Saturday, January 31, 2009

Costner undecided on next season

N.C. State forward Brandon Costner said he has not decided whether he will return for his senior season despite an Internet report that indicates he is leaving.

A junior who redshirted when he was a freshman, Costner said the interview for Northstar Basketball Blog was done last summer.

“I definitely didn’t definitively say I’m leaving,” Costner said. “Just another one of those crazy Internet rumors that goes around about me. I’d rather people just shut up and stop making up stuff.”

Costner said he will sit down with N.C. State’s coaches at the end of the season to discuss his future. - Ken Tysiac

UNC, Pack players speak about altercation

Here are quotes from the players involved in an altercation Saturday with 1.9 seconds remaining in North Carolina’s 93-76 win at N.C. State. (See video here.)

With 1.9 seconds remaining, North Carolina reserve forward Michael Copeland was driving for a layup after a long pass from Bobby Frasor when N.C. State center Ben McCauley knocked Copeland to the floor with an intentional foul.

Copeland got back up and shoved McCauley before referee Les Jones separated them. The referees called double technical fouls on the play, and North Carolina coach Roy Williams sent Copeland to the locker room early.

There was no flagrant foul and no ejection, so neither player should face disciplinary action for the next game.

Here’s what the players had to say about it


"He hit me in my head. It was a hard foul, Bobby gave me a pass and I wanted to score – just like anybody, I hadn’t played and I wanted to score. And I went up; I guess he was frustrated, too, and he fouled me hard.”

"I was just trying to score, and he took me out.”

Q: Do you regret doing it?
A: Definitely, I regret doing it. It was a bad mistake on my part, and I should have just let it go and shot my free throws.

Q: What did Roy say as he came across the court?
A: I can’t tell you that (laughing).

Q: Did McCauley say anything to you?
A: I heard McCauley, and he was saying “Come on!’ He wanted to fight, but nobody was going to fight; the referees weren’t going to let us fight. . . .It was frustration on my part, I wanted to score. … Bobby, he probably shouldn’t have made the pass; he probably should have just taken the ball out and let time run out. But he wanted me to score. I shouldn’t have did that; it wasn’t a big foul. But I was frustrated.


Q: Can you take us through what happened at the end?
A: I was a little disappointed that he was even going up for it. I thought that was a little disrespectful at that point. The game was over. I wish it didn’t happen the way it did, but I didn’t want him to get an easy dunk. To me, I thought it just was a little unnecessary. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone about it as physical as I did, but like I said, I didn’t want him to do that in front of our crowd and go off the floor with a dunk like that?

Q: Did he make any kind of threat to you?
A: He came up in my face, and went chest to chest with me. I didn’t really hear what he said, but as soon as he got off the ground, he came right at me. Somebody came in between us, and nothing was going to happen at that point. You’d be an idiot to take a swing.

Q: Did you make a peace offering when the dust settled?
A: I did. And I told Coach Williams afterward, I’m sorry. He said he was sorry, too, he didn’t mean for that to happen. No one really wants stuff like that to happen. It’s unfortunate, but it happened and we have to move on from there.

Q: You did look like you were saying, “Not in my house.” Were you defending your turf?
A: Absolutely. He can do that on his own floor or whatever, but don’t come into our home building with the game over pretty much and try to dunk like that. It’s kind of disrespectful.

Q: (Copeland) said that you said, “Come on,” and he felt like you wanted to fight.
A: No. What I did say, to be completely honest with you, when he came up to my face is, “What are you going to do? What are you going to do?” Don’t take a shot at me, because that’s going to get you ejected. You’re not going to be able to play in the next game, and that’s not smart on your part. I had no intention to entice him to do anything.

Q: In retrospect, would you have thrown the pass to Copeland there at the end?
A: Probably not. I probably should have taken the high road and just dribbled the ball out, but I came in with him, I wanted him to score, I wanted him to get some memories. But if I had known that was going to happen, I probably would have thought twice about it.

Q: How much was it a symptom of rivalry?
A: It’s unfortunate that that happened, but we don’t really like State, and State doesn’t really like us. It’s known. Fans, they know it to. My guess is that if we had been playing some small school, he wouldn’t have done that, but since it’s State…

Friday, January 30, 2009

UNC Notes: A 'Country' Atmosphere

CHAPEL HILL -- North Carolina's seniors are 2-1 against N.C. State in Raleigh, but they have yet to get used to the Wolfpack atmosphere. They'll face it again when the teams play at the RBC Center on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

"From our perspective, their fans are kind of crazy, a lot of country guys over there,'' UNC forward Danny Green said. "They're pretty harsh; they speak their mind, they say whatever comes to mind, they try to hurt your feelings, and it's probably one of the toughest places to play.

"You've got the wolf howling in the background, which is kind annoying. And then when they run out, one time I got hit by one of the batons when they were swinging the flags -- I got hit with one of those in the head; that was kind of annoying, too. It's a tough place to play with all of the fans in the crowd; they get into it."

TYLER STILL BRACED: Forward Tyler Hansbrough , who had braces affixed to his front upper teeth after Clemson's Jerai Grant loosened one on Jan. 21, will have to keep wearing the mouthgear for a while yet.

"I still have the braces on, just to keep my tooth in line,'' he said. "I got it checked out again the other day; it's still a little wobbly, so they're going to leave it in another week or so."

Hansbrough, who was not wearing a mouthguard at the time of the injury, said he'll likely start wearing one again.

MOURNING YOW: Coach Roy Williams was sorry he was unable to re-schedule practice to attend the memorial for N.C. State women's basketball coach Kay Yow , which was held Friday afternoon. "We want to make sure everybody in the Wolfpack family knows that there were some other people that care, and still care, and send our deepest, deepest sympathies."

Williams was friends with Yow for years, dating back to when they coached teams that wore Converse and went on summer trips together.

"I remember one time so vividly is she wanted to know if I'd talk some basketball with here. So we sat down for about an hour and a half, just in the corner of a little room, and we did some X's and O's. And every time I would see her, and she would be with somebody else, she would bring that reference to it.

"...She was just a fantastic person."

— Robbi Pickeral

Ginyard will miss seventh straight game

CHAPEL HILL -- After watching Florida State's Toney Douglas drop 32 points during fifth-ranked North Carolina's down-to-the-wire victory on Wednesday, it's clear the Tar Heels are still missing a perimeter defender.

And it sounds like they won't be getting him back any time soon.

Senior Marcus Ginyard will miss his seventh straight game Saturday, at N.C. State, coach Roy Williams said Friday. And since the wing hasn't returned to practice yet, it seems unlikely he will play against Maryland or Virginia this week.

Ginyard had surgery on his left foot in October, and missed the first 11 games of the season before playing in three.

"He's still having pain, and that's the bottom line,'' Williams said.

"We're going to get together hopefully next week and talk to the doctors and see where it stands. He has done a great job; when he came back and started practice, I think he was at 230, and he's 218 now, so I'm hopeful that's helped him a great deal, too."

If Ginyard does not play in another game this season, he could apply for a medical redshirt and a fifth year of eligibility. But Williams indicated they have not ruled out a return this year.

— Robbi Pickeral

Vitale to work Charleston at Davidson

One of college basketball's most recognized voices is coming to Davidson.

Television analyst Dick Vitale will work the Feb. 7 game with the College of Charleston along with play by play announcer Mike Patrick, according to ESPN publicist Michael Humes. Vitale often travels to ACC sites in North Carolina but doesn't often work games that don't involve teams in the BCS conferences.

