Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Knee injury kept Duke's Smith sidelined

Starting point guard Nolan Smith missed the final 28 minutes of Duke’s 92-51 win against Loyola of Maryland on Wednesday after injuring his left knee in the first half at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

His status for the future wasn’t immediately clear at game’s end.

Smith was taken to the locker room after he was hurt while defending a drive by Brian Rudolph with 8 minutes, 35 seconds remaining in the half. He returned to the bench with 5:15 left in the half and had an ice pack taped to his knee.

He didn’t play the second half and sat on the bench wearing warm-ups. He scored four points after entering the game as Duke’s third-leading scorer with 11.5 points per game.

Forwards Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson used their size against the smaller Greyhounds (4-9) to lead Duke in scoring. Singler scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and Henderson added 19 points.

Duke (11-1) forced 24 turnovers and scored 16 fast-break points but struggled to a 1-for-12 performance from beyond the 3-point arc. The Blue Devils open ACC play at 7:45 p.m. Sunday against Virginia Tech at Cameron.

– Ken Tysiac

Duke guard Smith injures knee in first half

Duke starting point guard Nolan Smith suffered an injury to his left knee in the first half of Wednesday’s game against Loyola of Maryland at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The Blue Devils lead 48-23 at halftime, but suffered what could be a significant loss when Smith was hurt while defending a drive by Brian Rudolph with 8 minutes, 35 seconds remaining in the first half.

Smith collapsed near the Duke bench after the play and was taken to the locker room. He returned to the bench, where team medical personnel strapped an ice pack to the top of the knee.

Loyola committed 14 turnovers as Duke used 10 fast break points to build the 25-point lead. Gerald Henderson scored 14 points and Kyle Singler added 12 for the Blue Devils in the first half.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Injured Wolfpack guard to miss 3-6 weeks

N.C. State guard Trevor Ferguson is out three to six weeks with a non-displaced fracture of the bone behind the ring finger his left (non-shooting) hand, team spokesman Brian Reinhardt said Tuesday afternoon.

Ferguson has started four games and is averaging 7.9 points per game. He leads the team with 17 3-pointers and is shooting 41.5 percent from 3-point range. His hand is in a splint, but he will not need a cast or surgery.

– Ken Tysiac

Monday, December 22, 2008

Marquette's James leaves impression

The guy who broke N.C. State’s heart on Monday night had some kind words for the team he’d just defeated on a winning 3-point shot with four-tenths of a second remaining at the RBC Center.
Point guard Dominic James, whose basket gave Marquette a 68-65 victory, was impressed with N.C. State’s post players and the way coach Sidney Lowe gets them the ball.
“They’ve got a great coach,” James said. “He’s great at (isolating) his players.”
Monday night was a rare occasion when those isolation plays didn’t work out for center Ben McCauley. He missed two free throws with 79 seconds remaining and lost the ball during the final minute when he was double-teamed by James and Dwight Burke.
Lowe said he was disappointed N.C. State didn’t do a better job of passing out of the double teams, which usually is one of McCauley’s strengths.
“We needed to kick it back out after catching the ball,” Lowe said. “We kept trying to go one-on-one. We didn’t play as smart as we normally do and that’s why we lost the game.”
James exchanged good-natured greetings with forward Brandon Costner as he left the arena after Costner scored a game-high 24 points for the Wolfpack. And when James was done speaking with the media, he spotted N.C. State freshman point guard Julius Mays and gave him a big hug.
They had played against each other in high school in Indiana.
“I told him before the game, I was impressed with the way he came out and ran their team,” James said.
After James scored nine of his 18 points during the final four minutes, N.C. State was impressed with him, too.
“He made plays a senior of his caliber would,” Lowe said. Ken Tysiac

Friday, December 19, 2008

Davidson's Curry honored by Sporting News

The Sporting News has named Davidson's Stephen Curry its 2008 College Athlete of the Year, and there is an interview with him in that issue (Dec. 22).

And Curry, who leads the nation in scoring at 31.9 points per game, is -- obviously -- listed on the Naismith Trophy early-season watch list. The Naismith, won by North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough last year, is presented to the top player in college basketball.

Hansbrough would be only the third player to win it more than once if he repeats.

North Carolina's Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington are also on the list, along with area standouts Gerald Henderson of Duke, Gani Lawal of Georgia Tech and Devan Downey of South Carolina.

--Stan Olson

Pressure won't all be mental for Curry vs. Purdue

Davidson and star guard Stephen Curry face Purdue at 4 p.m. in Indianapolis Saturday, and it's safe to say they haven't seen a defense like the Boilermakers' this season.

Purdue (8-2) likes to press baseline-to-baseline with one-on-one pressure, something the Wildcats haven't faced yet during their 8-1 start this season--except in practice.

"I've seen a couple of presses but not one-on-one pressure," Curry said Thursday night. "We work on it in practice, so to be able to handle it, I think that's one of our strengths. With Max Paulhus Gosselin (who often guards Curry), who can do it, that's one of our strengths. I've seen it in practice a lot. And if they decide to do that, we should be fine handling it."

The Boilermakers will almost certainly guard Curry with 6-foot-3 junior guard Chris Kramer, who usually covers the opponents' best perimeter scorer. Kramer isn't much of a scorer himself (4.4 ppg), but is a key to one of the nation's best defenses and leads it in steals with 25. Purdue holds opponents to 34.8 percent shooting from the floor.

--Stan Olson

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Q&A: Mike Krzyzewski talks Xavier

Four questions from coach Mike Krzyzewski’s teleconference Thursday to preview Duke’s 2 p.m. game Saturday with Xavier in East Rutherford, N.J.

Q: What is it about you guys and the Meadowlands (where Duke is 17-1)?
A: First of all, it’s the Izod Center now. Watch your tongue there (joking). People pay a lot of money to get names on those arenas. That location has been historically a big part of the NCAA. And a lot of it has to do with the fact that there’s such a rich tradition in New Jersey and the New York area there. We’ve been fortunate to play some of the biggest games in our history in that building. And every time I would either fly over it or drive past it or obviously play in it, it conjures up some memories of great, great games and the great kids, and the great kids we played against. Some fantastic basketball. Some of the best basketball, really, in the history of college basketball. That’s what’s happened in that arena.

Q: Has the inconsistency in the 3-point shooting been a concern?
A: Actually, there’s been no inconsistency. We’ve just not been good. We haven’t shot well. And so the consistency is that we haven’t shot well. Until last night (against UNC Asheville). Last night we were 11-for-27 from 3-point range. We’re good shooters, and I’m not going to tell my kids to stop shooting. It’s a long season, and as long as they’re taking good shots, I’d never tell a kid not to take a good shot. I just think we have to be instinctively aggressive, also, but not be one dimensional. In the one loss (at Michigan) we had I thought we became too one dimensional in our pursuit of going after the three. We didn’t get to the free throw line. I think you have to have a balance of not just inside and outside, but going to the foul line, which we didn’t have in that game.

Q: Can you talk about Gerald Henderson and his progress?
A: So far, I think he hasn’t gotten off to the start he would like or we would like, although last night (against UNC Asheville) I thought he played very well. Gerald should touch every aspect of the game, whether it be rebounding, defense, driving, getting to the line, outside shooting, he’s a player. He’s really a good player, and I think when he gets caught up in focusing on just one of those things, he’s a starter and a good player, but he’s not a really good player. He had a severe wrist injury in mid-February last year and played the rest of the year with it, and then was out for four months at the end of the season right after an operation. My feeling is, there still is a little bit of transition. Sometimes you remember who you were last instead of who you are. And the first few games so far this season he’s been playing like he did at the end of the year last season with the injury, not like he did before the injury. I thought last night he took a good step forward.

Q: You’ve had the success with the Olympic team, can you talk about what that’s done for you as a college coach?
A: Everything that’s been a part of that has been good. One, it makes you a better coach because you learn from being with other great coaches, like (Mike) D’Antoni, Nate McMillan, Jim Boeheim. You learn from coaching very special basketball players that we had on that team who are true professionals and have a commitment to learn. You learn by some of the things they do. And then you coach against a different group, a competitive group, the international community. They’re terrific. They’re outstanding in their concepts, especially on the offensive end of the court. You study and you get better.

– Ken Tysiac

Wolfpack's second unit paying off so far

So far, coach Sidney Lowe's unorthodox use of his bench is working out well for N.C. State.

With about 12 minutes left in each half, Lowe has been substituting a full second unit for his starters, and then leaving the backups in the game for five to six minutes on the game clock.

The Wolfpack's depth was a key as N.C. State defeated East Carolina 87-76 on Wednesday night at the RBC Center. Three East Carolina players fouled out as the Pirates didn't have the strength to muscle up against N.C. State in the post.

"I thought (the rotation) still worked out for us," Lowe said. "It's something we have to look to do if we're going to run and push the ball and get out and defend the way we want."

Center Tracy Smith's ability to score on the block is the key to the strategy, as it allows N.C. State to continue with its inside-out philosophy even with starters Ben McCauley and Brandon Costner on the bench.

Power forward Dennis Horner probably is about as good a "fourth big" as you will see in the ACC, and redshirt freshman Johnny Thomas even has emerged from a long battle with a knee injury to provide some spark off the bench.

