over the Wolfpack.

1) Jan. 23, 2002 @ UNC

"The Red Game"

This game is notable for two reasons:

First and foremost, practically the entire upper deck of the Smith Center was red for N.C. State's 77-59 win.

By this point, UNC fans had stopped caring for a team that would finish 8-20 under Matt Doherty and miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1974.

Second, it was the first time in the post-Valvano Era State didn't need a 3-point barrage to beat UNC. State just had a better team and did what dominant teams do against inferior opponents, run them out of the building.

Truly, a high-water mark for Wolfpack fandom since the '83 title.

2) Feb. 2, 2007 @ N.C. State

"The Blazer Game"

Roy Williams won his first six games against N.C. State (all vs. Herb Sendek) and there was little reason to believe first-year coach Sidney Lowe would reverse that trend when third-ranked UNC (19-1 at the time) visited the RBC Center.

State was just 2-5 in the ACC but with five starters scoring in double-figures, 10 assists from gutsy point guard Engin Atsur and the power of Lowe's big-game red blazer, the Wolfpack pulled off an 83-79 upset.

3) Jan. 4, 1995 @ N.C. State

"The Lakista McCuller Game"

Lakista McCuller's six 3-pointers and 24 points gave N.C. State an 80-70 upset of No. 1 UNC at Reynolds Coliseum.

True to form under Les Robinson (who had a knack for beating UNC and few other teams), State proceeded to lose eight of its next nine ACC games while UNC finished the season in the Final Four.

4) Feb. 21, 1998 @ UNC

"The C.C. Harrison Game"

Clint Cotis Harrison went from Wolfpack hero in the 1997 ACC Tournament, to underachiever the following season. But at No. 1 UNC, Harrison got hot, hitting eight 3-pointers to give N.C. State a surprising 86-72 win and Sendek, in his second season, his first victory over the Heels.

5) Feb. 25, 2003 @ UNC

"Herb's Last Stand"

N.C. State tied an ACC record by making all 22 of its free-throw attempts in a 75-67 overtime win at the Smith Center.

It was Sendek's fourth straight win in the series and last game against Dohery. It also turned out to be his last win against UNC.

Sendek finished 4-2 against Doherty but 0-3 vs. Dean Smith, 1-6 vs. Bill Guthridge and 0-6 vs. Williams.

-- J.P. Giglio

Lawson's a natural pickpocket

CHAPEL HILL — It's no surprise that point guard Ty Lawson leads North Carolina with 52 steals this season.

After all, he often practices his pickpocket approach on coach Roy Williams.

Ever since he was a freshman, the speedy ballhandler has made a habit of sneaking up on his coach, reaching into his pocket, and seeing if he can sneak off with a few bills.

Williams calls it one of Lawson's "Dennis the Menace" tendencies; Lawson simply smiles when he talks about it.

"I think the first time I did, I got $20 dollars off him,'' the junior said.

"I gave it back. But now he's smart; he puts it in his right pocket, and from time to time he'll put some money in his pocket, and I won't grab for it, and he'll go, 'I had $20 dollars in there.' I haven't done that too recent."

Asked if the action translates to the court, Lawson — whose team plays N.C. State tonight — grinned, again.

"He's too quick sometimes and he'll smack my hand back ... it's hand speed, just always working on my game,'' he quipped.

-- Robbi Pickeral

— Robbi Pickeral

Curry still questionable for tonight

Davidson guard Stephen Curry went through an individual workout under the eyes of basketball trainer Ray Beltz this morning. And while the Wildcats weren't saying exactly how that went, Curry remains a "game-time decision" for tonight's Belk Arena matchup with The Citadel.

Davidson could certainly use Curry, who sprained his left ankle in Saturday's game at Furman, against the Bulldogs. The Citadel is currently the Southern Conference's hottest team, having won nine straight games.

That said, Wildcats coach Bob McKillop won't use his all-American if there is the slightest chance that he is not yet fully recovered; the game is meaningless compared to the longer-term goal of getting Curry completely healthy again.

His recovery as been remarkably rapid, so don't rule him out for tonight.

Should Curry not be able to go, Davidson is likely to replace its point guard with backup Brendan McKillop, or to move Max Paulhus Gosselin to the point and add sixth man Will Archambault to the starting lineup.