Game time will be 6 p.m. on ESPN-2. - Ken Tysiac

ACC to use redistribution to sell out tournament

Karl Hicks was knocking on wood for good luck when he said it.
Nonetheless, he predicted that the ACC will be able to sell all its tickets for the conference tournament March 12-15 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
With the economy in a free fall, this isn’t the ideal year for the ACC to be holding its tournament in the large venue, which will seat 36,000 for the games. But Hicks still expects a sellout.
“We think we’ll be fine overall at the end of the day,” said Hicks, the ACC’s associate commissioner for men’s basketball.
If you’ve always wanted to go to an ACC tournament but aren’t high enough on a school’s donations list to get tickets in most years, this might be your year. Hicks expects that some schools won’t be able to sell their entire allotment.
Those tickets then will be redistributed to schools where the demand for ACC tournament tickets hasn’t been filled. That could mean a lot of extra tickets for fans at the basketball-crazed schools in North Carolina. – Ken Tysiac

Thursday, January 29, 2009

2 days, 3 ACC buzzer beaters

As a basketball fan, Sidney Lowe has been mesmerized by what he’s seen out of North Carolina’s ACC teams this week.

Over two days, the four ACC teams from North Carolina participated in three games won on shots in the final three seconds.

“I’m a basketball fan, so I’m watching that, and it’s what (basketball) is here,” said Lowe, the N.C. State coach. “I say this. I know people laugh sometimes. They talk about New York. This is a basketball Mecca. This is it. It doesn’t get any better than this down here.”

On Tuesday, freshman point guard Julius Mays thrilled Lowe with a 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left in overtime, sending Miami to an 84-81 defeat at the RBC Center.

One night later, just eight-tenths of a second remained when Wake Forest’s James Johnson scored a layup off an inbounds pass from L.D. Williams to topple No. 1-ranked Duke, 70-68, in Winston-Salem.

Just a couple hours after that, North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson raced 50 feet in 3.4 seconds to launch a running 3-pointer at the buzzer at Florida State for an 80-77 win.

“We’ve had some good basketball,” ACC associate commissioner Karl Hicks said of the two Wednesday games, which included three teams ranked in the top six by The Associated Press, “but that might have been the best so far.”

Stephen Curry has Gerdy in his sights

Davidson guard Stephen Curry (don't we start about half our Above The Rim blogs with those words) is rapidly closing the points gap between himself and John Gerdy, the school's alltime leading scorer. Gerdy, who played from 1975 through '79, has 2,483 points. Curry, after knocking in 32 more at Chattanooga Wednesday, has 2,250.

Curry is currently leading the nation in scoring, averaging 29.5 points a game. At this pace, he would make up the remaining 233 points between the two in eight games, meaning he would pass Gerdy in Davidson's "Bracketbuster" game, scheduled for ESPN Feb. 20 or 21. The opponent for that contest has not yet been announced.

While that's likely given Curry's recent consistency, the only certainty is that barring injury, he will catch Gerdy sooner or later this season.--Stan Olson

Lowe: Fells to play vs. North Carolina

N.C. State senior guard Courtney Fells will play Saturday against North Carolina despite a left ankle injury that continues to give him problems, coach Sidney Lowe said Thursday during his news conference to preview the game.

Fells has been battling the injury since Dec. 6 and appeared to aggravate it late in Tuesday’s 84-81 overtime win over Miami, when he scored a career-high 24 points.

“I don’t see this injury preventing him from playing Saturday,” Lowe said. “How effective he will be, we don’t know.”

It’s likely that Fells will continue to see time at shooting guard rather than small forward for at least parts of the North Carolina game, which tips off at 3:30 p.m. at the RBC Center. Lowe said the Wolfpack will continue to move forward with the “big lineup” the team started using Saturday against Boston College.

N.C. State started 6-foot-10 Ben McCauley, 6-9 Brandon Costner and 6-7 Tracy Smith against Miami and moved Fells back to shooting guard, where he played during his first three seasons with the Wolfpack.

Lowe was reluctant to confirm that he will continue using the lineup for fear of giving away his game plan, but seemed to realize it’s not much of a secret anymore.

“Obviously we used a big lineup the last couple ballgames and it was good,” Lowe said. “So you’re going to see it. . . .I wanted to put what I thought was the best five guys (on the floor). Ben, Tracy and Brandon can all produce along with Courtney and Farnold (Degand).”

The sudden emergence of Degand as a reliable point guard over the last two games has shored up N.C. State’s most vulnerable spot. Degand has posted a career-high seven assists with two turnovers in each of the last two games.

“Farnold has been more under control,” Lowe said. “. . .He noticed the positive feedback he got from that (after the Boston College game), and he came back and did it again.” – Ken Tysiac

Duke-Wake Forest leftovers

Some thoughts from No. 1-ranked Duke’s 70-68 loss at No. 6 Wake Forest on Wednesday night:

- There might not be a worse call in basketball than a traveling violation after a player grabs a rebound and then falls because there are people underneath him and he has no place to land.
That’s how Wake Forest gained possession for the winning shot. Gerald Henderson did travel, and it was the right call. But in a way, it’s unfortunate the game was decided that way.

- Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski joked over the weekend that the only thing a No. 1 ranking guarantees is a big headline when the top-ranked team loses.
He got the headline just five days later.

- While driving into the office this morning and hearing “Welcome to the Jungle” on the radio, it struck me that there couldn’t be two more different people than the late Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser and Axl Rose.
Yet somehow Guns ‘n Roses screamer Rose’s anthem became the theme of cerebral former history teacher Prosser’s pre-game introductions. The whole motorcycle act at Wake Forest is a bit loud, but it gives the Deacons an identity, and that’s not a bad thing.

- Wake Forest reserve forward David Weaver had the game of his life with nine points in three minutes.
The Deacons had been using freshman Tony Woods as the first post player off the bench, but coach Dino Gaudio said he trusted Weaver’s experience and defensive ability.

- Speaking of defense, it was interesting that in an extremely well-defended game Duke was able to score with 11 seconds left to tie it.
It was even more interesting that the normally well-prepared Blue Devils completely botched a defensive assignment right in front of the basket after a timeout.

- Against extremely talented big men, Duke might not get more from center Brian Zoubek than the 0-for-3, two-rebound, 13-minute effort he produced against the Deacons.
That’s not good. But despite that, the Blue Devils nearly went into overtime on the road against one of the most talented teams in the nation. That means Duke might be better than a lot of people think.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Odom: Point guards are crucial

Dave Odom, a former college basketball coach at East Carolina, Wake Forest and South Carolina, talks about point guards and tonight's Duke-Wake Forest matchup:

Trends in college basketball change yearly. One constant needed to compete at the highest level and for championships is a quality point guard.

Point guards get you in the game to start and generally take over and decide the game late. As you survey the BCS conferences, teams playing the best now, almost without exception, are those that have a quality point guard.

Notable examples would be Darren Collison at UCLA, Terrence Williams at Louisville, Nick Calathes at Florida and Evan Downey at South Carolina.

In the ACC, there are outstanding point guards such as Jeff Teague (Wake Forest), Jack McClinton (Miami), Ty Lawson (North Carolina), Malcolm Delaney (Virginia Tech) and Tyrese Rice (Boston College). The current Duke approach is point guard by committee (Nolan Smith and Greg Paulus).

- Tonight's Wake Forest-Duke matchup is interesting - most notably the contrast of styles.

Duke has changed from a fastbreak, quick-shot team to one that is more disciplined in shot selection.

Brian Zoubek is a developing post man for them. But he will be challenged with his biggest assignment of the season by Wake's length and size. He will need a lot of help. It will be interesting to see if Duke can pull the taller Wake players away from the basket and make them guard on the perimeter. I think that's where the game will be decided.

If Wake takes away the 3-point shooting of Duke and Duke's ability to drive the ball effectively from its four perimeter spots, it's in the Deacons' favor.