Lowe sounds uncertain about whether he will continue with that substitution plan in ACC play, but it seems to be working so far.

"The important thing is for those guys that are coming in to understand that they're a unit, and to understand the strength of that unit," Lowe said. "Tracy Smith is a strength of that unit. And we need to play through Tracy just like we play through Ben and Brandon on the first unit. When we did that tonight, Tracy scored or he got fouled.

"I still feel confident putting those guys in there."

- Ken Tysiac

Hansbrough record, by the numbers

CHAPEL HILL — So, the two most important numbers for North Carolina fans today are obvious: 2,290 (Phil Ford's current career scoring mark), and nine (the number of points Tyler Hansbrough needs to pass that mark).

But here are some other interesting Hansbrough-related digits, provided by UNC, as Hansbrough and the Tar Heels prepare to play Evansville:

* 3 — favorite bucket he's ever made, against Duke his freshman year

* 1,075 — points scored at the Smith Center

* 26.9 — UNC's career record for points per game average, held by Lennie Rosenbluth, which Hansbrough agrees will probably never be surpassed

* 6 — single-digit games

* 6 — games of 30 or more points

* 141 — points scored against N.C. State, his highest total against any team

* 127 — points scored against Duke, second-most

* 58 — points in two games against Michigan State, his most against a non-ACC foe

* 40 — career high, against Georgia Tech on Feb. 16, 2006

— Robbi Pickeral

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

UNC dental school hires Hansbrough's mother

CHAPEL HILL — Not only will North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough’s mom be in town for his potentially record-breaking performance Thursday night — she’s in town for good.

Tami Hansbrough began a new job as the Associate Director of Development at the UNC School of Dentistry on Dec. 8. She is a fundraiser specializing in major gifts and will supervise an annual fund program; the school did not mention her All-American son in the news release announcing her hiring.

“I’ve met so many wonderful people here, that I plan on making North Carolina and Chapel Hill my home -- I plan to retire here,” said Tami Hansbrough, who received her bachelor's degree from Southeast Missouri State University and has led marketing efforts related to medical organizations and outreach in the past.

As per NCAA rules, Tami Hansbrough said she did not receive any help getting the job from the athletics department. “I would never do anything to jeopardize the program; I haven’t even talked to Coach [Roy] Williams about where I’m working,” she said.

Steve Kirschner, associate athletics director in charge of athletics media relations, said the compliance office knew that Mrs. Hansbrough was moving to the area and looking for a job, “which is not the first time that a parent of a student or a student-athlete has moved to be closer to his or her child,” Kirschner said. “But we can’t help them get jobs, regardless of whether those job opportunities are with the University or not.”

There is one benefit for Tami Hansbrough, though: she won’t have to travel as far to watch Tyler play. She previously lived and worked in Mississippi, and is looking forward to watching her middle son try to break Phil Ford’s career scoring record (2,290 points) against Evansville; he needs nine more points.

“I am so excited for him — to see his success, and how hard he's worked to accomplish so much,” she said.

— Robbi Pickeral

Hansbrough: I won't keep track of points

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough said he won't be keeping track of his point total Thursday night as he shoots closer and closer of the school's all-time scoring record.

"But I'll probably know when it happens,'' he deadpanned Wednesday.

Indeed, once he reaches his ninth point at the Smith Center — officially passing Phil Ford's record of 2,290 points, set in 1978 — the game will be stopped, and Ford, coach Roy Williams and athletics director Dick Baddour will present Hansbrough with the game ball (another will be waiting in the wings for completion of the game against Evansville). After the game, a montage of Hansbrough's career highlights will be shown on the video boards, and Ford and Hansbrough are expected to say a few words to the crowd.

"It'll be special,'' Hansbrough said of having Ford, an assistant coach for the Charlotte Bobcats, in the building. "I feel that says something about Carolina as a whole. ... When you're part of something like that, you feel like he's your brother even though you don't know him that well."

Considering 781 of Hansbrough's career points have come on foul shots, it wouldn't be surprising for the senior to get the record on the free throw line. Although if he had his choice, "it would be me hitting a three. ... It probably won't happen, but I wouldn't doubt it if it did."

At this point, with all the fanfare, he just wants to make sure it happens, period.

"It would be pretty bad if I didn't get the record tomorrow (with) all this anticipation,'' he said.

— Robbi Pickeral

Curry is SoCon player of week -- again

If this keeps up, the Southern Conference may need to retire its Player of the Week award and present it permanently to Stephen Curry.

Curry, Davidson's junior guard, has won the award for the fourth time this season and 12th time in his career after leading the Wildcats to two victories last week.

Davidson (8-1) beat West Virginia and Chattanooga as Curry averaged 34 points, eight assists and 2.5 steals. He continues to lead the nation in scoring at 31.9 and is 11th in assists at 6.8. In the win over Chattanooga Saturday, he scored 41 points, including a school- record 31 in the second half.

The Wildcats next play Saturday at 4 p.m., meeting Purdue in the Wooden Tradition at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The game will be televised by CBS.

--Stan Olson

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How will Hansbrough score record point?

Dunk? Free throw? Three-pointer? There's little doubt Tyler Hansbrough will break Phil Ford's career scoring record at North Carolina, but teammates differ on how they'd like to see it happen.

CHAPEL HILL — There's little doubt that North Carolina big man Tyler Hansbrough will set the school record for career points Thursday night. After all, he needs only nine to pass Phil Ford, currently atop the list at 2,290, and the senior has only posted six single- digit games in his career.

But how will he do it?

Shooting guard Wayne Ellington figures it will occur on a lay-up. Forward Danny Green predicts a three-point play.

Reserve Bobby Frasor, meanwhile, thinks it will happen at the foul line; the big man is, after all, already the school leader in free throw attempts.

Wing Marcus Ginyard will be hoping for something a bit more exciting.

"I'd love him to hit a three to do it,'' Ginyard said. "Hopefully, he'll do it that way -- or a dunk or something like that. I just hope he doesn't do it on the free throw line. Maybe a half-court shot at halftime or something? That would be nice."

No matter how it occurs, expect a standing ovation from the crowd, which will include Ford, who is now an assistant coach for the Charlotte Bobcats. And don't expect much of a reaction from Hansbrough, who has downplayed the individual record in favor of a team-first philosophy.

"He'll get some more text messages, or some more phone calls,'' Frasor said of any possible celebration. "But for the most part, he'll make himself a protein shake and go to sleep."

How do you think Hansbrough will set the record? Share your thoughts below.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Curry closes on Gerdy, Davidson scoring mark

John Gerdy's time is coming to an end.

Gerdy, still the best pure shooter I ever saw, is Davidson's all-time leading scorer with 2,483 points. He graduated in 1979, and hasn't been challenged since. But Stephen Curry is running him down, shot by shot.

With 287 points this season, Curry is up to 1,948, a pace that will lift him past Gerdy in a game with Furman on Valentine's Day, 17 games from now.

He's currently fourth, and should zip past Derek Rucker (1984-88), who is four points ahead of him, in the Wildcats' next game, Saturday in Indianapolis against Purdue.

After that, Fred Hetzel (1962-65), an agile 6-foot-8 center who helped Lefty Driesell build Davidson into a national power, awaits, at 2,032 points.

Then comes Gerdy.

If you don't remember John Gerdy, he was a 6-4 guard who could score from anywhere and, much like Curry, could get open against anyone. Until now, he has been a fitting and deserving all-time leading scorer for the school.

But now the school has Stephen Curry.

--Stan Olson

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ford to attend potential UNC record-breaker

Charlotte Bobcats assistant coach Phil Ford will attend North Carolina's game against Evansville, when Tyler Hansbrough is expected to break his three-decades old scoring record, Ford told The Charlotte Observer on Monday evening.

Hansbrough needs nine points to set the new scoring mark; Ford scored 2,290 points from 1974-78.

Ford has said it's an honor to be compared to Hansbrough, a UNC senior forward.

-- Rick Bonnell

Duke loss: 'We relaxed our standards'

Duke’s frustration at losing to a team it defeated a couple weeks earlier was obvious in the slumped shoulders of the players in the locker room at Crisler Arena on Dec. 6.

On Monday, players spoke firmly about their eagerness to correct the mistakes that occurred during the 81-73 loss to Michigan.

“We relaxed all our standards,” center Brian Zoubek said, “and that can’t happen.”

The day after the game, Duke’s coaches called a two-hour meeting to emphasize that the players can’t take days off and need to live up to the team’s high standards. The Blue Devils shot 7-for-33 from 3-point range in the loss, and Duke guard Jon Scheyer said players have worked a lot on shooting during an 11-day break before Wednesday’s game with UNC Asheville.

But point guard Nolan Smith said shooting wasn’t the most important area where Duke failed against the Wolverines.

“(It was) defense and rebounding, our No. 1 standards,” Smith said. “They did whatever they wanted. They drove us. They played harder that day.”

As for the 3-point shooting, nobody on Duke’s team seems outwardly concerned. The Blue Devils have plummeted to 30.7 percent from 3-point range so far this season after shooting 37.7 percent last season.

Scheyer made it sound like a more relaxed approach might help the team make more threes.