If he can't play, Curry is confident in his teammates.
"You saw what happened at the end of the Furman game; it's a sign of what they can do when I'm not on the floor," he said, referring to Davidson's 15-5 blitz to close out the last 9 minutes 20 seconds of the game without him.--Stan Olson

The ACC's RPI report: Heels on top

Duke somehow fell out of the top spot of the RPI. A home loss didn't help the Blue Devils, who dropped to No. 5 after two losses last week in the official RPI on

UNC's the top ACC team at No. 4. The Heels have the league's best record against the RPI's top 50 at 5-1 (the loss being Wake Forest).

Boston College holds the other win over UNC — and one over Duke — but a soft nonconference schedule has the Eagles hovering at No. 51. That UAB (39) win in New York is looking better, helping the Eagles to a 4-6 record against the top 50.

Virginia Tech's 6-4 in the ACC but just 2-4 against the top 50. That means, like last year, the Hokies are beating the bad ACC teams and losing to the good ones. That halfcourt buzzer-beater in Puerto Rico by Xavier might be the Hokies' undoing. Or the loss to Georgia. Or the loss to Seton Hall. Or Wisconsin.

In a conservative estimate, the Eagles are in and the Hokies are out. Some sites have both in the field, with Miami, which could ultimately be undone by Jack McClinton's untimely slap against Ohio State.

And to clarify for some confused readers last week, this is the NCAA's release of the RPI (done so every Tuesday on its web site) not a random formula produced by Duke math students or Mike Krzyzewski's family.

The NCAA Tournament selection committee uses the RPI to help them seed teams and to determine which teams to include in the Field of 65. Typically, any ranking better than 40 is safe (stressing typically) while anything below 40 puts you in Bubblesville. Note that's on the bubble, not out of the tournament, just in the conversation of the final at-large teams (there are 34) to make the tournament.

-- J.P. Giglio


top 50
UNC 4 9-2 5-1
Duke 5 7-4 7-3
Clemson 10 7-4 6-3
Wake Forest 16 6-4 5-2
FSU 20 6-4 4-5


top 50
Miami 47 4-7 2-7
Virginia Tech 49 6-4 2-4
Boston College 51 7-5 4-6


top 50
Maryland 61 5-6 3-7
Virginia 90 2-8 1-9
N.C. State 91 4-6 2-8
Georgia Tech 167 1-10 1-5

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Curry held out of practice

Davidson junior guard Stephen Curry was held out of full practice work for a second straight day this evening after spraining his left ankle in Saturday's game at Furman. No decision has been made on whether He will play in Wednesday's home game with The Citadel in Belk Arena.

"We're getting close," said Davidson coach Bob McKillop. "It will be a game-time decision."

Curry did go through an individual workout, another step forward. He shot free throws in Monday's practice.

Should Curry not be able to go, McKillop would likely either start backup point guard Brendan McKillop or move off-guard Max Paulhus Gosselin to the point and put sixth man Will Archambault in the starting lineup.

Curry is an all-American who leads the nation in scoring at 29 points a game.

--Stan Olson

Heels' Zeller likely to play vs. N.C. State

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina freshman forward Tyler Zeller, who has missed about 13 weeks with a fractured left wrist, will likely play against N.C. State on Wednesday night.

Coach Roy Williams said the 7-footer had made the decision Monday to return, rather than take a redshirt season, “and I told him that was the decision we would go with unless he went home and slept on it and came back today and changed his mind.”

A team spokesman said later that Zeller later arrived at the Smith Center, he had not changed his mind.

Zeller scored 20 points in two games before his injury, and will add much-needed depth to a bench that could use it, considering senior Marcus Ginyard is out for the season with a foot injury and wing Will Graves is suspended.

Williams said he left the decision totally up to Zeller.

“Tyler’s mom and day and I were on a conference call from my office on Saturday,’’ Williams said. “I told them in was clearly Tyler Zeller’s decision; mom and dad told me they were very comfortable with me and Tyler Zeller making the decision. And I expressed to them again that I was not part of the decision; I told them that if it was 15 years ago I wouldn’t’ even a young man consider giving up a year for five regular-season games and whatever postseason games we might have. But he would really like to help this team; he would really like to play.”

-- Robbi Pickeral

Stephen Curry not done growing?

Davidson guard Stephen Curry is not done growing.

That was one good thing that came out of Saturday’s sprained ankle; the doctor reading his X-rays told him that his bone growth plates show that he will get taller.

“I’m actually still growing,” said Curry, a junior and the nation’s leading scorer. “I’ve got at least an inch to go so we’ll see how that works out.”

