Sunday, January 27, 2013

N.C. State 91, UNC 83: Three things to take away for the Wolfpack

Three Points from N.C. State's 91-83 win over North Carolina:

1) Lorenzo Brown is the best player in the ACC

Brown put on a clinic with 20 points and 11 assists against the Tar Heels. Through seven ACC games, the junior point guard averages 14.7 points, 8.7 assists and has made 53.8 percent of his 3-pointers.

Brown's outside shot had been a weakness before conference play, making just 6 of his first 24 3-pointers this season, but he has made 7 of 13 in league play, including both of his 3s on Saturday.

Brown's true value, as Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski pointed out two weeks ago, is in transition. N.C. State took control of the game in the first half, when it out-scored UNC 20-0 in fastbreak points.

Brown had a three-minute stretch in the first half, while State was in the midst of a 20-2 run, that was as good as any in his career.

At 5:30 in the first half, he wrapped a pass around UNC point guard Marcus Paige's back to Richard Howell for a layup. At 4:41 he abused Paige off the dribble with a strong spin and two-handed finish at the rim.

At 3:03 he grabbed a Paige miss and threw a perfect, length-of-the-court pass to State freshman Rodney Purvis in stride for a dunk and 27 seconds later, beat Paige down the court and set up T.J. Warren for an easy layup.

Paige, a freshman, got a master class from Brown on how to push tempo and attack. Brown was also instrumental in turning the team around after Tuesday's collapse at Wake Forest.

It was Brown who said the point of the team meeting on Thursday was to clean up the "nonsense" around the program since the Duke win on Jan. 12 (State had lost two of three before Saturday's win).

After the UNC game, I asked Brown if State had taken care of the "nonsense."

"You tell me," Brown replied.

He then relented.

"Everybody is back on the right page," Brown said. "Everybody was scoring and nobody was complaining about who's touching the ball more or who's shooting more. I'm just happy that we're back on track."

State's back on track largely because of Brown, who was glowingly praised by ESPN's Dick Vitale during the game but not by his own coach after the game. The way Brown's playing, Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried will get another chance to compliment his best player, sooner rather than later.

2) Another 50-point half

Gottfried was livid, rightfully so, after giving up 51 points in the second half of Tuesday's 86-84 loss at Wake Forest. The Wolfpack gave up 57 points in the second half of Saturday's win.

Like a good jockey, Gottfried knows when to use the whip, and the afterglow of the first win in 14 tries against UNC was not the right time to be critical of the team's defense, but he did mention the discrepancy between the two halves.

"The first 20 minutes, I thought defensively we were as fundamentally sound and unselfish as I've seen us be," Gottfried said. "I loved our defense in the first half, and that's how we've got play."

N.C. State gave up 26 points in the first half and held UNC to 30.3 percent from the floor. In the second half, UNC made 60.5 percent of its shots, including 68 percent (17 of 25) of its 2-pointers.

"Parts of the second half, we weren't nearly as good defensively, but we can get there," Gottfried said.

Where this second-half trend becomes problematic is Gottfried attributed the problems to fatigue. To Gottfried's point, UNC scored 12 points in the first 10 minutes of the game, compared to 40 in the final 10 minutes.

If you break down the scoring into four 10-minute quarters, N.C. State won the first 22-12, the second 23-14, the third 18-17 then lost the fourth 40-28.

Gottfried has settled on a six-man rotation, with Warren (27 minutes) coming off the bench. Gottfried used forward Jordan Vandenberg for 3 minutes in the first half, to spell C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell, and guard Tyler Lewis for 3 minutes in the second half to spell Brown.

With Miami lurking next Saturday, along with the return trip to Duke (Feb. 7), Gottfried has to try to get more out of Vandenberg. The junior 7-footer was relatively productive at Wake, when Leslie and Warren were in the foul trouble, and there's no reason Gottfried can't get 8 solid minutes a game out of Vandenberg, if for no other reason than to give fouls.

3) Whose state is it?

With wins over UNC and Duke, N.C. State can certainly make its "This is our state" claim. There's still the matter of Tuesday's loss to Wake Forest, and return trips to both Chapel Hill and Durham, before that will be decided, though.