“I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on each shot right now,” Scheyer said, “and at times when we have had some games when we haven’t shot the ball well, I feel like we carry that pressure over to the next shot, where we really shouldn’t do that.”

– Ken Tysiac

Frasor's dad debunks rumor

For those of you worried whether the family of UNC guard Bobby Frasor would be able to attend his homecoming game in Chicago Saturday against Valparaiso and his cousin's wedding that same night, breathe easy.

The Southtown (Ill.) Star chronicled the family's plans for the busy weekend on Sunday. But the article also buried the word from Frasor's dad that the Internet rumors linking Bobby Frasor and ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews were, um, false.

Not that Bobby Frasor minded being linked to the blonde television reporter, the elder Frasor said.

"Yeah, he called me one day, and he usually doesn't call unless something big is happening in his life," Bob Frasor told the Southtown Star. "He was all excited. He said, 'Dad, my street value has just gone up big-time.'

"He said, 'I don't know where this is coming from, but I don't mind.'"

Just to clear things up, the elder Frasor added, "As far as I know, it didn't happen." -- Lorenzo Perez, (Raleigh) News & Observer

Charlotteans sweep Big South awards

Charlotteans seem to be making a basketball splash everywhere (see those Curry brothers), and hometown heroes are at it again. Both of the Big South awards went to natives this week, as VMI senior guard Chavis Holmes was Player of the Week, while teammate Keith Gabriel was Freshman of the Week.

Holmes, who played at Christ School and Vance High, averaged 24.5 points, 3.5 assists, 3.5 steals and 3.0 rebounds in leading VMI to two wins last week. He scored 23 points on 7-of-13 shooting in the Keydets’ victory over Campbell, in addition to four rebounds, four steals and two assists. Against Southern Wesleyan, Holmes scored a team-high 26 points on 9-of-13 from the field 7-of-7 from the free throw line. He also had five assists, two blocked shots and three assists in the victory.

Gabriel, a guard who played at United Faith in high school, averaged 15.5 points, 3.5 assists and 3.5 steals last week. In the win over Campbell, Gabriel scored 11 points, with three rebounds and two assists. Saturday against Southern Wesleyan, he scored 20 points and hit four three-point field goals while contributing five assists and six steals.

--Stan Olson

Ginyard close to return for Tar Heels

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina coach Roy Williams said wing Marcus Ginyard probably won't be ready to play in Thursday's game against Evansville, but the senior is getting closer.

"I'm staying out of our live stuff, but I'm doing all of our dummy drills — getting out there, and running ... cutting, dribbling, shooting,'' Ginyard said Saturday. "Really the only stuff I'm being held out of right now is the live stuff."

Ginyard, last year's starting small forward, has been sidelined since October, when he had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot.

Saturday marked the first time he has been in uniform for a game; he went through pre-game warm-ups, but did not play.

"It's always better to be as close as you can to playing, and it's definitely one step better than wearing a suit on the sideline, so it's good,'' Ginyard said.

— Robbi Pickeral

Friday, December 12, 2008

Curry scoring 36.4 percent of Davidson's points

Davidson's Stephen Curry is scoring 36.4 percent of his team's points, which suggests he's playing keep-away from opponents and teammates alike. But he's also averaging 6.9 assists.

Sometimes it appears that Davidson guard Stephen Curry IS the Wildcats' offense, and the numbers back that up.

Curry has taken almost a third of Davidson's shots so far this season (31.3 percent) and is making more than a third of the team's field goals (34.5 percent). Those numbers would be even higher but for a fluke game against Loyola of Maryland, which used two players to guard him the entire game. He took only three shots and didn't score, but his team won by 30.

Throw that one out (and it deserves to be thrown as far away as possible) and Curry's percentages rise to 33.2 percent of the team's shots taken and 37.7 percent of its field goals.

And because Curry shoots a large number of threes and free throws, his percentage of Davidson's points scored is higher still at 36.4. Again, throw out Loyola and that rises to 41.2 percent.

For comparison, Kyle Singler, Duke's leading scorer, has taken 20.3 percent of the Blue Devils' shots. He's scoring 20.6 percent of Duke's points.

Last season's national player of the year, North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough, made 24 percent of the Tar Heels' field goals. But because he also made numerous free throws, he scored 25.5 percent of his team's points.

Since Curry as point guard also distributes the ball -- 55 of a team total of 125 assists -- Davidson fans can only hope he doesn't simply wear out.

No sign of that so far; he's averaging 30.8 points and 6.9 assists a game.

--Stan Olson

Q&A with N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe

N.C. State basketball coach Sidney Lowe, excerpted from Friday’s news conference:

Q: What did you see that was positive (in a 72-67 loss to Davidson on Dec. 6), and then talk about what did you see that you didn’t like?
I thought we did a lot of positive things in that ballgame. I thought the energy we came out with from the start was excellent. We executed. We got shots that we wanted. I thought we played well. I thought we played a good ballgame. We were up one with 2:38 to go against the No. 22-ranked team in the country with a 3-point shot to go up four. And we missed that shot.. . .The thing that I didn’t like, obviously, was the defensive rebounding. That I didn’t like we gave them too many opportunities.

Q: How has Farnold (Degand) gone through the week. Has the time off given him a little bit of time to regroup?
It’s not going to all come back (at once), and that’s the frustrating thing for him, is to try to tone down a little in terms of his aggressiveness and things he can do. Things he can do normally when he’s healthy, he can’t do right now. But he still is quick enough and can handle the ball well enough that if he takes his time and is patient with it, it will come.

Q: What do you need to practice about the (defensive) rebounding? Is it sending more guys to the boards?
It was just a matter of blocking out. This was the first game we really got hurt as bad as we did. We’ve been doing a pretty good job of it and we just have to continue to concentrate on it.

Q: As you watched the various guys you put on Stephen Curry, did any of them stand out that you might have found someone to guard other (top) perimeter players in the future?
I thought a couple guys. Trevor (Ferguson), obviously Trevor for me stands out. Because of, one, his knowledge and understanding the game plan, how to guard guys. He might have made one mistake guarding Curry. And he allowed him to do something we didn’t want him to do. I won’t say what it was. Other than that, Trevor chased him hard, and he tried to deny him at times.

– Ken Tysiac

Lowe: Pack's Fells uncertain for Saturday

N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said Friday that he expects to make a game-day decision on whether to play forward Courtney Fells on Saturday against Winston-Salem State.

Fells suffered a bruised ankle in the Wolfpack’s Dec. 6 loss to Davidson in Charlotte.

“It’s a little more severe than we’d anticipated,” Lowe said.

Lowe does expect Fells (right) to play in Wednesday’s game against rival East Carolina.

Forward Tracy Smith has missed practice for most of this week with an injury to the back of his leg, but will play Saturday, Lowe said.

Point guard Farnold Degand, who played four minutes against Davidson after returning from a knee injury, has been making progress, Lowe said.

“He’s getting better,” Lowe said. “His thing always has been timing and confidence. Not confidence in his ability, but in playing with that brace.”

N.C. State (4-1) meets Winston-Salem State (1-6) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Reynolds Coliseum.

– Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Davidson following the Gonzaga model

Remember the way Gonzaga became the darling of the NCAA basketball tournament several years ago and, instead of disappearing after a cameo, became a recurring character in subsequent seasons?

Davidson has studied the Gonzaga model.

“That’s our motivation. It’s our goal,” Stephen Curry said Tuesday night to a room filled with reporters deep inside Madison Square Garden.
“Coming from a mid-major conference and trying to stay on the national level is what they’ve done and what we’re striving to do. We beat them in the tournament last season. With these last two wins (over N.C. State and West Virginia), we’re getting there.”

It was a difficult night for Curry, who wasn’t at his best until the end when the essentially won the game with a pair of 3-pointers. He tried to treat the trip to Madison Square Garden like just another game but it wasn’t.

It was a big deal to coach Bob McKillop, a native New Yorker who was coaching in the Garden for the first time, and it was a nationally televised game against a Big East opponent that isn’t great but plays grinding defense.

For Curry and the Wildcats, it was a victory based on resiliency.
“Stephen Curry stepped to the plate and tried to swing for the fences early here on this grand stage,” McKillop said. “Maybe he tried a little too hard.”

But the Wildcats didn’t want Curry to quit trying, no matter how tough a shooting night he was having.

“I told him during a timeout in the second half, ‘Just keep shooting,’” teammate Andrew Lovedale said.

Curry listened.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Davidson's Curry hauls in more awards

Davidson guard Stephen Curry keeps pulling in the awards.

Following his 44-point splash in the Wildcats' 72-67 victory against N.C. State Saturday in Charlotte, Curry was name Southern Conference Player of the Week, the National Player of the Week, Andy Katz’s National Player of the Week and’s Non-Big 6 Player of the Week.

Curry was also Southern Conference Player of the Month for November, and his weekly league honor was the 11th of his career.

His 44 points tied his career high, as well as the high for a collegiate player in Time Warner Cable Arena.

He'll be on television (ESPN) shortly. Davidson will meet West Virginia in the Jimmy V Classic in Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m.

- Stan Olson

Monday, December 8, 2008

Liberty's Curry honored again

Seth Curry, Stephen's little brother, is at it again.

Seth, a freshman at Liberty, has already won a Big South Conference player of the week award.

Now he's been named the league's freshman of the week.