Curry has been a late bloomer in the height category. As a prep junior, he was lightly recruited because he was 5-foot-8. Then he took off.

“As a senior I was about 5-11, closing in on 6 feet,” he said. “I’ve grown every year since then and obviously am still growing. That’s good news. I was about 6-1 as a freshman and have grown an inch a year, so I’m a solid 6-3 now.”

Curry has good genes in that category. Dad Dell, the former NBA player, is 6-5, and mother Sonya is 5-8.

Brother Seth, a freshman at Liberty, also sprouted in high school and is already 6-3. And younger sister Sydel is tall for her age, according to Stephen.

And rumor has it that Curry was high-fiving the folks in the doctor’s office after his X-rays.

“(The doctor) said he would have to get an X-ray on my hand, but he predicted at least one inch, and who knows after that? So I’m trying to catch my dad,” Curry said.

—Stan Olson

Hansbrough cleared to play vs. Wolfpack

CHAPEL HILL — If forward Tyler Hansbrough sustained a concussion Sunday at Miami, it was of the mildest form, North Carolina coach Roy Williams said on Tuesday. And he will play against N.C. State on Wednesday.

“We had him see a specialist today at the hospital,’’ Williams said. “He did not practice yesterday, he sat on the sideline, did not do one thing. The doctor from Miami told us he thought we should get him checked because there was a possibility that he had a concussion during the game. So he saw some people yesterday, took him today, took some tests … and [they] said if he had a concussion, it was the mildest form.

“Three different occasions during the game, he took a significant blow to the head. He had a headache, which guys have a lot of times during the game. He complained to me in the huddle, said he was having some blurred vision out of his left eye, thought it was his contacts. So they changed the contact, but he didn’t give any more information to make them believe anything other than getting your bell rung in the game until after the game. He didn’t tell Chris [Hirth, the team athletic trainer] he had a headache till after the game. Right now, he’s not going to do anything with any contact today, but everybody feel fine about him playing tomorrow night. He’ll go through the dummy stuff today, and I expect him to play. And he felt much better yesterday.”

-- Robbi Pickeral

UNC: Hansbrough concussion not confirmed yet

It has not yet been confirmed that forward Tyler Hansbrough has a concussion, a North Carolina team spokesman said Tuesday morning. After UNC's 69-65 victory over Miami, the Hurricanes doctors thought he might have a low-grade concussion, but UNC's doctors have not confirmed it yet, spokesman Steve Kirschner said.

Coach Roy Williams was talking about guard Wayne Ellington's arm injury and point guard Ty Lawson's illness during his Monday night radio show when he added: "Tyler Hansbrough [was] getting banged around a little bit, and I don't know if we've announced iteor not so I guess it's all right, but Tyler Hansbrough got a slight concussion early in the second half."

Hansbrough's eight-point performance was "one of the worst games he's played all year," Williams said, until he took a charge in the final minutes to help secure the 69-65 victory.

UNC plays N.C. State on Wednesday night.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Hansbrough suffered concussion Sunday

North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough suffered slight a concussion early in the second half of Sunday's win at Miami, coach Roy Williams said Monday night during his radio show.

His eight-point performance was "one of the worst games he's played all year," Williams said, until he took a charge in the final minutes to help secure the 69-65 victory.

UNC plays N.C. State on Wednesday night. -- Robbi Pickeral

Monday, February 16, 2009

Curry off crutches, may play Wednesday

Guard Stephen Curry is off crutches and walking normally less than 48 hours after spraining his ankle in Davidson's game at Furman Saturday afternoon.

There is even a possibility Curry could play Wednesday against The Citadel.

Curry will not practice today, but plans to shoot free throws, he told reporters Monday.

He is still day to day, according to Davidson coach Bob McKillop. A lot will depend on if and how well he practices Tuesday.

Curry said there was still some pain, but that the ankle was greatly improved over Saturday.

-- Stan Olson

Decision on Zeller due this week

Tyler Zeller suffered a broken wrist on Nov. 18 on this play against Kentucky. He has returned to practice but might sit out the rest of the season as a redshirt.

UNC freshman Tyler Zeller's future will be determined this week, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said Monday.

Zeller has been out since breaking his left wrist against Kentucky on Nov. 18. The 7-foot forward returned to practice last week and could return to help the Heels, who have five regular-season games left. If he does, he would lose the opportunity to redshirt.