Duke's big challenge is getting Wake's bigger guys out of the lane and make Wake play on their turf. Wake will be very hard to handle on the boards if they are allowed to stay inside. Also, if Wake beats Duke tonight, three No. 1 teams in one year will have fallen on the Joel Coliseum Court. Wake beat then-No. 1 UNC and Virginia Tech beat then-No. 1 Wake.

Sorry to sound like a broken record, but what we now have is a broken record. Davidson guard Stephen Curry has been named the Southern Conference's Player of the Week for the sixth time, breaking his own record of five in a season, set last year. The league has been giving out the award since 1968.

Curry, a junior, has now won the award 14 times in his career.

Last week, he averaged 31.5 points and 6.0 assists as Davidson blew past Furman and Wofford. Included in that effort were 13 three-pointers in 22 attempts.

The Wildcats, 9-0 in the SouCon, play at Chattanooga at 7 p.m. tonight.--Stan Olson

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Another postseason hoops tourney

Nevermind the economy, wars or the icecaps, the world's most urgent problem has been solved -- college basketball's postseason is expanding. Again.

Move over NCAA Tournament, NIT and CBI (you know, the College Basketball Invitational), here comes the ... well ... it doesn't have a name yet. will stage a legitimate postseason tournament, approved by the NCAA and the college coaches, according to CBS Sports, that gives another 16 teams a chance to dance in March.

Eligible teams have to have a winning record against Division I opponents and priority will be given to the other (read: minor, non-major, non-BCS) conferences.

If the tournament is half as busy as the sponsor's web site, it will be a huge success, or at least induce a bout of vertigo.

That brings the postseason total to 129 teams. Surely there's another aspiring web site out there to mollify the other 200 teams. Please, someone save the children and hungry coaches.

-- J.P. Giglio

Monday, January 26, 2009

Curry, Curry and more Curry...

While Davidson's Stephen Curry gets plenty of deserved web pub, little brother Seth is getting more and more of his own as a freshman at Liberty. He's averaging 20.7 points so far this season, and could become the first freshman in Big South Conference history to average 20 or more points a game.

The league record for a freshman is 18.1, set by Coastal Carolina's Tony Dunkin (1989-90). Curry is also only 32 points shy of the freshman mark in that category of 466, which belongs to Charleston Southern's Omar Carter and was set last season.

And get this--Carter and Curry were high school teammates, at Charlotte Christian.

--Stan Olson

N.C. State moving forward with bigger lineup

N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe is considering moving forward with a bigger lineup after using Brandon Costner, Ben McCauley and Tracy Smith at the same time helped spark a comeback in Saturday’s loss at Boston College.

Costner, McCauley and Smith all are 6-foot-7 or taller and traditionally have been considered “post players.” But Costner’s ability to move to the perimeter and score from 3-point range at 6-9 can allow N.C. State to succeed with the bigger lineup.

Dennis Horner can come off the bench at 6-8 to give the other players rest when the Wolfpack plays with the big lineup. Lowe said during Monday’s ACC coaches’ teleconference that he hasn’t decided whether to go with the big lineup at the start of Tuesday’s 7 p.m. home game against Miami.

“It’s something we have to look at,” Lowe said. “We know Miami, they’re big and bouncy with (Jimmy) Graham and (Dwayne) Collins on those boards. We need to make sure we can match their physical play inside. I’m not sure if we’re going to start them, but certainly that will be a lineup that we’ll have to take a look at.”

The danger with the big lineup is that teams with a quick small forward such as Duke’s Gerald Henderson can cause defensive problems for Costner on the perimeter, though Lowe said Costner moves his feet pretty well for his size.

Senior Courtney Fells will move from small forward back to shooting guard – where he has played the previous three seasons – when N.C. State uses the big lineup.
“I’m very comfortable with him going back there,” Lowe said.

– Ken Tysiac

No decision yet on UNC's Ginyard

North Carolina forward Marcus Ginyard still has not returned to practice, and no decision has been made about when -- or if -- the senior defensive stopper will return this season.

"Marcus and I talked yesterday, he still did not practice yesterday, and we're going to look at him and talk to the doctors more a little more this week, so there hasn't been any decision made on him,'' coach Roy Williams said.

Ginyard has played in three games since surgery on his left foot in October, but was shelved by Williams roughly two weeks ago to try to get him back to 100 percent.

If last year's starting small forward does not play in another game, he could apply for a medical redshirt and fifth year of eligibility.
But Williams has said he thinks they'll need Ginyard this season.

ZELLER UPDATE: Williams also said there is a chance freshman forward Tyler Zeller could return this season, "but I think it's awfully stupid,'' he said. "He's not been released to play yet, if he comes back and plays one game, he loses a whole year."

Zeller broke his left wrist the second game of the season.

— Robbi Pickeral

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Stephen Curry triple double? Maybe...

With Davidson’s Stephen Curry piling up records, there is one statistic that has appeared out of his reach—the triple-double. That occurs when a player reaches double figures in three key categories, most often points, assists and rebounds.

Points is a no-brainer; Curry leads the nation in producing points, averaging almost 30 a game. And this season, with his shift from shooting guard to the point, assists are not a problem either. He’s reached double figures three times this season, and passed out nine on two other occasions.

The big question is rebounds, although he did reach 11 in 2006 at Chattanooga. Curry is only 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds—short and slender as far as rebounders go. But he is quick and anticipates well, and averages almost four rebounds a game.

In Saturday night’s win over Wofford, Curry had game highs in all three categories, with 33 points, seven assists and seven of those hard-to-come-by rebounds. I asked him afterward about possibly getting a triple-double eventually.

“I try to go out there and play hard, and whatever that means,” he said, and then laughed. “I grab boards and be the best point guard I can be. If that happens it would be great. I won’t change anything; try to do too much. I’ll just play the same way I do every night and see what happens.

“Andrew (Lovedale) and Steve (Rossiter) can really control the boards so I don’t have to go down there as much. And I box out for them and get a rebound here and there.”

The bottom line is that Curry will need considerable luck to get a triple-double. He is a good rebounder for a guard, but he also needs to get out in transition when Davidson has a chance to run, which cuts into his opportunities to crash the boards.

If the ball bounces his way often one night, he could do it, but I don’t expect it. Then again, he is Stephen Curry.-Stan Olson

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Nestor gets blue ribbon for candor

Elon's Ernie Nestor is one of the rare breed of coaches: the philosopher-kings. Guys like South Carolina's Steve Spurrier and Davidson's Bob McKillop who, rather than spouting clich├ęs or even nothing at all, will offer an intelligent answer on almost any subject.

Take his recent comments on yelling at officials after a loss at Davidson:

“As a coach what you're doing is displacing your aggressions,” he said. “Psychology 101; you're mad because your team's not playing well, you see the official do something, you're gonna blast him because you're tired of dealing with your guys.

“At the same time, if you go on the road to play basketball, you don't expect calls, you don't expect help. It's that old line – 50 percent of the people don't care what your problems are and the other 50 percent are glad you've got ‘em.

“So if you're looking for sympathy, don't be involved in athletics. There's nothing fair; the fair is where you take your tomatoes.”

-- Stan Olson

Pull-up jumper makes Henderson special

Gerald Henderson's acrobatic dunks and soaring blocked shots are what excite fans.

But his transition from a remarkable athlete to an outstanding basketball player wasn't complete until he mastered the pull-up jump shot. Henderson is a rare college player who can take two dribbles, stop and swish a shot from 15 to 17 feet.

Tuesday, he did it twice in 53 seconds in the second half as Duke overcame a six-point deficit to beat N.C. State 73-56. The junior forward is making a case as the ACC's best player.

Some are withholding judgment. N.C. State's Courtney Fells guarded Henderson on Wednesday and said Henderson is playing great, but said Wake Forest's Jeff Teague is even better right now.