Curry earned the honor by averaging 20.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists as Liberty won two of three last week. He scored 22 points in the Flames' victory over George Mason, hitting a three with 17.7 seconds left to send the game into overtime. He had 15 against Gardner-Webb Saturday, with six rebounds and five assists.

Sunday, he hit six of nine threes on the way to 24 points at Clemson, as Liberty lost by five.

--Stan Olson

Friday, December 5, 2008

How will N.C. State defend Curry?

At noon Saturday, N.C. State (4-0) faces national scoring leading Stephen Curry of 22nd-ranked Davidson (5-1) at Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena.

Wing Courtney Fells, the Wolfpack’s primary defensive stopper, will draw the main assignment of guarding Curry, who is averaging 29.2 points per game.

Here is how N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said he plans to deal with Curry:

1. No junk defenses. “I don’t think you change your defense. You just have to be more aware. You have to be solid. Mentally you can’t have a breakdown, because he can burn you.”

2. Keep Fells rested, even if it means using other defenders on Curry: “I think you have to try to stay fresh, because he’s constantly moving to get open. No shot is a bad shot (for Curry), and when you’re playing against a guy like that you can’t afford to relax.”

3. Stop Curry’s teammates: “We can’t pay so much attention to Curry that we ignore the other guys. (Bryant) Barr can shoot the basketball. They have guys that can score the ball. They played against a team (Loyola, Md.) that doubled Curry the entire ballgame, and still (Davidson) won by. . .30 points.” – Ken Tysiac

It's UNC and everyone else

If the point wasn't bludgeoned home with a 98-63 win over the alleged 13th-best team in the country on a neutral site, UNC's the best team in college basketball.

By a mile, actually make that 11 because the reality of the talent-depleted state of college basketball is the second-best team is Duke.

College basketball titles aren't won in December but the UNC-Duke order is crystal clear after three events this week, oddly two of them involving the Big Ten, which hasn't been relevant since UNC's last national title in 2005.

1) The severity of UNC's win

That was not Michigan State-Uppper Peninsula, that was the actual Spartans that UNC beat by 35 points on a neutral site.

To be sure, Michigan State, which lost to Maryland by 18 last week, is not in 2000 form, Tom Izzo's national title team, or even the 2005 version, which lost to UNC at the Final Four, but 35 points is 35 points.

More importantly, was where the game was played — the same site as the Final Four.

Given UNC's history of shooting problems and stage fright in domes, playing at Ford Field gives the Heels a certain comfort level come April if they return.

2) Duke's win at Purdue

Duke won another ACC-Big Ten Challenge. So what?

Well, Purdue with its muscle was supposed to be the end of the Devils' perfect record in the series, especially with the game on Purdue's home court.

What happened? Duke won by 16 with only two points from Gerald Henderson.

3) UConn's 68-64 win over Buffalo

Buffalo? Buffalo? UNC's beating Michigan State by 35, Kentucky by 19 and Notre Dame by 15 and the No. 2 team in the country can't roll Buffalo?

One close call to a bad team does not a season make but UConn has something else working against it — the Obvious Factor.

When Dick Vitale is pointing out the parallels between this season and 1999, as he was during Wednesday's UNC broadcast, Fonzi's on the water skis.

The popular notion, as espoused by Vitale, is UNC is the 1999 version Duke, the ultra-dominant team (37-1 going into the title game and 19-0 in the ACC) that loses in the title game. UConn is reprising its role as UConn.

Except two important facts overlooked from that UConn upset: UConn was 32-2 going into the title game and UConn had great guards.

The current Huskies might run up an equally impressive record, although unlikely given Thursday's struggle with Buffalo, but I promise you there's no Rip Hamilton on the current roster, or Kevin Freeman, or even Khalid El-Amin.

UConn won't be the team that ends UNC's season because if UNC gets to Detroit it's over.

The only way UNC doesn't win the national title is if it loses in the East Regional in Boston (the first two rounds are in Greensboro, it's not necessary for me to rehash UNC's dominance in the state of North Carolina is it?)

And it's going to take more than a Harold "The Show" Arceneaux to knock out the Heels. Notre Dame's Kyle McAlarney scored 39 in Maui and couldn't keep the Irish in spitting distance of the Heels.

It's going to take Arceneaux, Stephen Curry and McAlarney going off. In short, a repeat of 1997 when Roy Williams' No. 1-ranked Kansas team, an overwhelming pre-tournament favorite, lost to a hot-shooting, guard-heavy Arizona team in the Sweet 16.

Is there an Arizona out there?

Who can hit bunches of 3s and out-shoot the Heels? Hmmm, one ACC team did it on Feb. 6. Pittsburgh and Gonzaga (I know, I know) might the be only other two teams capable.

Bottom line, UNC's talented and experienced and its talent, notably Ty Lawson and Deon Thompson, improved over the summer.

While everyone else in college basketball is losing its top-end talent — pick a missing NBA star from the Classes of 2005 (what if Andrew Bynum, ranked two spots behind Hansbrough was in his fourth season at UConn?), '06 (Kevin Durant at Texas or Greg Oden at Ohio State) or '07 (Derrick Rose at Memphis, Kevin Love at UCLA) — the Tar Heels are the only program to retain their McDonald's All-Americans.

It's UNC and no one else is in its class. -- J.P. Giglio, (Raleigh) News & Observer

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Lessons from ACC-Big Ten challenge?

Dick Vitale said it best Wednesday night while watching North Carolina wallop Michigan State 98-65 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

Vitale said he was looking forward to the North Carolina-Michigan State and Duke-Purdue games because they were matching premier teams, but neither game lived up to its billling in the sense of being competitive.

Duke crushed Purdue 76-60 in West Lafayette, Ind., before a North Carolina team Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said might be playing on a different level from anybody else hammered the Spartans in Detroit.

So in addition to winning the ACC-Big Ten Challenge for the 10th straight season, the ACC proved it once again will be very strong at the top. This year's made-for-ESPN event was closer than most, with the ACC eking out a 6-5 advantage over the Big Ten to improve to 62-35 overall in the Challenge.

In addition to North Carolina and Duke, the winners in the event included:

- Wake Forest, which displayed the talent of its freshmen and sophomores on a big stage against Indiana.

- Clemson, which improved to 8-0 with a win at Illinois, showing that it still has enough veteran talent to be an NCAA tournament contender.

Losers included:

- Virginia Tech, whose improbable string of losses on buzzer beaters was extended by Wisconsin.

- Miami, which was comfortably ahead of Ohio State before Jack McClinton was ejected for taking a swing he undoubtedly regrets.

- N.C. State, which didn't get a chance to play in the Challenge by virtue of its last-place finish in the ACC last season.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Skeen transferring from Wake Forest

Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio confirmed Wednesday night that former North Mecklenburg High standout Jamie Skeen will be transferring.

Skeen was declared ineligible for the fall semester for violating the school's academic policy and informed the team this week he would not appeal for reinstatement to the university.

"I wish Jamie would have gone ahead and appealed his decision and came back. I wish he would have done that," Gaudio said. "I mean this with all my heart, this isn't coach-speak, that is one of the most respectful, coachable young men that I've been a part of in 28 years.
"I'm saddened to see him go but I wish him nothing but the best. I talked to his high school coach, Duane Lewis, today and said, 'Everything and anything I can do, you tell me and I'll call 100 schools and tell them the same thing.' "

Skeen, a 6-foot-8, 250-pound forward, will have two years of eligibility left but would have to sit out a year if he transfers to another NCAA Division I school.

In two seasons of action at Wake, Skeen averaged 6.6 points and 4.4 rebounds a game. He was named North Carolina's Mr. Basketball in 2005, the same season he led North Mecklenburg to the N.C. 4A state championship.

--- Jim Utter

Big Ten finally up to the Challenge?

After two nights, it appears at first glance that the Big Ten has a decent chance to win the ACC-Big Ten Challenge for the first time ever.

But despite the 3-3 score so far in the 10th year of the made-for-ESPN basketball event, the Big Ten has little margin for error with the final five games of the challenge to be played Wednesday night.

No. 1 North Carolina is so good that even Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Tuesday night that the Tar Heels’ outstanding veterans put them on a higher level from the rest of the teams in the nation.

Whether Tyler Hansbrough plays or not, North Carolina will be an overwhelming favorite against Michigan State in Detroit with Spartans forward Goran Suton ailing.

Wake Forest also is unlikely to lose at home to an Indiana team decimated by defections following NCAA rules violations by former coach Kelvin Sampson.

If those two games are in the ACC win column, the Big Ten would need to win the other three tonight to eke out a 6-5 overall win in the Challenge. Two of those games are on ACC home floors – Michigan at Maryland and Penn State at Georgia Tech.

The other has Florida State at Northwestern, which traditionally is one of the Big Ten’s weakest teams. If you’re the ACC, you have to like your odds going into tonight.

Duke displays rebounding might

No. 4-ranked Duke’s 49-29 rebounding advantage in a 76-60 defeat of ninth-ranked Purdue was a surprise Tuesday night.

“They really get on top of you and grab the ball; they’re tough,” said Purdue sophomore Robbie Hummel.

No doubt Kzyzewski would consider that a compliment after his undersized team has relied more on grace than power in recent years.