"Is he willing to sacrifice a whole year for five or six games?" Williams said, "We'll make a decision this week."

Williams said he would leave the decision up to Zeller, who scored 20 points in the first two games of the season, both starts. Williams said he and Zeller had a conference call with Zeller's parents on Saturday to talk about the decision.

"He has had five or six practices. He hasn't played basketball in 12 weeks," Williams said. "Can he come back and be effective?"

UNC's rotation has been reduced to eight players with the injury to senior wing Marcus Ginyard and the suspension of sophomore forward Will Graves.

Zeller, a McDonald's All-American, would give the Tar Heels another big body to relieve starters Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson. Freshman forward Ed Davis is the only reserve in the frontcourt rotation, although Williams has been able to give Danny Green minutes at forward.

UNC hosts N.C. State on Wednesday and travels to Maryland on Saturday.

-- J.P. Giglio

Unselfish McCauley lifts N.C. State

With N.C. State’s 16-point lead over Georgia Tech whittled to three early in the second half, Wolfpack senior Ben McCauley tried to get away with a takedown of an opponent while pursuing a rebound of a miss by teammate C.J. Williams.

The refs caught McCauley and called him for a foul. McCauley got up and screamed at his teammates in frustration, demanding that they get their act together.

They did. N.C. State caught its breath, reduced its turnovers and pulled away for an 86-65 win, its second in a row, to sweep the season series with Georgia Tech.

It was easy to overlook McCauley’s senior leadership because he attempted just one field goal and finished with four points. But coach Sidney Lowe appreciated McCauley’s effort.

Lowe said McCauley had “one of the best 0-for-1 ballgames I’ve ever seen.” McCauley grabbed eight rebounds, handed out three assists and helped hold Georgia Tech center Gani Lawal to seven points.

That performance illustrated the difference between this season’s N.C. State team and last season’s. On Feb. 8, McCauley scored 25 points with 15 rebounds in one of the best statistical performances of his career.

Since then, he scored five points while struggling with illness against Wake Forest and four against Georgia Tech. Meanwhile, center Tracy Smith has averaged 15 points in those two wins, including a team-high 18 against Georgia Tech.

When Smith is in the game, McCauley is forced to play in the high post, away from the low-block spot where he’s most effective. Smith is no threat whatsoever to score from the high post, so Lowe’s only choice is to park him down low, where he’s not as good a passer as McCauley but is a more explosive scorer.

Last season, managing that kind of situation proved to be a nightmare for Lowe when freshman J.J. Hickson became the leading scorer. This season, McCauley still looks like a leader even when he’s in the high post while Smith is playing and scoring on the block.

It’s one of the reasons there’s some optimism about this N.C. State team with six games left in the regular season. The Wolfpack (14-9, 4-6 ACC) faces a difficult game at North Carolina on Wednesday but is playing perhaps its best basketball of Lowe’s tenure with the exception of the 2007 ACC Tournament.

It all starts with the selfless leadership of a player like McCauley in the late stages of his senior season. – Ken Tysiac

Duke needs backcourt spark

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. - Referee Bryan Kersey stepped quickly onto and over the press table Sunday night to avoid the crush.

Boston College had just defeated No. 6-ranked Duke 80-74 at Conte Forum, and the students were rushing the court. This is what fans do when their teams win against a top-10 team, especially when it’s Duke, which ESPN’s Dick Vitale compared to the New York Yankees last week.

But Duke might not be a top 10 team when the rankings come out today. And right now, the Blue Devils are more like the current New York Yankees than the Yankees of Ruth and Gehrig.

This just isn’t the elite Duke team we’ve become accustomed to watching. Coach Mike Krzyzewski acknowledged it Wednesday when he said the Tar Heels were better than the Blue Devils.

He reinforced the notion Sunday when he said Duke (20-5, 7-4 ACC) isn’t showing the tough mindedness it possessed even earlier this season. Here’s something else the Blue Devils are lacking – quality play from their guards.

Duke has a revolving door situation at point guard with Greg Paulus and Nolan Smith providing little spark and fading fast on defense. Opponents have learned how to isolate Paulus and Smith on defense, causing Krzyzewski to take the unusual step of playing a lot of 1-3-1 zone against Boston College in order to stop Tyrese Rice’s penetration.

Point guard was a position that was expected to be shaky for Duke this season. Shooting guard wasn’t. Junior Jon Scheyer opened the season strong, looking like one of the Blue Devils’ best players in December wins over top-10 opponents Purdue and Xavier.