Henderson and Teague can settle that issue on the court Wednesday in Winston-Salem. But regardless of how that turns out, a Duke team that's already masterful on defense has an element on offense that few opponents can match in Henderson's sweet pull-up jumper.

-- Ken Tysiac

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Stephen Curry grabs (carefully) another award

Following Davidson's 83-43 victory over Furman in Belk Arena Wednesday night, Wildcats guard Stephen Curry was presented an engraved glass goblet from The Sporting News as the magazine's 2008 College Athlete of the Year. Curry, of course, led the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight.

He held the award for a few seconds at midcourt before passing it to athletic director Jim Murphy. "I was afraid I'd drop it," he said later with a smile. "I was worried about getting fingerprints on it, too. That's a pretty nice piece of equipment there."

Curry had just finished another bravura performance on the court, scoring 30 points, passing out five assists and making five steals. He also broke the game open in the first half with three three-pointers in four possessions.

"Obviously, Stephen can make some shots that you just can't account for," said Paladins coach Jeff Jackson. "Not in any way to take anything away from their team but he can just do things that change the whole life of the game.

"And the thing that's most difficult with a young team when he makes those types of plays is that they're not just good basketball plays, but they're deflating. Because you feel like you've done what you're supposed to do correctly and his God-given ability takes over. Or the time he spent with (father) Dell in the back yard, whichever one you want to give the credit to."
-- Stan Olson

UNC's Hansbrough gets braces

Psycho T now has psycho teeth.

North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough, who had his right front tooth loosened Wednesday night by Clemson forward Jerai Grant's left elbow, had braces fitted around that tooth and several other upper ones Thursday, a team spokesman said in an email.

The medical staff will re-evaluate the team's leading scorer in about a week, at which point they might remove the braces if the tooth is more stable, or leave them in if its not.

The injury happened early in the first half of UNC's win over the Tigers. Hansbrough left the court briefly, but returned with a mouthguard and finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

— Robbi Pickeral

Waner trades basketball for microphone

Duke women’s basketball senior Abby Waner will serve as the ESPN sideline reporter for the Maryland at Duke men’s game at noon Saturday in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Waner, from Highlands Ranch, Colo., is a part of the ESPNU Campus Connection, which consists of students around the nation who serve as campus correspondents. They report on their schools and their teams, filing reports and giving updates during the year.

Last summer, Waner worked as an intern at ESPN. She did sideline reporting for ESPNU on three Blue Devils football games this past fall, sideline reporting for the Duke Radio Network and has called men’s basketball games for Duke’s own Cable 13 television network. She also served as a features host for the David Cutcliffe’s Duke Football Show this past fall.

The Duke women’s basketball team (16-1) is ranked fourth nationally, and is 4-0 in the ACC.

-- Cliff Mehrtens

Hansbrough gets braces to stabilize tooth

Psycho T now has psycho teeth.

North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough, who had his right front tooth loosened Wednesday night by Clemson forward Jerai Grant's left elbow, had braces fitted around that tooth and several other upper ones Thursday, a team spokesman said in an email.

The medical staff will re-evaluate the team's leading scorer in about a week, at which point they might remove the braces if the tooth is more stable, or leave them in if its not.

The injury happened early in the first half of UNC's win over the Tigers. Hansbrough left the court briefly, but returned with a mouthguard and finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

— Robbi Pickeral

Duke's path to No. 1 cleared

Now that Wake Forest’s loss to Virginia Tech on Wednesday has cleared Duke’s path to the No. 1 ranking when the next polls are released Monday, here are some things to consider:

- Duke has been ran ked No. 1 by The Associated Press for 55 weeks since 1997-98, more than any other school. The last time the Blue Devils were No. 1 was March of 2006, when a loss to LSU in the regional semifinals in Atlanta knocked them out of the NCAA tournament.

- Mike Krzyzewski has coached Duke in 188 games as the No. 1 team, going 165-23. Only John Wooden (217-11 in 228 games) has coached in more.

- The Blue Devils have been ranked No. 1 for 110 weeks in their history.

- Finally, No. 2-ranked Duke must defeat Maryland on Saturday to gain the No. 1 spot in the polls. The Terrapins are 13-5, 2-2 in the ACC and hardly one of Gary Williams’ best teams.

But Maryland has been one of Duke’s most challenging opponents in recent years, winning seven of the last 14 in the series. At Cameron, the Terrapins have won two of the last four.

For that reason alone, Duke’s ascent to No. 1 is hardly a sure thing. – Ken Tysiac

McKillop Checks out The King's "Defense"

Davidson coach Bob McKillop will use anything to make a point, and he did so again prior to Davidson's 83-43 blowout of Furman Wednesday night in Belk Arena.

He has been working to improve the Wildcats' already-strong team defense, and the team has locked down opponents for 20 or 30 minutes on occasion this season but never for the entire game.

So this time he turned to cinema to make his point.

"We showed a clip from the movie 'Sparta,' in which King Leonidas would not allow one of the fighters to join the Spartan army because he couldn't lift his shield over his shoulder," McKillop said. "The message of the clip was that everyone has to be able to handle their responsibility. Only then can you win.

"It was clear to me that all our guys took it to heart."

Uh, yeah. Furman scored four points in the first 17:13 of the second half. And that was just the obvious highlight. The Paladins were forced into 22 turnovers during the game, ten of them coming on Davidson steals. Furman shot 31.9 percent.

King Leonidas would have been proud.--Stan Olson

Many pieces added up to Wake loss

How much should be made of Virginia Tech's surprising victory over previously unbeaten and top-ranked Wake Forest Wednesday night?

Well, it didn't significantly change the world of ACC basketball as we know it.

"This does not diminish what Wake Forest basketball is right now," Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said.

The Deacons were going to lose sometime. The fact it happened at home against Virginia Tech was moderately surprising but it was clear throughout the night the Hokies were going to be a handful. The Deacons were knocked off their game early by foul trouble and the temporary loss of Al-Farouq Aminu, who required four stitches to close a cut on his forehead.

But the Deacons weren't sharp at either end. Coach Dino Gaudio said his team didn't play hard enough on offense or well enough on defense.

Now they have a week to wait on Duke's visit knowing the Blue Devils will likely take over the top spot they are sure to vacate when the new rankings come out on Monday.

"There's tough kids in that locker room," Gaudio said after the game. "There's no doubt in my mind they'll bow their necks, come to practice Friday and go back to work."

The Hokies did almost everything right (except shoot free throws down the stretch). They played exceptional defense in the first half, shut down Wake Forest's transition game and scored when they had to in order to fight off the Deacons' second-half comeback.

"Our challenge now is not to drink the Kool-Aid," Greenberg said. "Enjoy this. The second we get to Blacksburg, it's over with because in this league, it can be very fleeting. You can be on top of the world one day and finished the next."

-- Ron Green Jr.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Krzyzewski praises Wolfpack, but is he right?

Duke coach mike Krzyzewski says N.C. State has the pieces to be a threat in the ACC.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was generous in his praise for N.C. State on Tuesday night after the No. 2-ranked Blue Devils won 73-56 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The Wolfpack led by six early in the second half and trailed just 58-55 with 5 minutes, 30 seconds remaining before Duke scored 15 of the final 16 points.

“Those two guys (Ben McCauley and Brandon Costner) are really good,” Krzyzewski said. “They’re not (just) good. They’re really good. And I think they’re getting more solid point guard play.

“(Courtney) Fells hasn’t played like he can play yet. I don’t know if he’s still hampered by, doesn’t he have an ankle injury? He’s an elite player when he’s right. If he gets right, then you have three guys. And they do have good complementary guys in there, guys that can make shots.

“Not everyone in the league will play them defensively as hard (as Duke). They might play zone or play off. Like against (Georgia) Tech, (Trevor) Ferguson got three huge threes. We tried not to let him get an open look. I think they’re good. They’ve played us really well the last three ballgames.