Tigers have played lots of tight games

- Clemson will enter ACC play with plenty of experience in close games.

The Tigers edged Illinois 76-74 Tuesday to improve to 8-0. They also own wins by one point over Charlotte and four points over Temple.

Free throw shooting, a huge problem in past seasons for Clemson, hadn’t been much of an issue for the Tigers this season until Tuesday. They shot just 6-for-13 from the foul line at Illinois.

Even though Clemson’s tradition wouldn’t seem to indicate that the school would be one of the ACC’s top performers against the Big Ten, the Tigers have won five in a row in the Challenge.

– Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hansbrough playing? Heels not saying

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina coach Roy Williams said (again) he does not know whether forward Tyler Hansbrough will play against No. 13 Michigan State in Detroit on Wednesday night. The senior has missed four games this season because of a stress reaction in his right shin, then a “tweaked” left ankle.

Other notes:

• Ford Field, site of Wednesday's ACC/Big Ten Challenge game, is also the site of this year Final Four — where both teams hope to end up in April.

“Playing there this year gives us a feel for the court, so if we go back ... we’ll be used to it,’’ point guard Ty Lawson said.

Especially because of the unique raised-floor configuration, which was also used when an NCAA Regional was played there.

"I'm afraid we are going to be playing on a raised court, and it will be unusual for me,'' Williams said. "I know when I was watching the games last year, it just looked weird and I don't know that I would enjoy it.

"As coaches, we get in a rut and think what we do is more comfortable than change is, but I'm going to have a hard time trying to figure out if that's going to be even more fun."

• Freshman Delvon Roe chose Michigan State over UNC. Asked if he thought he was pretty confident once upon a time that Roe would choose the Tar Heels, Williams said: "I thought he was a wonderful young man and a wonderful player, and I thought we had a good chance."

The forward is averaging 6.2 points and five rebounds after returning from surgeries on both knees.

• The Tar Heels have won four of their five games in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge since Williams took over as head coach.

— Robbi Pickeral

Expect Duke, UNC to own ACC - again

So when will some team other than North Carolina or Duke win the ACC regular-season championship?

It does happen occasionally. It's easy to forget that the Tar Heels and Virginia tied (at 11-5) as recently as 2007.

But the general trend always seems to point to the Big Two. Since the league began in 1953-54, North Carolina has 26 regular-season first-place finishes and Duke has 18. No other school has more than seven (that would be N.C. State Wolfpack). Over the past 12 seasons, the Blue Devils or Tar Heels have either won or tied for first 10 times.

The ACC tournament champion, of course, gets the league's automatic bid and is considered the official title-holder. North Carolina has 17 of those crowns, Duke 16 and N.C. State 10. But the regular season is won with a winter-long body of work, not by simply getting hot for a weekend.

Will anyone offer a regular ACC season better than North Carolina or possibly Duke this year?

Ain't happening.

- Stan Olson

Ford Field seeks Final Four feel

No. 13 Michigan State is trying to give Ford Field a Final Four feeling for Wednesday night's ACC/ Big Ten Challenge game against top- ranked North Carolina.

According to this story from the Detroit News, the game will be played on floor from the 2000 national championship.

The University bought the floor after MSU won the title on it in Indianapolis.

Ford Field, of course, is also the site of this year's Final Four — where UNC is a favorite to play.

— Robbi Pickeral

Monday, December 1, 2008

'Other' Curry scores 26 in upset of UVa

Seth Curry, the younger brother of Davidson standout Stephen Curry, isn't taking long to make his mark.

Seth, a freshman guard at Liberty, was just named the Big South Conference Player of the Week.
Curry averaged 23 points and four rebounds over three games, including the Flames' 86-82 upset of Virginia. He had 26 points against the Cavaliers, helping Liberty to its first win over an ACC school since 1998. And he shot 51.9 percent from the floor for the week despite often facing double teams. He was also named MVP for the Liberty Thanksgiving Classic.

Last year, we got tired of talking about how many teams missed on Stephen. It appears to have happened again.

--Stan Olson

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Paulus on mend against Dukes

DURHAM — Duke senior guard Greg Paulus returned from a one-game absence to score nine points with three 3-pointers against Duquesne.

Paulus is the team's best 3-point shooter but had trouble launching the 20-foot, 9-inch shots with a deep bruise in his right forearm, also his shooting side, against Rhode Island, Southern Illinois and Michigan. He rested for about a week, missing the Montana game before returning.

"He's not there yet but it was great today to get him 23 minutes," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Two days ago we didn't know how much he'd play today. ... We think he's on the way up but he's not there yet."

Paulus will be able to play on Tuesday in Duke's first true road game of the season at Purdue in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Paulus missed the first game of his career when Duke beat Montana on Sunday.

The rest helped. His six shots against Duquesne looked like real shots instead of forced ones. Paulus also dished three assists with two steals. -- Luciana Chavez

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Parting shots from Maui: Hansbrough still rusty?

LAHAINA, Hawaii — Top ranked North Carolina planned to eat Thanksgiving dinner and perhaps enjoy a little beach time and cliff diving before flying back to Chapel Hill later today, with the Maui Invitational title in tow.
Some final thoughts after watching the Tar Heels throttle No. 8 Notre Dame 102-87 in the finale:

* If Tyler Hansbrough thinks he's still out of shape, imagine what he'll look like when he scrubs the rest of the rust off. His 34 points marked the sixth 30-plus point performance of his career, and he now needs only 60 more points to break Phil Ford's career scoring record at UNC.

* Coach Roy Williams likes to play in the Maui Invitational because it has such a challenging field; playing here this year, he said, was as valuable as ever. "I think it’s extremely important for each and every team to have challenges each and every day," he said. "And I think coming to a tournament and playing three days in a row like this is extremely important for any team. Every team that comes and plays in the tournament has an opportunity to improve. We faced zone, we faced man, we faced the press, we faced a myriad of different styles that I think will help us out later on."

* It’s safe to say that small forward Danny Green has adapted to his starting role. The senior had the best two scoring days of his career
(26 and 21 points) during the first two games of the tournament, then added eight points and six rebounds in the finale to be named to the All-Tournament team.

* Who knew Deon Thompson could be so aggressive? The junior power forward pulled down a career-high 13 rebounds, plus 19 points, in the finale, but also threw down a pair of rousing dunks during a first- half 12-2 run; on one, he grabbed a rebound at the free throw line and took it down the lane for the slam.

* The championship game may have been a runaway, but it wasn’t without its intense moments. At one point in the second half, freshman Ed Davis didn’t get back on defense, allowing Notre Dame big man Luke Harangody to score an easy basket. Williams’ response: a slam to the scorer’s table that echoed all the way through the tiny Lahaina Civic Center. (Think he wants this team to improve defensively?)

— Robbi Pickeral, (Raleigh) News & Observer

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Q&A with Tar Heels' Ed Davis

LAHAINA, Hawaii — Freshman forward Ed Davis recorded the second double-double of his career during North Carolina's semifinal victory against Oregon in the Maui Invitational on Tuesday night. Here's some of what he had to say after the game:

Q: What has been your key to rebounding so well?

A: That's just one thing I know can add to this team, night in and night out, is my rebounding. I might not be able to score or defend as well as I want to, but I know one thing I can do is rebound every night, so that's my goal every night.

Q: Are rebounds more important to you that points right now?

A: I just feel like on this team, with my role this year, rebounding would be a good thing to do to get the playing time because that's what I do night in and night out.

Q: When you came in, did you know that's something the team would need from you?

A: Coach always talks about rebounding, and hustling, so that's something I focus on - trying to get every rebound I can.

Q: What do you know about Notre Dame and Luke Haragody (who the Tar Heels play tonight)?

A: I know he's a first-team All-American in the preseason, and Tyler (Zeller's) brother is on there (the Notre Dame team), so he tells us stuff. It's going to be a good game for us.

Q: What do you think of all the injuries to all the big men around you this year?

A: I see it as an opportunity. But with Tyler (Zeller) going out for the year, that really hurt, because we're a family ... but we just have to pick up for his slack, and hope he gets better for next year.

Q: Do you take pride in the fact that you have two double-doubles already this year?

A: I'm just glad that we're 5-0, so that's all I'm happy about.

— Robbi Pickeral

Has Davidson soured on "Sweet Caroline"?

Has "Sweet Caroline" turned just a bit sour?

Last year, the pep band played the old Neil Diamond song throughout Davidson's magical run to within a three-pointer of the Final Four. The song became part of the magic, with fans singing along at every venue.

Now we need to decide; has the song become part of the Wildcats' basketball tradition, or was it simply a piece of a very special time? Should it be retired and remember only as the soundtrack of that remarkable 2007-2008 season?

I bring this up because a number of fans posting on have tired of the song and want it gone. I think this is a decision to be made by the fans themselves, the true supporters who read every word about the 'Cats and attend every game they can.

Tell us what you think; keep the song in the game rotation or remove it?

-- Stan Olson

Loyola coach's strategy was bizarre

First, the questions were about whether Stephen Curry was hurt.

Those of us on press row during Tuesday night's game at Belk Arena between Davidson and Loyola (Md.) spent most of the time wondering what was going on with Curry, the nation's leading scorer.