But for N.C. State, Saturday's win was important, as was the win over Duke two weeks ago. There's the practical matter of you can't win the ACC without going through those two teams.

Then there's the psychological effect of knowing you can beat the blue teams. N.C. State had Duke by 20 at Cameron last year and lost. It had UNC in the ACC tournament and Kendall Marshall got them at the wire. It's one thing to be picked in front of UNC and Duke in the preseason, it's another to go out and actually beat those teams.

Getting the best of UNC coach Roy Williams has been particularly difficult for State. Williams hasn't just crushed State with his really good teams, he also won all the games (in theory) State should have at least split, in 2006 (Herb Sendek's best team) and 2010 (Williams' worst team).

"Our program has lost a lot of games to North Carolina. They're good and have been good," Gottfried said. "We're trying to get good. At some point, you've got to turn it a little bit. This is a start."

Yes, a start. The next step is following up wins over Duke and UNC without a letdown.

Otherwise, it will be Miami's "state."

Bonus) About the refs

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Mike Eades is the best official the ACC has. It was no surprise to see Eades work Saturday's spotlight game, along with veterans Mike Stuart and Ray Styons.

I appreciate Eades' work because he has a tendency to let the players decide the game and for the way he handles the coaches.

Saturday's final foul tally was 25. UNC finished with 16 fouls but six of those fouls were in the final 56 seconds when UNC was trying to foul, which makes it a 10-9 split.

Now, UNC wasn't especially thrilled with two early fouls on star forward James Michael McAdoo, but neither was a 50-50 call and McAdoo was able to play 17 minutes in the second half before fouling out.

Twenty-five combined fouls is a welcome change to Tuesday's game at Wake (44) and the ACC opener at Boston College (44) on Jan. 5. Eades also worked State's loss to Maryland on Jan. 16, which had 22 combined fouls.

- Joe Giglio


N.C. State's Mark Gottfried, UNC's Roy Williams team up for charity commercial

In addition to being for a good cause, these Infiniti Coaches' Charity Challenge commercials are actually pretty funny.

This one stars N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried and UNC's Roy Williams, and the voiceover is done by Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.

And unless, there was some serious high-tech editing (which is possible), it also appears that Gottfried and Williams actually got together to film the commercial (unlike the old "Guitar Hero" ad with Krzyzewski and Williams.)

There's more information on the Coaches' Charity Challenge at this website.

- Joe Giglio

N.C. State 91, UNC 83: Three things to take away for the Heels

Three things to take away from the Tar Heels' defeat:

1. The Tar Heels do have a talent issue - at least for now.

Some have argued this season that among UNC's problems, talent is not among them. But last night proved once again that Heels do have a talent deficiency. It was evident earlier this season when UNC played at Indiana. And it was clear last night against an N.C. State that simply had better players at nearly every position. UNC has plenty of good players, too. It'd be silly to argue otherwise. And it's not like the Heels are without talent. But UNC's four freshmen are still developing and aren't as strong now - physically or mentally - as they will be down the road. Further, the guys UNC needs to be star players - James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Bullock, P.J. Hairston - aren't quite there yet, either.

2. It was a tough night for Marcus Paige.

The biggest difference in this game, to me, was how dominant N.C. State was at point guard. Lorenzo Brown finished with 20 points and 11 assists, and was a master during the first half of getting the Wolfpack out in transition. It was a struggle, though, for UNC freshman Marcus Paige, who missed his first eight shots and finished with seven points, four assists and three turnovers. Paige played well late but by then the Heels were in scramble mode, desperately trying to get back into the game.

3. Roy Williams doesn't want to hear it, but UNC will have to build off a moral victory.

Tar Heels coach Roy Williams didn't much want to hear that this was a moral victory for his team. Sure the Tar Heels cut a 28-point deficit to five with about 30 seconds to play, but Williams basically said moral victories are for pansies. He also said learning experiences "are for babies" but, still, UNC has no choice but to attempt to build off its second-half performance. The Heels shot 60.5 percent and scored 57 points - the third-most they've scored in a half this season.