“Sidney (Lowe) has a way of trying to figure out what weakness you have in your defense and goes at it. He’s a good coach. He’s a good coach.”

Disgruntled N.C. State fans might say it’s easy for Krzyzewski to shovel out that kind of praise after Duke won by 17. To be sure, there were plenty of things wrong with the Wolfpack on Tuesday:

- Starting point guard Farnold Degand committed six turnovers -- three in the first two minutes and three in the final 5:07.

- Aside from Brandon Costner, N.C. State was 0-for-10 from beyond the 3-point arc.

- For the second time in three games, N.C. State folded at the end. Florida State scored 19 of the final 21 points against the Wolfpack one week before N.C. State collapsed against Duke.

“The second half, they just kept coming at us and coming at us,” Lowe said of Duke. “We turned the ball over too many times to beat a club like Duke.

- Krzyzewski made a curious decision to keep forward Kyle Singler in the game after he was called for his fourth foul with 7:59 remaining.

After the game, Krzyzewski said he left Singler in the game because he trusted him.

“Many games are won from the eight-minute mark to the four-minute mark,” Krzyzewski said. “Everyone sees the last four minutes, but if we don’t win those eight to four (minutes), we’re not going to win the game. So I didn’t think it was much of a gamble.”

- Some N.C. State fans last week were posting the opinion on Internet message boards that Lowe should start playing the guys he recruited and bench the players former coach Herb Sendek recruited.

The Wolfpack’s statistics from Tuesday show how foolish that would be. Players signed by Sendek scored 38 points in 121 minutes against Duke. Players signed by Lowe scored 18 points in 79 minutes.

In fact, N.C. State’s biggest problem might be that it doesn’t have a point guard signed by Sendek. The Wolfpack has to play a point guard signed by Lowe.

On Tuesday, those three point guards combined for six points, nine turnovers and six assists.

– Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Curry league player of week - again

Davidson guard Stephen Curry--I'm sure you guessed it--has been named Southern Conference Player of the Week once more. It's his fifth such honor this season, tying the league record of five--which he set last year. He's been the SC POTW 13 times in his career.

The Wildcats won both their conference games last week, knocking off Elon and Georgia Southern comfortably as Curry averaged 33.5 points and 4.5 assists. His 39 points against Elon marked the 23rd time he has reached 30 in a game.

Curry leads the nation in scoring (29.1 ppg) and the SC in assists (6.5 pg) and steals (3.0 pg). He's in the top ten nationally in all three categories.

Davidson, 14-3 overall and 7-0 in the SC, is home again Wednesday night, meeting Furman at 7 p.m. in Belk Arena.--Stan Olson

Monday, January 19, 2009

Q&A with Sidney Lowe

Excerpts from N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe’s news conference as the Wolfpack prepares to visit Duke at 8 p.m. Tuesday:

Q: Can you talk about what winning on Saturday (vs. Georgia Tech) did for this team in terms of the emotional lift that you needed?
A: It was definitely one that we needed. I think the way that we did it probably even helped a little more. The fact that we were down and fought back and got in the ballgame and took it into overtime. And just being really solid in that overtime, only allowing one basket, I think psychologically it was good. And we talked about that after the ballgame, remembering that and exactly what we did and try to duplicate that every time we play. The thing we are talking about is how hard we played. How aggressive we were. We matched our opponents on that day. They were aggressive. They (referees) were letting us play, which is great. And we told our guys to go out and play as hard as you can. And we did. . . .We never gave up. Even when we were down, we felt we could come back.

Q: How much of a difference does it make when Ben (McCauley) plays like that?
A: I’ve said it before, and that’s not to put pressure. But on every team, you have one or two guys or three guys that you have to have play well to win. And Ben is one of our guys. And he did it. He was unbelievable. ... He came through big in that ballgame, and not just from his play, but his leadership.

Q: How big of a challenge is Duke’s defensive pressure for you guys?
A: It’s just something you have to deal with. I think it’s a challenge for anybody that they play. And it’s not what they do. It’s how they do it. It’s how hard they do it. There are other teams that try to do it, but these guys just play hard. And that’s what it’s going to come down to. Just like our last ballgame, we’re going to have to be tougher. We’re going to have to be more aggressive, more physical and just play harder.

Q: What challenges does Kyle Singler present?
A: Obviously he has the ability to shoot the ball from the three at his size. And also he can put it on the floor. He’s a good passer. So you’ve got to play him tough. You can’t give him anything. You have to be on him. He’s a very good basketball player. He can hurt you inside, outside. I think we have a guy (Brandon Costner) similar to that. Hopefully we can play better.

Q: You didn’t want to use Trevor (Ferguson on Saturday), that’s kind of the idea I got Friday. Then you ended up having to use him, and he played great. Do you still wish you didn’t have to use him? Do you have to use him? What’s your outlook going in?
A: We had to use him. And Doc (Charlie Rozanski) told me he was going to change the padding on his hand to make it a little easier for Trevor. Because the one he had before, he really couldn’t handle the ball, really couldn’t get it set. And we had a situation where we had to use him. Wasn’t sure if he was going to knock down shots. We were looking at it more where he’d at least be able to run the offense, defensively he would know exactly what we’re doing. He sets good screens from an execution standpoint. We didn’t know he was going to knock down the shots. He came up big for us, and the fact that he kept himself ready, too, he came in the ballgame firing and ready to go. So now I guess we can use him.

--Ken Tysiac

Coach K Q&A

Excerpts from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski on the ACC teleconference as the Blue Devils prepare to host to N.C. State at 8 p.m. on Tuesday:

Q: Aside from the obvious talent quotient, what are the intangibles it takes for a road team to come in and win at Cameron?
A: I think to come in and win anywhere, you have to be good. And you have to be ready to play. I really think teams get up to play in Cameron. I don’t think you beat a really good team because of your crowd in Cameron because most kids want to be in that type of an environment. And the fact that Cameron is so celebrated that they know a win there is something very special. I’m not saying our students shouldn’t cheer or they should sit down, but I think teams obviously can win in here, so they get psyched up to play. The thing I want to make sure is that we don’t take it for granted, that our team doesn’t take it for granted and just expect to win because we’re at home. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Q: Also wanted to see how you envision Elliot (Williams’) role evolving throughout the season. Obviously he played some time on Saturday.
A: I just think with a freshman, when you have a veteran team, you can’t predict that. Like with Miles (Plumlee) played really well (Saturday), you don’t know when they’re going to do something kind of special. So as far as having a role, he practices hard every day and he’ll get his opportunities, and all of a sudden something will be defined. But you can’t look in a crystal ball and predict all those things right now.

Q: What impact do you think the new 3-point line has had?
A: It hasn’t had much to do with, we haven’t changed anything with that. I don’t know all the stats, but right now I haven’t studied enough to give a qualified answer on that. For us, we just ignore the fact that it’s one foot farther and we continue to play offense and defense the same.

Q: Is there one matchup problem that (N.C. State’s Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley) really give you trouble with?
A: McCauley and Costner can play with anybody in this league. When the ball goes into their hands, they have a chance to make plays for themselves and for their teammates. And when you have two guys, two kind of non-traditional guys - usually you say that about a point guard who makes it happen – it’s not what you normally defend, and they take advantage of that. Both those kids can really hurt you with the score and the pass.

Q: You mentioned (Brian) Zoubek didn’t play much (against Georgetown) because you needed quickness on the perimeter to guard (Greg) Monroe. Does Zoubek go back to his traditional role now that you play more traditional opponents?
A: Yes, he does.

Other Curry Continues To Impress

Liberty guard Seth Curry, the little brother of Davidson all-American Stephen, continues to wow the Big South Conference. Seth was named the league's player of the week today after helping the Flames to two victories.