He scored 22 in the Feb. 7 win over Miami and 20 against North Carolina on Wednesday. But Boston College held him to eight points on 3-for-12 from the field, and in eight games leading up to Miami he shot 18-for-73 (24.7 percent) from the field.

After Sunday’s game, Scheyer looked miserable as he sat hunched over inside his locker when reporters entered the visiting locker room.

“We need to get going,” Scheyer said. “We need to figure it out tomorrow, and we need to get going with it.”

With Gerald Henderson and Kyle Singler playing well most days, Duke is good enough at the forward position to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament if a third scorer can emerge in the backcourt.

Scheyer was that scorer early in the season. He, Paulus and Smith all are former McDonald’s All-Americans whose high school credentials alone would seem to indicate at least one of them has the talent to become the third scorer Duke needs.

Unless they can turn that talent into production in the backcourt, Duke might be destined for a third straight exit from the NCAA tournament before the regional semifinals. – Ken Tysiac

Friday, February 13, 2009

Has Wake hit the wall again?

Wake Forest guard Ish Smith and the Deacons couldn't complete a comeback against N.C. State in Wednesday's loss, which reminds some of last season's sluggish finish.

From the more things change, the more they don’t category:

After a promising start last season, Wake Forest's basketball team lost nine of its final 15 regular-season games, then was handed a 70-60 loss by Florida State in its first ACC conference tournament game. The Deacons finished the 2007-08 season 17-13 overall and missed the postseason entirely.

Could it be happening again?

Logically, the answer is, no way. But after Wednesday's 82-76 loss at N.C. State, the Deacons are again in something of a free-fall, having lost four of their past six games with a Saturday assignment against surging Florida State.

"We've got to get back to what we were doing well earlier," Deacons coach Dino Gaudio said.

But getting back, in this case, could translate into getting legs back, and Wake looked tired and awkward much of the time against a more experienced, deeper and obviously more energetic Wolfpack team in the RBC Center. Rarely did the Deacs resemble the explosive group that whipped North Carolina and Duke earlier in the season.

The Deacons had enough steam left to make a spirited run in the second half. But even after slicing a 20-point deficit to two, Wake's perimeter players just did not have enough left in their legs to take the final step.

An obvious possibility is that Gaudio's still-young team has hit the mid-season wall for the second straight year. N.C. State was able to take Wake freshman Al-Farouq Aminu almost completely out of his offensive comfort zone, and sophomore star guard Jeff Teague was visibly frustrated by a relentless, keying Pack defense.

In short, N.C. State really got after 'em for most of the 40 minutes, and Wake just didn't have the stamina or experience to deal with a team that the Deacons thought might be road kill just waiting to be removed from the conference interstate.

Another issue on Wake's plate is viable depth. On paper, Gaudio seems to have enough personnel pieces. But that's assuming Chas McFarland works the lane without venturing into foul trouble and that the rest of the players can keep pace with Ish Smith's quickness when he enters the game.

Smith is one of the league's quickest players and has instant-impact potential on any given night. But against the Wolfpack, he frequently was too quick for his teammates and spent stretches of the game waiting for everyone else to catch up in transition.

On one possession during the Wake second-half rally, Smith stood on the perimeter, dribbling the ball and yelling to his trailing teammates, "Come on! Come on! Let’s go! Let’s go! LET’S GO!"

— Caulton Tudor

Lowe, Sendek: Parallel starts

Forty-one ACC games into Sidney Lowe’s tenure, N.C. State is 12-29 in conference play under Lowe.

If this number seems oddly familiar to you, chances are you’re a fervent Wolfpack fan.

Ten years ago, N.C. State was 12-29 in its first 41 ACC games under Herb Sendek, Lowe’s predecessor. At that time, the Wolfpack was 3-6 in the ACC in Sendek’s third season.

Now N.C. State is 3-6 in the ACC in Lowe’s third season. What happened next to Sendek is a good lesson. There’s always a chance history will repeat itself.

Sendek’s third team finished 6-10 in the ACC. So did his fourth team. His fifth team was 5-11 in 2000-01. Athletics director Lee Fowler, who started working at N.C. State in September of 2000, backed Sendek even after five straight losing seasons in the ACC.

Fowler’s patience was rewarded when N.C. State bounced back for five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances under Sendek.

As was the case with Sendek, Fowler remains firmly in Lowe’s corner even though there’s some grumbling about N.C. State’s position in the bottom half of the ACC standings.