QUOTABLE "Well in my opinion there's not a lot I can say. It was a butt-kicking, is what it was. We were going to try to emphasize sprinting back on defense, and that's the thing we talked about yesterday, and talked about today ... first half today they have 20 fast-break points to our zero. So I didn't do a very good job of coaching and getting our guys ready. I'm not big into moral victories whatsoever, and we did try to make a comeback but I think our teams will always make a comeback. But North Carolina state was more prepared, they had a greater sense of urgency and they worked harder." -Roy Williams

"We've got to have a greater sense of urgency, we've got to have greater effort. Got to have better coaching. ... It was, I've already said it - it was a butt-kicking." -Roy Williams

"I'm not into moral victories, guys, and I'm not into this pansy-kind of crap. We stunk." -Roy Williams

"They were guarding us a lot harder than we were guarding them. And all this stuff about streaks, and people making comments - on game nights you've got to step out there and you've got to play. And we didn't do that." -Roy Williams

"We definitely need to learn from this. Florida State was a good road win for us, but this was a whole other level, coming in here playing N.C. State at their own gym. But regardless, we didn't show up ready to play." -James Michael McAdoo

"I mean, I can learn a lot from watching the first 30 minutes of that film - just trying to keep our team under more composure in a hostile environment. That's my job as a point guard. I think I can definitely do better in that regard." -Marcus Paige

- Andrew Carter

Saturday, January 26, 2013

UNC vs. N.C. State: It's game day

Welcome to game day, folks: North Carolina at N.C. State.

Wanted to provide an all-in-one-place look at our coverage today. So here goes:

--A story about Dexter Strickland's preseason comments, and how they added “some spice,” to use Strickland’s words, to the rivalry. But does what he said really mean anything?

--Over at N.C. State, Strickland’s quote didn’t register much. The Wolfpack has more important things to worry about.

--What’s the best UNC-State game in history? There have been a few. Caulton Tudor takes a look back at the 1975 ACC tournament championship game between the Wolfpack and Tar Heels.

Football coach Dave Doeren sings 'Folsom Prison Blues'
with Scotty McCreery before the broadcast of 'ESPN's
College GameDay' from PNC Arena on Saturday.
--And just how dominant have the Heels been in this series under coach Roy Williams? Take a look.

And with that … here’s a look at the matchups today (courtesy our Joe Giglio), starting with the starters:

Lorenzo Brown vs. Marcus Paige

Paige, an undersized freshman, has improved as a passer and decision-maker since the start of ACC play. He has struggled to find his shot but he still has better 3-point numbers (18 of 59, 30.5 percent) going into this game than Kendall Marshall did before last year's game in Raleigh (14 of 51, 27.4 percent). Marshall delivered a career-game in last year's win (22 points, four 3-pointers) in Raleigh. That's what it will take from Paige to outplay Brown, who's superior in every facet of the game.

Edge: Brown

Rodney Purvis vs. Dexter Strickland

Strickland wrote a preseason check with his "they are the least of our worries" comment, now it's up to him to cash it. He has struggled to score in ACC play (4.0 points per game) but his defense has picked up, especially the past two games (seven steals in wins over Maryland and Georgia Tech).

Like most freshman, Purvis plays better at home, but his effort at Wake Forest on Tuesday was notable for its production (team-best 18 points) and intensity.

Strickland, a senior, has never lost a game to State in his career. That experience has to count for something. Edge: Strickland.

Scott Wood vs. Reggie Bullock

It's not an accident that UNC's recent surge has coincided with Bullock's uptick in scoring. When Bullock, who has the rare ability to shoot and create offense with his defense, is good, so is UNC. Conversely, State's problems in the past three games have a direct link to Wood, who has made only 6 of 21 of his 3-pointers over that stretch. Wood, a senior, has struggled throughout his career against the more athletic Tar Heels. He faces an uphill challenge on both ends of the court with Bullock. Edge: Bullock

C.J. Leslie vs. James Michael McAdoo

The NBA scouts will tell you this is all McAdoo — as will Oklahoma State, Maryland, Clemson, Wake Forest. But Duke's Mason Plumlee will tell you this is Leslie's matchup.

If the fully-engaged Leslie, who scored 25 in the 86-74 win over Duke on Jan. 12, shows up tonight, than he has an advantage over McAdoo and any other big in the ACC.