Curry scored 15 points in a win over Coastal Carolina, then reached his career high with 35 as Liberty knocked off first-place VMI. His stats are remarkably similar to Stephen's, in that he's an excellent shooter (15-of-28 for the week) from the floor and the foul line (16-of-17), and contributes in other areas as well. He had nine rebounds and five steals in his week's work.

UNC-Asheville had the Freshman of the Week in Matt Dickey, who averaged 19 points as the Bulldogs split two games.--Stan Olson

Ellington warmed up for Clemson

North Carolina guard Wayne Ellington's 23-point game Sunday against Miami — which included seven straight three-pointers in the second half — broke him out of a cold shooting spell.

But it also could be a good warm-up for Wednesday's game against Clemson, a team he notoriously sizzles against.

Three of the junior's best career games have come against the Tigers.
Last year at Clemson, he capped his career-high 36-point performance with a game-winning three-pointer; later that season at the Smith Center, he swished 28 points, including five three-pointers. Then during the ACC tournament, he scored 24.

"He's been outstanding against us, and the biggest thing is he just hasn't missed any -- any -- open jump shots,'' said Clemson coach Oliver Purnell, adding that Ellington has been a bigger thorn for the Tigers than All-America Tyler Hansbrough. "Obviously, he's a very good shooter; he's shot the ball extremely well against us, and in big moments -- none bigger than the loss we had in the first game of the ACC season last year."

Why does Ellington have so much success against the Tigers?

"First of all, it is usually an up-and-down game, and when it is an up-and-down game, sometimes your human nature is you run into the lane to stop layups and inside shots by the other team, and then all of sudden, you have to build back out that pressure,'' UNC coach Roy Williams said. "And I think that's something you can also say [is] that [Clemson's] K.C. Rivers is pretty doggone good against us for the same reason. So we've got to run back and find K.C. in transition, and I expect that's what they'll try to do with Wayne."

BRIEFLY: Williams said he will continue to hold senior Marcus Ginyard out of practice (the thus the Clemson game) until Thursday, when he will be re-evaluated. Ginyard had left foot surgery in October, but played in only three games before Williams "shut him down" in an effort to get him back to 100 percent.

If Ginyard plays in one more game, he will not be eligible for a medical hardship waiver without an appeals process because he will have played past the mid-way point of the season; Williams has indicated that he does not want to red-shirt him because they need his defense this season.

— Robbi Pickeral

Friday, January 16, 2009

McKillop making most of playing time

We have a story coming in Saturday's newspaper on guard Brendan McKillop, who is quickly evolving into a key part of the Davidson rotation.

Sure, his dad Bob coaches the team, but that has nothing to do with Brendan's increased playing time. He can play the point and he can shoot, which allows him to take on some of Stephen Curry's burden.

"Brendan has always been able to shoot the ball very well. He's getting more and more experience at being able to run our offense," Bob McKillop said this week. "I like the way he gets us in the attack mode as a point guard. To have two guys like him and Steph Curry to put us in the attack mode is a luxury. And to have him as a point guard to be able to also shoot the 3-pointer is also a luxury."

Brendan McKillop has made 14 of 28 3-pointers. More importantly, he can give point-shooting star Curry a break.

-Stan Olson

Hansbrough X-rays negative

CHAPEL HILL -- X-rays on North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough's hyperextended left elbow "showed nothing severe enough to show that he can't play," coach Roy Williams said. "It's going to bother him for a while, and that's it.

Hansbrough hurt his elbow late in the first half of UNC's win at Virginia on Thursday, but he returned to lead the team with 28 points.

No. 5 UNC plays Miami on Saturday.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Role to be limited for Pack's Ferguson

Trevor Ferguson, N.C. State’s leading backcourt scorer, will play a limited role at most Saturday when the Wolfpack meets Georgia Tech in a noon game at the RBC Center.

Ferguson still is wearing a protective pad on his left hand that limits his effectiveness. He missed three games after breaking a bone in that hand on Dec. 22 against Marquette, but returned to play N.C. State’s last two games with the pad.

“I think he’ll suit up (Saturday), but I’m not sure how long he will play,” coach Sidney Lowe said Friday during his weekly news conference. “He still has that pad on his hand, and it definitely affects his shooting.”

Ferguson is averaging 6.9 points per game. He led the team with 17 3-pointers for the season when he was hurt, but has missed all four of his 3-point attempts since returning.

Lowe declined to say who would start in Ferguson’s place. During the three games Ferguson missed, Courtney Fells moved from small forward to shooting guard while Dennis Horner moved into the starting lineup at small forward.

Another option for Lowe would be to keep Fells at small forward and start freshman C.J. Williams at shooting guard. Williams scored eight points Tuesday against Florida State in a productive stint off the bench.

–Ken Tysiac

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Favors' choice won't affect Wall's decision

N.C. State fans apparently shouldn't worry that failing to secure South Atlanta High power forward Derrick Favors will have any effect on the Wolfpack's recruitment of John Wall.
Recruiting analysts Dave Telep of and Bob Gibbons of All-Star Sports said Wednesday that Derrick Favors' commitment to Georgia Tech wouldn't influence the decision of Raleigh Word of God point guard standout Wall.

Word of God coach Levi Beckwith confirmed that notion Thursday.

"I doubt he's going to Georgia Tech," Beckwith said, laughing during a telephone interview.

Wall, of course, was not even considering Georgia Tech, which made headlines with the commitment of No. 1 national senior prospect Favors on Wednesday. Wall is's No. 1 prospect, and Beckwith said he will make his own decision regardless of where other players commit.

"I don't think he's sitting by the TV or sitting by the radio trying to find a reason to go where he's going to go," Beckwith said.
In alphabetical order, Wall is considering Baylor, Duke, Memphis, N.C. State and Kansas. N.C. State was the only school on both players' list of finalists. Beckwith said Wall is not close to making a decision on where he will attend college.

Davidson's Curry On Second-half Swoon

Davidson's 83-68 victory over Elon in Belk Arena Wednesday night was pretty much decided by halftime, when the Wildcats led 46-24. Then it got ugly.

The Phoenix kept scrapping, and eventually outscored the home team 44-37 in the period, aided by fullcourt pressure that contributed to 13 second-half Davidson turnovers. Remember though, the game was the Wildcats' third in five days, and only the first of those at home.

Asked what lessons the team might have learned from the stumbling finish, guard Stephen Curry said, "Just to be killers. When we have that big lead, you have to figure out how to finish games and not have a letdown.

"So taking care of the ball and taking good shots on offense, and being focused and ready and alert on defense down the stretch, when you have a tendancy to kind of let up and just be casual and not have that same aggression you usually have in the first half.

"You have to keep that throughout the whole forty minutes."--Stan Olson

How top ACC freshmen rated as recruits

Virginia's Sylven Landesberg is Luke DeCock's pick for the ACC's top freshman so far. Landesberg was No. 66 in's Top 150 last year.

You may have seen Luke DeCock's ranking of the ACC's top five freshmen players in the Wednesday Observer. I thought it would be interesting to see where those young men were ranked in the Top 150 prospects as they came out of high school.

We'll hit them the way Luke did, in reverse order:

5. Ed Davis, forward, North Carolina -- Davis was rated No. 15, and Rivals said, "becoming a tough low block scorer." He's more of a rebounding force for the Tar Heels so far.

4. Reggie Jackson, guard, Boston College -- Go a ways to find him at No. 115. While Rivals says "athletic shooting guard with combo skills," was he this low because he wasn't grabbed by a traditional power?