From a financial standpoint, the need to start winning again soon might be more urgent now because the economy is abysmal and fans will be carefully weighing whether they want to spend money for season tickets next season.

But judging by how poorly N.C. State has performed early in its two most recent coaches’ tenures, Fowler has a fairly compelling argument for staying the course and trying to build with the coach he’s got. – Ken Tysiac

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Could Ty Lawson be ACC player of the year?

North Carolina's Ty Lawson blew past Duke with 21 of his 25 points in the second half Wednesday. Could he blow past bigger players and win ACC player of the year as a point guard?

North Carolina's Ty Lawson, after that performance Wednesday night at Duke, probably played his way into the lead for the ACC basketball player of the year award.

The junior playmaker has struggled at times this season on defense, but his offensive intensity level has been at a lights-out level through most of the schedule. There's Boston College’s Tyrese Rice and Wake Forest's Jeff Teague, but neither has consistently outplayed Lawson over the course of the league schedule to date.

Entering his weekend’s games, J.P. Giglio and I ranked our leading five candidates for player of the year. Here's the outcome:

1. Ty Lawson, UNC
2. Gerald Henderson, Duke
3. Trevor Booker, Clemson
4. Tony Douglas, Florida State
5. Jack McClinton, Miami

1. Ty Lawson, UNC
2. Jack McClinton, Miami
3. Gerald Henderson, Duke
4. Tyler Hansbrough, UNC
5. Tyrese Rice, Boston College

Many ACC fans probably would be surprised to know that the last pure point-guard to win the league player of the year award was Carolina’s Phil Ford in 1978.

Here’s the list since Ford that season:
1979: Mike Gminski, Duke, C
1980: Albert King, Maryland, F
1981: Ralph Sampson, Virginia, C
1982: Ralph Sampson, Virginia, C
1983: Ralph Sampson, Virginia, C
1984: Michael Jordan, UNC, W
1985: Len Bias, Maryland, F
1986: Len Bias, Maryland, F
1987: Horace Grant, Clemson, F
1988: Danny Ferry, Duke, F
1989: Danny Ferry, Duke, F
1990: Dennis Scott, G. Tech, F
1991: Rodney Monroe, N.C. State, W
1992: Christian Laettner, Duke, F-C
1993: Rodney Rogers, Wake, F
1994: Grant Hill, Duke, W
1995: Joe Smith, Maryland, F-C
1996: Tim Duncan, Wake, C
1997: Tim Duncan, Wake, C
1998: Antawn Jamison, UNC, F
1999: Elton Brand, Duke, C
2000: Chris Carawell, Duke, F
2001: Shane Battier, Duke F, and Joseph Forte, UNC, W
2002: Juan Dixon, Maryland, W
2003: Josh Howard, Wake, W
2004: Julius Hodge, N.C. State, W
2005: J.J. Redick, Duke, W
2006: J.J. Redick, Duke, W
2007: Jared Dudley, Boston College, F
2008: Tyler Hansbrough, UNC, C

Pure point-guard winners:
1959: Lou Pucillo, N.C. State
1966: Steve Vacendak, Duke
1970: John Roche, South Carolina
1971: Charlie Davis, Wake
1972: Barry Parkhill, Virginia
1978: Phil Ford, UNC

For the record, South Carolina’s John Roche was the conference player of the year in 1969 in addition to 1970. But during the '69 season, Roche was used primarily as a wing guard. The playmaker that season for the Gamecocks was Billy Walsh.
— Caulton Tudor

How radio guys called Singler's elbow

Duke forward Kyle Singler's elbow to the cheek of North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough was seen differently by the two schools' radio crews.

Naturally, the radio broadcasters for opposing basketball teams see the same game or a particular play through different-colored lenses.

We culled the slightly different takes of the Duke and UNC broadcast teams on a play early in the second half of North Carolina’s 101-87 victory over Duke on Wednesday night. Duke's Kyle Singler and UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough were fighting for the ball on the floor when Singler caught Hansbrough on the side of the head with his right elbow and was called for a technical foul.

Here’s a segment of the call from Duke play-by-play announcer Bob Harris, John Roth and Matthew Laurance as they unravel what happened, followed by the way UNC play-by-play man Woody Durham and Eric Montross saw it:

Well, [Singler’s] elbow definitely went up and knocked Hansbrough in the cheek that time as they were going for the ball, and so that’s the call. Physically, it happened. I’m not sure that he was trying to hit anybody, but physically, his elbow went up and hit Hansbrough in the face.