He took one shot in the first half and was scoreless. Was he hurt? There was a little bandage just below his right knee. Was that there on Monday? What was wrong?

As it turned out, nothing was wrong with Curry. He simply spent the game playing the role Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos wanted him to - uninvolved in Davidson's offense. So Curry played the game, drawing two Loyola defenders away each Davidson offensive possession and watched his teammates dismantle the Greyhounds in a game of 4-on-3.

What was surprising was how long Patsos kept the strategy in place - the whole game.

In the second half, word began leaking out that Curry could go scoreless. The press row phone was ringing off the hook with national media outlets keeping an eye on the game via the Internet wanting to know why Curry had a zero on the box score. Was he hurt? What's the story?

In the end, the story was less about what Curry didn't do and more about what Patsos did. At some point Patsos probably had in place a legitimate defensive strategy. By halftime, when his team had scored 17 points, he should have known that strategy wasn't getting him anywhere. At some point his strategy became an obsession.

In a wild, bizarre post-game interview, Patsos all but admitted his team could take pride in being the only one so far to hold Curry scoreless. But was it worth the cost?

A 30-point loss later combined with the ridicule Patsos is getting today, it's hard to see how.

- Jim Utter

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hansbrough in starting lineup

LAHAINA, Hawaii — North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough, who sat out Monday’s game against Chaminade, was in the starting lineup for UNC’s game against Oregon on Tuesday night. Hansbrough made his season debut at UC Santa Barbara on Friday but did not play in the opener of the Maui Invitational because Roy Williams feared playing the forward three games in three days; Hansbrough was previously out three weeks because of a stress reaction in his right shin.
If the top-ranked Tar Heels win, they will play No. 8 Notre Dame, which survived a last-second comeback attempt by seventh-ranked Texas in the other semifinal game, at 9:30 Wednesday in the championship game. The past two times UNC won the eight-team tournament — 1999-2000 and 2004-05 — it advanced to the NCAA Final Four.

Robbi Pickeral

Curry is SoCon player of week for 10th time

Davidson's Stephen Curry averaged 37.7 points last week and has scored 25 or more in nine straight.

Davidson guard Stephen Curry was just named the Southern Conference player of the week--again.

Curry has won the award 10 times.

In three games, he averaged 37.7 points and 6.7 assists. He made 44.4 percent of his three-pointers and 93.9 percent of his free throws.

Curry, making a remarkably quick adjustment to moving to the point from shooting guard this season, has scored 25 or more points in nine straight games.

He's in action again tonight at about 8 p.m., in an NIT game against Loyola (Md.). That's part of a doubleheader, with Florida Atlantic and James Madison playing at 5:45 p.m.

Tickets are available.

--Stan Olson

Frasor finally hits a 3 for Heels

LAHAINA, Hawaii — North Carolina coach Roy Williams praised guard Bobby Frasor's defense after the Tar Heels blew out Chaminade on Monday night.

But one of the loudest roars of the first-round Maui Invitational came because of the his offense.

With 6:28 left, Frasor — who was 2-for-18 shooting this season at that point — finally swished a three-pointer.

"It was good to finally have one go in,'' said the senior reserve, who has missed everything from three-pointers to layups this season.

Particularly because it seemed like it was such a long time coming.

Frasor said that his long layoff after ACL surgery last year didn't have an effect on his shooting (and after all, he did make a show of making three pointers from the bench during the NCAA tournament last season). He said that this season, "a lot of the shots looked good, they didn't go in."

Now he and the Tar Heels hope they keep going in, beginning tonight, when top-ranked North Carolina faces Oregon in the second round of the Maui Invitational.

"Kept Bobby in a little bit longer because he's been struggling so much with his shot and just needed one to go in," Williams said after the game, "but he was sensational defensively."

Frasor is 16-for-57 over the last two seasons.

— Robbi Pickeral

Up next for Tar Heels: Oregon

LAHAINA, Hawaii — Oregon, making its first appearance in the Maui Invitational, held Alabama to 28.6 percent shooting in the second half Monday night to advance to a semifinal matchup with top-ranked North Carolina tonight. The 9:30 p.m. EST tipoff will be televised on ESPN.

Notes on the Ducks:

PLAYER TO WATCH: Six freshmen played for the Ducks on Monday, but junior point guard Tajuan Porter could give UNC the most headaches.

The 5-foot-6 junior missed his first nine three-pointers against Alabama, but made his last two, finishing with 12 points. He's sixth on Oregon's career three-point list, and he speedy guard from Detroit should make an interesting test for UNC point guard Ty Lawson, who didn't have much trouble running by — and over — Division II Chaminade on Monday night.

SERIES AGAINST UNC: The Ducks are 0-3 all-time against UNC.

A HAWAIIAN HUE: Oregon, which is outfitted by Nike, donned specially designed uniforms Monday for the Invitational. They were black, with a yellow stripe down the left side that also featured Hawaiian printed flowers in green. The pattern was also on the toes of their yellow Nikes.

Asked after the game if there might be anymore uniform twists, coach Ernie Kent said, according to The Oregonian: "I can't tell you that, gang; I can't give away all our secrets."

KENT ON UNC: ''I think there are a lot of teams in the country that would love to play a No. 1 team, but there are some things we have to pay attention to,'' Kent said, according to The Oregonian. "They get up and down the floor, they shoot it really well. The opportunity is there, but we have to be ready to play. They are a team that will make you pay. Hopefully we can match their intensity and be ready to play - it is going to be a battle for us.''

— Robbi Pickeral

Game ball presented by former Tar Heel

LAHAINA, Hawaii — The game ball for Monday's North Carolina-Chaminade game was presented by Tom Butler, who played on Dean Smith's first freshman team in 1958 -- 50 years ago.

Butler, who went to school at Broughton High and now lives in Wilmington, planned the trip to Maui with his wife, son and grandsons to coincide with his 48th wedding anniversary. It just happened to fall at the same time UNC was playing in the Maui Invitational, so his son contacted the organizers to find a way to buy tickets, and the organizers, in turn, asked Butler to be a part of the game ball presentation.

"It was a fun time,'' Butler said of playing on the freshman team, which boasted only four scholarship players at the time. "Coach Smith remembers everyone who crosses his path; he knows my children, which is amazing."

Five decades later, he's a proud season ticket holder to both Carolina football and basketball games, and was pleased at the chance to watch his alma mater play while on vacation.

"I cannot believe how good they are,'' he said of the current basketball team, "and what a good job Roy Williams is doing, and how successful he is -- not just with his coaching, but with his recruiting. He's got the No. 1 team now with all these skilled athletes, and he's going to lose a lot of them, and he's got more coming next year."

— Robbi Pickeral

(Photo courtesy of EA Sports Maui Invitational)

Hansbrough questionable for tonight

Coach Roy Williams said forward Tyler Hansbrough would have played during North Carolina's 115-70 blowout of Chaminade "had it been for a national championship."

But he not was sure whether the senior would play in tonight's second game of the Maui Invitational, either, calling him questionable. The Tar Heels play Oregon, which beat Alabama 92-69, at 9:30 tonight (ESPN).

"I made a decision before we left Santa Barbara that I was not going to play him three straight games,'' Williams said. "He tweaked his ankle a little bit against Santa Barbara; that's the problem right now, it's not even his shin, so I have no idea if he's going to play tomorrow night. I did not plan for him to sit out two games, so if he does sit out, it would be because of his ankle, not his shin."

Hansbrough made his season debut at UCSB on Friday after sitting out more than three weeks because of a stress reaction in his right shin.

MISSING PLAYERS: Chaminade played with only seven players; an additional one will return to the team in time for tonight's game, and a ninth player has been ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA, coach Matt Mahar said.

"They're pretty good, obviously,'' Mahar said of the Tar Heels. "We were outmatched all the way around. I'm glad they got to rest Tyler, I'm glad we didn't have to see him. We got into some foul trouble anyway; we certainly didn't need to add to it. But I think our guys played hard; we had to adjust to some things. But for the most part, I'm pleased with our effort.

GREEN ON A ROLL: Forward Danny Green scored a career high 26 points to go along with seven rebounds and three assists. At one point, he scored 11 straight points for Carolina.

"It wasn't like they were hard baskets; they were easy baskets,'' he said. "Just run the floor and get layups. So, easy finger rolls, as coach said."

-- Robbi Pickeral

Monday, November 24, 2008

Students, in droves, attend Clemson game

If you thought there was a large student turnout at Halton Arena on Saturday night for the Charlotte-Clemson men's basketball game, the ticket numbers back you up.

According to John George, the 49ers' assistant athletic director for ticket operations, 4,373 student tickets were used for the game, a 71-70 Clemson victory. In 9,105-seat Halton Arena, there are 4,500 seats reserved for students.

Saturday's mark was the largest student turnout since the homecoming game with Southern Mississippi in the 2004-05 season, for which all 4,500 student tickets were used. Since the 2001-02 season, student turnout has surpassed 4,000 just nine times, including Saturday.

-- Jim Utter

Hansbrough, Frasor ready to take another leap

LAHAINA, Hawaii — Just down the beach from North Carolina's team hotel rises "Black Rock," a 40-foot ledge of hardened ebony lava that draws plenty of recreational cliff divers, particularly at sunset.