3. Iman Shumpert, guard, Georgia Tech -- The site called him a "crafty combo guard," placing him at No. 39.

2. Al-Farouq Aminu, forward, Wake Forest -- Rivals ranked him No. 7, and called him a "skilled, smooth combo forward."

1. Sylven Landesburg, guard, Virginia -- All the way down at No. 66, a "smooth and versatile wing."

We can talk about how Rivals missed on Landesburg and Jackson, but remember two things. First, players take differing lengths of time to develop to their fullest in college. And second, even the lowest- ranked of our five is No. 115 out of all the prospects in the country, which means the experts still thought he was pretty darn good.

--Stan Olson

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

N.C. State loses top recruit to Ga. Tech

ATLANTA – Derrick Favors reached into a bag, pulled out a Georgia Tech cap and placed it on his head Wednesday, creating another disappointment for N.C. State basketball fans on a night their team didn’t even play.

Favors, the 6-foot-9 South Atlanta High power forward rated the No. 1 prospect in the senior class by, committed to Georgia Tech in a segment televised by ESPN-U.

N.C. State had been one of the final schools Favors considered along with Georgia Tech and Georgia. Wolfpack fans didn’t receive the good recruiting news they were seeking to numb the frustration over the current team, which is struggling with a 9-5 record and a three-game losing streak in coach Sidney Lowe’s third season.

“I like the style of play they play,” Favors said of Georgia Tech. “It’s close to home, so friends and family can come see me play.”

Despite the disappointment over Favors, N.C. State remains under consideration by two other top national senior prospects – Raleigh Word of God point guard John Wall and power forward DeMarcus Cousins of Birmingham, Ala.

Recruiting analysts said Favors would have been N.C. State’s best recruit since David Thompson, who’s recognized by many experts as the best player in ACC history and led the Wolfpack to the 1974 NCAA title.

“To be so near but yet so far (with Favors) would have to be a huge disappointment for them, obviously,” said All-Star Sports recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons. “But it’s been Georgia or Georgia Tech for longer than N.C. State has been in the mix.”

Lowe used the strong recruiting reputation he has built in Georgia to get into the Favors sweepstakes fairly late. Landing 2007 McDonald’s All-American J.J. Hickson of Marietta, Ga., helped pave the way for N.C. State to sign Richard Howell of Marietta and Lorenzo Brown of Roswell, Ga., from the Class of 2009.

A third player from Marietta, junior point guard Ryan Harrow, also has committed to N.C. State. But Gibbons suspects the appeal of going to school close to home helped Georgia Tech secure Favors.

Gibbons and analyst Dave Telep both said Favors’ decision will have no impact on Wall or Cousins. But Telep said the fact that N.C. State was a finalist for the nation’s top prospect can be a selling point to other recruits.

He said that although the rewards of recruiting a No. 1 prospect can be great, there is risk involved because competition is fierce and a coaching staff puts a lot of time into a player who might go elsewhere.

But Telep said N.C. State already is in strong shape at power forward in the upcoming class.

“The good thing is they have Richard Howell coming in,” he said.

Howell, a 6-foot-7 forward from Marietta, Ga., is rated No. 51 overall in his class by and already has signed with N.C. State. So have Brown, a point guard whom Telep said might make the McDonald’s All-America game, and shooting guard Scott Wood of Marion, Ind.

Even without Favors, Wall or Cousins, Telep said, N.C. State has a top-20 class.

- Ken Tysiac

Top prospect picks Tech over N.C. State, Georgia

South Atlanta High power forward Derrick Favors, the nation’s No. 1 senior prospect according to, committed to Georgia Tech over N.C. State and Georgia on Wednesday night.

Favors, who’s 6-foot-9, made the announcement live on ESPN-U.

“I like the style of play they play,” he said. “It’s close to home so friends and family can come see me play.”

Favors picks Ga. Tech over N.C. State, Georgia

Derrick Favors, the No. 1 high school basketball prospect in Georgia, says he will play for Georgia Tech.

Favors, a 6-foot-9 center from South Atlanta High, announced his choice Wednesday. His other finalists were Georgia and N.C. State.

Favors is rated the No. 1 prospect in the nation by, the No. 2 player by ESPN and the No. 4 by

- Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Favors would be huge pickup for Pack

ATLANTA - It’s impossible to overstate the impact South Atlanta High power forward Derrick Favors would have if he commits to N.C. State.

The top-ranked senior in the nation according to, Favors will announce his college choice at 6:30 tonight, according to the Atlanta Journal & Constitution. He is believed to be choosing between N.C. State, Georgia and Georgia Tech.

Favors has given few clues as to which school he would choose, so N.C. State fans should be cautioned against getting their hopes up.

But if Favors, who’s 6-foot-9, picks N.C. State, national recruiting analyst Dave Telep said he would be one of the best prospects to come to the Triangle in the last quarter century. And at N.C. State?

“You’d probably have to go back to David Thompson to find a guy of Derrick Favors’ talent level,” Telep said, referring to the player many experts believe was the best in ACC history and led N.C. State to the 1974 NCAA title.

In coach Sidney Lowe’s third season, the Wolfpack would seem almost desperate for such a player. After losing 78-65 at home Tuesday to Florida State, N.C. State is 9-5 overall without a win over a team from a BCS school.

Dating back to last season, the Wolfpack has lost 11 in a row to ACC opponents. The fact that N.C. State still has a shot with Favors and other top prospects John Wall of Raleigh Word of God and DeMarcus Cousins of Mobile, Ala., has kept hopes for the future of the program high even as the present team struggles.

Telep said Favors, Wall and Cousins are making decisions independently, so Favors’ announcement shouldn’t have an impact on the others. And even if none of those players chooses N.C. State, Telep said the Wolfpack still has a strong class coming in.

During the fall signing period, N.C. State secured 6-7 Richard Howell of Marietta, Ga., 6-4 Lorenzo Brown of Roswell, Ga., and 6-5 Scott Wood of Marion, Ind.

“They have a top-20 recruiting class nationally, and they can hang their hat on a tremendous season Lorenzo Brown is having,” said Telep, who believes Brown has a shot at making McDonald’s All-American.

But at least until 6:30 p.m. today, N.C. State fans will be focused on a bigger prize.

– Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

UNC's Green: 'We've got to be hungry again'

CHAPEL HILL — Two days after his team fell to 0-2 in the ACC, UNC forward Danny Green (above) spoke to several reporters on Tuesday about the state of the No. 5 Tar Heels as they prepare for Thursday's game at Virginia.

Q: What is the mood on this team right now?

A: Everybody is disappointed in ourselves because we know what we're capable of and we know that we're not playing our best basketball. Last game, we competed, though. But even when we compete, we know that's not good enough, because we still didn't come out with a win. But we've just got to be hungry again -- somehow, some way, find that hunger again to come out, be motivated to dominate other teams and play other teams and play better basketball and execute offensively and play better defense. That's the main thing -- play better defense, boxing out and limiting other teams to one shot.

Q: Does 0-2 make you hungry?

A: I think we should always be hungry. Every game I come out, I feel like it's an opportunity, and I try to take advantage of it as much as possible. But we need everybody on the same page, and I feel like not everybody's on the same page, and not everybody's clicking. And a lot of times, you're not going to have everybody clicking. But it helps when everybody's on the same page. If shots aren't going in and not everybody's clicking offensively or defensively, if you're on the same page and the chemistry's going wrong, I think things will turn out a little bit better. I think last game, we got a little frustrated with each other a little bit, and not everybody shot well. And when you're not shooting the ball well, and the other team's shooting well, not many times you're going to come out with a win.

Q: What's the vibe around this team? Is it as tight-knit as last year's was?

A: Definitely, it's the same team. Chemistry is fine, I think we just got too comfortable, and right now, we're going to try to pull it together a little bit. Right now, I can see guys thinking about it a lot, watching film on their own; I notice guys came to the gym last night, people were rehabbing, people were working on their game. But it just comes down to the desire to want to win, and want to play defense -- that's really all that defense is about, having the will and the desire to stop somebody. So if we just find that hunger again, we'll be fine.