Harris: Well, we’ve seen that happen before in this situation.

Roth: And Greg Paulus trying to discuss it as one of the captains on the floor right now, with [official] Mike Wood.

Harris: I heard [official] Tony Greene say a jump ball and then a foul, I believe. Matthew, is that correct?

Laurance: Yeah, I think he said jump ball and then a dead-ball foul. I don’t know how this is going to shake out, though.

Harris: Well, the dead-ball foul means there’s no shots, ’cause it was on the floor. The held ball is going to be Duke ball out of bounds, should be, unless they’re calling it a flagrant foul.

Roth: And the officials calling Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams together at midcourt right now to discuss this, so once again ... it was a tie-up down there, and it looked like, as they were going for that ball, Kyle swung his arm around, and his elbow did connect with Tyler Hansbrough in the cheek, and now we’re going to see what the ...

Harris: Well, Hansbrough was on his back, and I think that was a reaction to Hansbrough coming over [Singler’s] back. I think it’s contact from both, and so you let it go. I mean, my gosh, they’re scrambling for a loose ball. We’ve seen a lot worse.


Here’s a portion of the call from UNC's Woody Durham and color man Eric Montross:

Montross: It looks like Singler got into the fray on the floor, and it didn’t look intentional, but he did catch Hansbrough with a pretty good elbow to the side of the face. That’s what it looks like on replay.

Durham: Well, we’re sorry you don't have the privilege of watching replay, but as Eric pointed out, we’ll explain it to you when we do have [the information] as best we can.

Montross: You know, there was a big to-do last evening talking about incidental contact, flagrant contact ...

Durham: OK, I think here’s what happened: We had a tie-up for a jump ball, and then came the foul.

Montross: I would agree.

Durham: Now, you know [from] the crowd reaction, that’s what it is. Mike Krzyzewski’s got a little bit of a sneer, trying to make it a smile, but it’s a little bit of a sneer like he can’t believe it. [Official] Tony Greene’s trying to lay it all out for the veteran Duke coach, and Roy Williams has come down now to join the conversation, because these officials really aren’t supposed to talk to one coach without talking to both coaches. So both coaches are listening right now as Tony Greene explains what happened. ... (Durham initially believes the foul is on Duke’s Jon Scheyer, and the announcers, including Jones Angell, straighten that out.)

Montross: And that’s the whole thing about the elbow and the way the elbow is being called this year. Any kind of waving is a violation, whether there’s contact or not. Any kind of flagrant motion of the elbow that makes contact is a flagrant foul or a technical foul, and any kind of clearing out with an elbow is an automatic foul, so that’s why this was so critical to the referees to catch it.

-- Roger van der Horst

It was a hot, slick time in Durham

DURHAM — It wasn’t surprising how many times the players slipped during North Carolina’s 101-87 victory over Duke on Wednesday night, considering how hot it was at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The balmy daytime temperatures, combined with the tight confines and yelling fans led to some wet conditions on the court.

“We could wring our jerseys out … there was so much water,’’ said reserve guard Bobby Frasor, whose team has now won eight straight games. “It was hot and balmy, but a fun place to play.”

CRAZY MISSING? One of the more entertaining locker room moments began when Tyler Hansbrough — now one of only four players to play in four wins at Cameron Indoor Stadium since Mike Krzyzewski took over as Duke's coach — was asked if he would miss the Cameron Crazies.

“I won’t miss them, but I’ll miss playing here, though,’’ he replied.

Then he was asked whether he would ever come back to visit.

“C’mon man!” he said, laughing.

STRONG START FOR DEON: Forward Deon Thompson scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half, but his offensive aggressiveness was a good sign for the Tar Heels, considering the junior had managed only two double figure scoring performances in his previous nine ACC games.

THE SHORT LIST: Hansbrough and Danny Green joined Wake Forest’s Rusty LaRue and Tim Duncan as the only players to beat Duke four times at Cameron in the Krzyzewski era.

“It means a lot; I’m honored to be on that short list,’’ Green said. “I’m kind of jealous of Marcus [Ginyard who is redshirting the rest of the season with a foot injury] because he’ll get another chance to do it, and he might get out of here 5-0. I don’t know how short that list is, but I’m pretty sure it’s really short.

-- Robbi Pickeral