Considering Tyler Hansbrough and Bobby Frasor's history of taking plunges — remember those internet pictures last summer, showing them diving from the second floor of a frat house into an above ground pool? — of course they won't be able to resist.

"Actually, me and Bob were just talking about it – we're going to go do it,'' Hansbrough said Sunday. "Hopefully, someone will get some pictures of it. It will give us a little buzz."

They'll take the leap with coach Roy Williams' blessing.

"It should be easier for them; they're more experienced than the rest of the team,'' he quipped.

This marks Williams' fourth trip to the Maui Invitational, and he said at least half of his players (including his son, Scott, and a couple team parents) from Kansas and UNC have taken the leap on Kaanapaali Beach over the years. Other visiting teams have done it, too.

Williams' only rules: do it after the tournament is over, and don't even considering asking him to participate in the freefall.

"If I go off, it's because one of my players pushed my rear end, because I didn't jump,'' he insisted.

At least one Tar Heel, senior Marcus Ginyard, said he didn't plan to jump either — but only because he was worried about the impact on his still-healing broken foot.

But even though his team has been injury-plagued of late (including Hansbrough, who was out three weeks with a stress reaction in his right shin), Williams said he's not worried about additional bruises, twists, breaks or strains.

" They can step off the bus today and step on something and roll an ankle … people don't jump off the cliff unless they think they can make it,'' he said."

Hansbrough and Frasor certainly think they'll make a splash — even if it is a little higher than their starting point last summer.

" I think we'll be good,'' Hansbrough said. " I think it will be a little deeper down there than a four-foot pool."

— Robbi Pickeral

Getting to know Chaminade

LAHAINA, Hawaii — North Carolina's first-round opponent, Chaminade, may be only 5-65 all-time in the Maui Invitational, but it can pull an upset. Its 1982 stunner over Ralph-Sampson-led Virginia is still considered one of the greatest college basketball shockers of all time, and eventually helped lead to the formation of the tournament.

Its last win in the tournament occurred last season, when it beat Princeton 74-70 in the seventh-place game.

Other things worth noting:

* Nickname: Silverswords.

* Although Chaminade is the host school for the tournament, it is actually located in Honolulu. Tonight marks its season opener.

* The Division II school lost all five of its starters from last year, but it boasts three Division I transfers. Center Mohamad Tangara, a graduate student, formerly played at Arizona. He also went to prep school at Mt. Zion in Durham. Forward Shane Hanson, a junior, played for UC Davis for two seasons. And guard Joe Smith, also a graduate student, previously played at Washington.

* UNC has never faced the Silverswords.

* Said head coach Matt Mahar: "Obviously we're excited to be the host of this tournament; it's fantastic for our University and our program. We're just hoping to get better; we have a whole new group, and we're just trying to figure out who's going to do what. We have three D-I transfers; I love my kids, they're good kids. Off the court, they're fantastic; on the court, we've got a lot to work on. So we're hoping to do that this week."

— Robbi Pickeral

Williams shoots free throws for charity

LAHAINA, Hawaii — Looks like North Carolina coach Roy Williams hasn't lost his free throw form. As part of a charity event before the Maui Invitational begins on Monday, Williams and the other head coaches shot free throws with local youths for charity after Sunday morning's news conference; the funds went to local schools.

Williams, who played on UNC's freshman team in 1968-69, made three of his five shots.

How long had he been practicing?

"In 2004-05 I didn't shoot it,'' he said, laughing as he referred to the last time UNC played here. "I wasn't going to do it this morning, but the press conference got over so quickly I could stay because I have a 9 a.m. staff meeting. Little pressure, missed the first two, hit three in a row so I feel better now."

Notice he didn't let his lei get in his way, either.

photo courtesy of J.D. Lyon, Jr./UNC

-- Robbi Pickeral

Maui to put a strain on Tar Heels

LAHAINA, Hawaii — North Carolina’s coaches have worried about the strain playing three games in three days might put on the stress reaction in Tyler Hansbrough’s shin. But that’s not the only player they’re worried about as they prepared for the Maui Invitational, which begins tonight.

"In the summer, I said 'Gosh, it's going to be great in Maui since we have so much more depth than anyone else,' and now we don't have it,’’ said coach Roy Williams, whose top-ranked team plays Division II Chaminade tonight. “We're still going to try and play people because this early in the year I don't think I can put that kind of load on people by playing somebody 35 minutes a game."

Along with Hansbrough — who may or may not play — wing Marcus Ginyard is still out because of surgery, forward Mike Copeland is still rehabilitating his knee and forward Tyler Zeller is likely sidelined for the season after breaking his wrist.

UNC still has plenty of healthy players to come off the bench, including Bobby Frasor, Ed Davis and Will Graves. But with so many games in a row, with no practicing in between, Williams said one of the keys for his team in the tournament is to make sure that “mistakes don't become habits during the course of playing three games in three straight days.”

Still, Williams said he likes the format because it gives his team a chance to learn and bond on and off the court, regardless of its overall health.

"The first time I came [here] was the fall of '96, and we played great,'' he said. "I thought it was a great experience for our team, getting them on the road, spending some time together. I thought it was wonderful for our chemistry. But the thing about it, playing three straight days against the type of competition we have here, the different types of basketball [styles] you play against, I just think it’s a great experience for the team."

-- Robbi Pickeral

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hansbrough's Maui minutes a concern

LAHAINA, HAWAII — North Carolina coach Roy Williams said Sunday he hasn't decided how much forward Tyler Hansbrough will play in the three-games-in-three days Maui Invitational. He said he's not even 100 percent sure whether the senior will play in top-ranked UNC's opener against Chaminade on Monday, because the team hadn't practiced since beating UC Santa Barbara on Friday night.

Hansbrough made his season debut there after sitting out more than three weeks with a stress reaction in his right shin; he scored 13 points in 25 minutes.

"I don't think it will be a game-time decision, but I really don't know what I'm going to do,'' Williams said. "I really wanted to play him 20 minutes, and he kept bugging the dickens out of me on the bench, and the only way I could get rid of him was to put him in the game so I ended up playing him 25.

"We did not practice yesterday, we got to the LAX Marriott about midnight Friday night and then came here. So we're going to practice this morning and see how he feels. I'm extremely concerned about going three straight days but nobody really knows – the only person that gives you the kind of input you have to have is Tyler. Is there any pain there? If there's pain there, we stop. And he's feeling great.

"Also, I love him to death, but I'm not sure he would be 100 percent honest with me, so I have to keep asking him."

— Robbi Pickeral

Copeland leads Tar Heels to victory

LAHAINA, Hawaii — The Maui Invitational doesn't start until Monday. But thanks to the nimble fingers of senior Mike Copeland, North Carolina has already won the first game of the tournament.

The forward topped teammate Ty Lawson 35-30 Saturday night (Sunday morning EST) in the final of the EA Sports Maui Invitational videogame tournament at the Xbox 360 Players' Party. Playing EA Sports' NCAA Basketball '09, the Tar Heels beat out foes from the other seven teams participating in the Maui Invite to advance to their friendly head-to-head duel.

"I play all the time,'' Copeland said, "so I guess the key is just getting a lot of practice in."

The victory was sweet for Copeland because although he's played a lot of basketball via video games, he hasn't been able get much practice the court over the last few months after offseason knee surgery. He's been back in uniform the last two games, and said he should be able to participate in more contact practice after the Tar Heels return home from this trip.

"The knee's feeling good, it's getting strong,'' he said, holding the videogame tournament's crystal championship trophy. "… It's nice to win something, with my teammates cheering, because I haven't been playing."

Copeland and Lawson — who often face off during their spare time at home —were nominated by their teammates to represent UNC in the 16-player tournament, and neither disappointed. Lawson beat Chaminade's Shane Hanson, then Oregon's Teondre Williams to advance; Copeland topped Chaminade's Jamar Berry and Alabama's Mikhail Torrance in order to face Lawson.

UNC's coaches, players and managers circled the bank of televisions at the Sheraton to cheer on Copeland and Lawson as they were playing in the opening rounds. Some — including coach Roy Williams — walked back and forth between the TVs to watch the action on both.

"Since Coach is here, my strategy is defense, defense, defense,'' Lawson told the onlookers at one point.

During the final, teammates didn't choose a favorite, although they shouted out plenty of advice, including "Put Danny in!" when they were changing line-ups.

Copeland figures the victory will give him a few bragging rights over Lawson for a while. More important, the players hope it will perhaps be a precursor to more.

Said wing Danny Green: "Hopefully, we can play like Mike in the videogame and win [the tournament]."

— Robbi Pickeral

Friday, November 21, 2008

Another Curry sneaks into prominence

Since so many schools missed on Davidson's Stephen Curry, you might think they would have taken a longer look at his younger brother Seth, so that it wouldn't happen again. And yet it did.

Seth finally signed with Liberty of the Big South Conference, and is a Flames freshman. After two games, he's averaging 20.5 points.

Most teams thought Stephen was too small and slight in high school, but he grew and blossomed into an all-American guard at Davidson.

Most teams thought the same things about Seth. Not Liberty coach Ritchie McKay, who plucked him out of Charlotte Christian.

"There were a number of circumstances that played into it," McKay said. "Stephen really hadn't exploded on the national scene yet; that happened after Seth had already signed with us.