If not, the floor is open for McAdoo. It's difficult to envision a scenario where UNC wins without a big game from McAdoo, who's not enough of a shot-blocker to handle a fully motivated Leslie. Edge: Leslie

Digger Phelps, right, laughs with Jalen Rose, center, and Rece Davis during the broadcast of ESPN's College GameDay Saturday morning, January 26, 2013, from PNC Arena. Hundreds of N.C. State fans attended the broadcast.

Read more here:
Richard Howell vs. Desmond Hubert

Hubert might consider changing his name to "Devin" after Clemson's Devin Booker (27 points) and Wake Forest's Devin Thomas (25 points) busted up State's interior defense the past two games. Even going back to the Duke game, reserves Amile Jefferson and Josh Hairston put up good combined numbers in this spot.

Hubert, Brice Johnson and Joel James will all get their minutes against Howell, who quite simply has been N.C. State's hardest working, most consistent, most valuable and best player over the first 19 games of the season. Edge: Howell


Few coaches get as much out of as many players as Roy Williams. UNC has more parts and Williams has more patience with those parts than Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried, who has ostensibly settled on a six-man rotation. For the most part, freshman T.J. Warren with his old-man scoring guile, has been very good for the Wolfpack, particularly in transition. But UNC can get points off the bench (P.J. Hairston), some defense (Johnson) and fouls (James) to wear down out State's bigs. Edge: UNC


UNC has won 13 straight and 19 of 20 against State under Williams. His great teams have crushed State, his young teams have humiliated State and his NIT team swept State. Williams isn't just in State's kitchen, he bought the house and has painted every room light blue.

N.C. State nearly beat UNC last March, in a classic game in the ACC tournament. Much of the same parts for the Wolfpack return from that game but will they finally be able to get over the hump?

Edge: UNC

So there you have it. Only about six and a half more hours ...

--Andrew Carter

Friday, January 25, 2013

One N.C. State fan and his relentless Twitter heckling of UNC's Dexter Strickland

After Dexter Strickland said some things about N.C. State before the season – you know, about how the Tar Heels beat the Wolfpack “every single year” (and that has, in fact, been true for a while) – he told me during an interview that he’d been hearing just about every day from one N.C. State fan who sends Strickland messages on Twitter, counting down the days to Saturday, when the Wolfpack and Tar Heels play at PNC Arena.

I spoke with Strickland the other night after UNC’s victory against Georgia Tech, and he said that same fan had continued to send him tweet after tweet (most of them, it turns out, taking shots at Strickland’s jumpshot). That N.C. State fan is Ryan Forcina, and the majority of his tweets, going back to October, have been directed at Strickland.

Forcina deserves some credit for his relentlessness. It can’t be easy to talk smack day after day after day. He even managed to wish Strickland a happy Thanksgiving, a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year, all the while making fun of Strickland’s jump shot or, in the case of one tweet, writing simply, “You’re a scrub, bro.” I've reached out to Forcina but haven't heard back.

Of course, Strickland deserves some credit, too, for being a good sport. He told me he hasn’t even blocked Forcina.

Anyway, here’s what Strickland has been hearing from this guy for the past two months. This list doesn’t include every tweet, but most of them:

- Andrew Carter

Saturday, January 5, 2013

UNC guard Reggie Bullock to return to lineup vs. Virginia

CHAPEL HILL -- Reggie Bullock will return from his concussion and play on Sunday when North Carolina opens its conference schedule on the road at Virginia, according to a team spokesman.

Steve Kirschner, a spokesman for the UNC athletic department, wrote about Bullock in a text message: "He's playing." According to the UNC basketball team's official Twitter account, Bullock practiced in full on Saturday before the team departed for Charlottesville, Va.

"Reggie Bullock practiced full speed again today," read a tweet from @UNC_basketball. "Should be back in starting lineup [Sunday] night in ACC opener at Virginia."
The Tar Heels and Cavaliers play on Sunday night at 8 at Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena.

Bullock, who suffered his concussion last week and sat out the Heels' 79-73 victory against UNLV last Saturday, is UNC's second-leading scorer and is averaging 13.1 points per game. He has made 47.5 percent of his 3-point attempts, which leads the ACC.

- Andrew Carter