"I think people would have taken him on the reputation of his father and Stephen's success. We were the benefactor that that hadn't happened yet. And he was hurt over the summer."

McKay talked about seeing Seth Curry in the spring of 2007 and being impressed with his range. The fact that at that point he was still "165 pounds of skin and bone" likely hurt him with some teams, the coach said.

"The best thing about him was his knowledge of the game; his competitiveness. You could see some Dell Curry (his father) in Seth. I think he had the audacity to choose a smaller place over maybe a larger school, and since it had worked out for his brother, I think he was more comfortable with that."

And Seth, like his brother, added height late, and is 6-foot-3.

"I think we were just really blessed," McKay said. "His parents are two of the neatest people I've ever met in the world and I think he was really solidly grounded.

"I think it was just circumstances. Others were recruiting him, but Seth kept it kind of kept it narrow. And if you go out there and see a skinny kid who kind of has a throwback shot, you wonder, 'Can he do it?' "We were fortunate."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Brother: Zeller's wrist broken in two places

North Carolina forward Tyler Zeller’s wrist is broken in two places, his brother Luke told reporters covering Notre Dame on Wednesday. Luke Zeller said his brother is having surgery this afternoon.

It is unclear how long he will be sidelined.

"He broke the bones on each side of (the wrist)," Luke Zeller said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "They're putting in plates and screws. Thank goodness it's his left hand and not his right hand, but that's all you can be happy about right now."

Tyler Zeller, a freshman who averaged 10 points and 1.5 rebounds his first two games, was hurt with 1:26 left in Tuesday night’s game against Kentucky. He was going for a breakaway dunk when he was fouled in transition by Wildcats forward Ramon Harris, came down hard on his left hand, walked off the court alongside the trainer and was taken to the hospital for tests.

His injury leaves on starting forward position in limbo as the Tar Heels prepare to play at Santa Barbara on Friday, then in the Maui Invitational next week.

Coach Roy Williams said Tuesday night that he did not know when Hansbrough — who has been sidelined for three weeks because of a ‘stress reaction’ in his right shin — would play again, but it sounded like the upcoming road trip could be a possibility.

“I think, and emphasize the word ‘think,’ he probably could have already played,’’ Williams said. “But why rush something like that? We want to be extremely conservative, and that’s what we’ve been already.”

If Hansbrough isn’t ready to return Friday, the Tar Heels could start freshman Ed Davis, who has averaged 9.5 points and 12 rebounds off the bench in his first two games.

The top-ranked Tar Heels are also missing Marcus Ginyard, last year’s starting small forward. He’s out until at least next month because of foot surgery.

Zeller's injury is a disappointment to his brother, because they could have matched up in the Maui Invitational field.

"Being out in Maui together, we were joking around, Wednesday night would be the only night we could hang out," Luke Zeller said. "It just makes it tough. Me and him are really, really close. We were talking about (Maui) for a while. Now they're saying he's in surgery today, won't go with the team to L.A., but hopefully he'll go to Maui. Just kind of depends on how he feels and everything else."

-- Robbi Pickeral

November unkind to Heels so far

This is supposed to be UNC's year, another national title in basketball, the second in five years. It certainly hasn't started that way.

First, it was Marcus Ginyard, then Tyler Hansbrough and likely Tyler Zeller (44 at right) on Tuesday. All three injured, or in Zeller's case, probably injured and due to miss significant time.

UNC's so good, as Tuesday's dismissal of a sad Kentucky program can attest, the Tar Heels can afford to miss Hansbrough for a stretch, maybe even into January, but when was the last time a basketball team won a title with so many injuries?

It's just not a good sign if you're reading the tea leaves. Zeller's wrist injury could prove more costly than the setbacks of Ginyard (stress fracture foot) or Hansbrough (stress reaction shin) because once March starts and the top-end teams start running bodies at Psycho T, like Kansas did at the Final Four, the Heels are going to need depth.

Zeller and fellow freshman forward Ed Davis were expected to give the Heels those reinforcements. Even when he was healthy, Zeller didn't look that great on Tuesday, granted he was matched up with Patrick Patterson.

Neither Zeller nor Davis looked like an immediate impact player, along the lines of Hansbrough as a freshman or Antawn Jamison. Yes, it's a limited sample and, yes, those are great players to be compared to, but given the high school credentials of Zeller and Davis, they are expected to do more than just be the eighth and ninth guys in the rotation this season.

Maybe Hansbrough will return sooner now if Zeller is out for an extended period. Maybe Deon Thompson will continue his production when Hansbrough returns. Maybe we'll all write in April how much "adversity" UNC overcame to win Roy Williams' second national title.

We'll see, but if I'm a UNC fan, I don't like the karma of November.

-- J.P. Giglio

Davidson's Curry: N.C.'s best college player

When Tyler Hansbrough returns from the injured list, the 2008 national player of the year will be the best player in the ACC but not in his own state.

That distinction belongs to Davidson guard Stephen Curry (left). Just in case you thought the four-game NCAA Tournament clinic Curry put on last March was a fluke, he put up 44 points at Oklahoma on Tuesday in an 82-78 loss.

Curry's not only the best shooter in college basketball, he finds his shot when everyone in the building knows he's going to shoot. And it's not like he's Michael Jordan. He's not 6-6 and he can't shoot over most players outside of the Southern Conference.

What he lacks in size, he's suspiciously listed at 6-2, 185 pounds, he makes up for with a ridiculously quick release and unbelievable ability to make seemingly every open shot he takes.

Unlike Hansbrough, a power forward, Curry does not get the benefit of garbage points, easy putbacks from under the basket, and unlike Hansbrough, Curry does not have the benefit of playing with Ty Lawson or Wayne Ellington.

Curry does more with less help against teams whose entire mission is stop him. They still can't.

Jason Richards was a great point guard in Davidson's system and did more of the heavy lifting in the tournament than he got credit for. But Richards is gone, which makes Tuesday's performance against a physical Oklahoma team even more impressive.

Let's be honest about Hansbrough — he's going to end his four-year career as the most productive player in ACC history. He will likely be the leading scorer in league and UNC history and the leading rebounder in UNC history.

He'll also go down as the best free-throw shooter in college basketball history.

But he's a limited college basketball player. The words "Cole" and "Aldrich" should squash any argument to the contrary.

Let's put it this way, Hansbrough has missed two games and UNC hasn't missed a beat. Where would Davidson be without Curry?

-- J.P. Giglio

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Charlotteans keyed VMI's upset of Kentucky

Two Charlotteans keyed VMI's remarkable upset 111-103 win at Kentucky Friday night, and both won Big South Conference weekly honors for their efforts.

Senior forward Travis Holmes (left), who played for Christ School, was named the league's player of the week after scoring 30 points and collecting seven rebounds against the Wildcats. He made 10 of 13 field goals and had four steals. He also had 20 points and four rebounds at Virginia Sunday. Holmes added 20 points and four rebounds Sunday at Virginia.

Guard Keith Gabriel, who starred for United Faith, won the freshman of the week award. He scored 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting at Kentucky, making four of six from three-point range and picking up two steals in a 19-minute reserve role. He added 14 points at Virginia.

-- Stan Olson

Hansbrough practiced Monday, won't play tonight

North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough will not play tonight against Kentucky. But he did begin practicing again Monday, coach Roy Williams said on his radio show.

"We let Tyler do dummy offense,'' Williams said on the Monday night show, according to "It's the first time he's done anything in three weeks. He did fast break drill No. 1, which is just run down there and shoot a layup and you run back. Then we did dummy offense, trying to make sure he still knows the plays. He dunked about 10 of them, and I took him out, because I said,'Tyler, it's OK to lay it up.' I think he was trying to show me that he's OK. But that's all we let him do."

Hansbrough has been sidelined three weeks with a stress reaction in his right shin. Williams said he still doesn't know whether Hansbrough will play Friday at UC Santa Barbara, or in the Maui Invitational, which begins Monday.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Davidson experiencing good life, Sooner style

The Davidson basketball team is getting a good taste of life in Sooner land during their visit to Norman, Okla.

It’s impossible not to know the Oklahoma football team is playing Texas Tech here Saturday in the latest game of the year in the Big 12 Conference. Just like it’s impossible not to notice the football stadium that sits in the middle of campus and towers over the flat landscape.

The Wildcats are staying in Norman, which is about 30 miles south of Oklahoma City. As if they needed any reminders of where they are, their hotel, the Sooner Legends Inn and Suites, is a shrine to Oklahoma athletics, stuffed with memorabilia.

Les Robinson, the former N.C. State coach, is staying there as an NCAA representative. The first thing he saw in the hotel was a giant photo of the Sooners’ basketball team squeaking by his East Tennessee State team 72-71 in the 1989 NCAA tournament, the closest a 16-seed has ever come to beating a No. 1 seed.

“Worst loss of my career,” Robinson said, “and I got reminded of it as soon as I walked in.”

Davidson coach Bob McKillop marveled at the history on display, paying special attention to former football coach Bud Wilkinson, one of McKillop’s early heroes.

Even the rooms are themed. McKillop said he’s in a room honoring football coach Bob Stoops. “Maybe that’s a good omen,” McKillop said.

-- Ron Green Jr.