Q: Do you remember times (tough losses) like this in the past?

A: My freshman year ... there were a lot of tough losses in the beginning of the year. We were young, we were thrown out there, we were just thrown into the fire, and we just had to learn as we went along. I know this team, and I'm not doubting our character or our chemistry or talent. We'll come together , and we'll get it together soon.

Q: Obviously, what happens in March is most important, but is there anything about losing in January that stresses you out now?

A: Every stress kind of stresses us out a little bit; we shouldn't lose, we want to go out and win every game possible. We know it's going to happen ... each loss, we try to learn from it, but we feel like if we play to the best of our ability and execute the way we're supposed to, we feel like nobody can beat us. The last couple games, we haven't been doing that, so....

— Robbi Pickeral

McKillop giving Curry needed assist

Davidson sophomore guard Brendan McKillop has been gradually improving, but that was never more obvious than in Monday night’s 70-52 Wildcats’ victory at Appalachian State.

With guard Stephen Curry in foul trouble — he played only 18 minutes, 11 fewer than in any other game this season — McKillop kept the team steady. He also contributed 13 key points, with three assists, one of Davidson’s 11 steals and one turnover in 22 minutes.

“Every game he’s really gotten a lot better,” Curry said of McKillop, his backup at the point. “He’s been more comfortable with the ball and handling pressure. When they see him bring up the ball, teams send two guys to try to trap him and harass him a little bit. And I think he’s really been able to handle that and get the ball up the court and get teammates open.

“And lately he’s looking for his shot more, which is another threat that he has. He can spread the defense out and all of a sudden get in the cracks and get assists, so he’s really stepped up and allowed me to move back to the two guard (occasionally). So it’s big for our team.”

McKillop’s 13 points were one shy of his career high, and his three assists tied his highest previous total. But perhaps most importantly, his improved ability to run the offense can take enormous pressure off of Curry, who already has to be the team’s primary scoring option.

McKillop is the son of coach Bob McKillop, but he’s also a player, something he proved again Monday night.

-Stan Olson

Monday, January 12, 2009

Jackets' rebounding worries Coach K

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called Georgia Tech one of the best rebounding teams in the country.

On Wednesday, the Blue Devils visit a Georgia Tech team that is shooting just 28.9 percent from 3-point range but rebounds so well that Krzyzewski said the missed shot is almost part of its offense.

The Yellow Jackets are averaging 14.3 offensive rebounds per game thanks to a big starting lineup that includes 6-foot-10 Alade Aminu, 6-9 Gani Lawal and 6-8 Zach Peacock.

Krzyzewski said there’s no secret to rebounding against an opponent like that, aside from getting all five players to attack the defensive boards.

“When someone has an advantage over you like that, you’ve got to make a full commitment by all five guys to do it,” Krzyzewski said Monday during the ACC coaches’ teleconference.

The Blue Devils certainly have practice doing it. Florida State used a huge lineup with four starters 6-7 or taller and grabbed 23 offensive rebounds in a Duke win Saturday.

“It was almost like a scrum in there,” said guard Jon Scheyer. “It was almost like a fistfight, where you’ve got to get loose balls, tip it out.”

For Duke, Round 2 is Wednesday night in Atlanta.

UNC missing little things from Ginyard

North Carolina senior Marcus Ginyard sat out his second consecutive game Sunday as he continues to rehabilitate his still-not-100 percent foot, and coach Roy Williams said Monday they've decided to "shut him down" from basketball practices and games.

"We don't have a set date -- a week, two weeks, just try to get more rehab on that foot, try to get more of his explosiveness back, his quickness back, and get rid of some of that pain,'' Williams said.

Who would have thought UNC, now 0-2 in the league after losing to Boston College and at Wake Forest, would be so affected by the health of a guy who averaged only 6.9 points last season?

But the absence of Ginyard at full throttle has affected the Tar Heels in several ways:

1.) Defense. Ginyard, who played against Boston College, was still too sore and slow to help guard point guard Tyrese Rice, who lit up the Tar Heels for 25 points. Then he had to watch from the bench as Wake's Jeff Teague scored 34 points in that victory. And it's no coincidence that UNC lost. Quite simply, last year's starting small forward is the team's best wing defender -- and Danny Green, Wayne Ellington, Tywon Lawson and the reserves off the bench are struggling to take up the slack.

2.) Production off the bench. While Ginyard's injury means the Tar Heels have another scorer, Green, in the starting lineup, that means there's no real offensive spark off the bench. Rebound-minded Ed Davis leads the reserves with 7.3 points per game, followed by Will Graves at 4.9 ppg. But back-up guard Bobby Frasor is making only a third of his shots -- and all of a sudden, UNC is really missing freshman Tyler Zeller, who had shown a knack around the basket before he broke his wrist.

3.) Leadership. Ginyard is one of the team's most vocal leaders, and it's hard to have an impact while in a suit on the bench. He's a guy his teammates look to when he's on the floor -- and who sets and example by filling in the gaps with the "little things" besides points.

"What he gives us is our best defensive player; a guy that's going to take a charge, who's going to get an offensive rebound, who's going to get a key steal, who's going to bother people with what he's doing as a total basketball player,'' Williams said. "Needless to say, we could use that right now."

— Robbi Pickeral

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Joel to test Tar Heels' road streak

CHAPEL HILL -- With the tie-dyed crowd, pre-game motorcycle and overall boisterous atmosphere before big games at Joel Coliseum, "it's extremely difficult to have that focus that you need to play in a place like that,'' North Carolina coach Roy Williams said.

But the third-ranked Tar Heels are out to prove again today they have that concentration.

UNC will test its 15-game road winning streak — which includes an 8-0 road record against ACC foes last season — at fourth-ranked Wake Forest at 8 p.m.

The last time Carolina lost a true road game was March 1, 2007, at Georgia Tech. Seniors Tyler Hansbrough, Marcus Ginyard, Danny Green and Bobby Frasor are 29-6 on opponents home courts during their careers.

What has made the Tar Heels so good on the road in the past?

"I think they've done a great job of focusing on what was going on on the court, what was being said by our bench, figured out some way to handle all the noise and pretend it was in their favor _ some of those kinds of mind games, I guess,'' Williams said. "But I think the biggest thing is ability, and the fact that they've really focused on the task at hand and not gotten carried away at what's being yelled or not yelled."

And there will be plenty more yelling to try to tune out today.
Williams said the 2005 game at Joel, when the Demon Deacons won 95-82, "may have been as loud as I've heard in an ACC arena." And although he doesn't want a pre-game motorcycle revving in the Smith Center, "it's a crowd I want to have here."

"...The shirts, the fans, it's noisy ... I don't know if that sucker can ride that motorcycle faster than [Jeff] Teague and Tyler [Hansbrough] and Tywon [Lawson] can push the ball up the floor; I know they couldn't stop as fast as they can,'' he said. "I think it's a great atmosphere."

-- Robbi Pickeral

Friday, January 9, 2009

McCauley dissects Pack's season

N.C. State center Ben McCauley and forward Brandon Costner are combining to average 28.8 points and 15.1 rebounds while shooting 53.7 percent from the field.

As the Wolfpack (10-3) heads into its ACC opener at noon Saturday at No. 12 Clemson (15-0, 1-0 ACC), here’s what McCauley had to say about the season so far.

- On losing three games by a total of 10 points: “It’s a little frustrating because each and every one of those games we didn’t win, we had a chance to win. Realistically, we should have won at least two of them. But that’s the way it goes, and unfortunately we didn’t get one or two of those games like we should have. But we beat all the teams we should have beaten. We’re still set up pretty well confidence wise. Everyone is kind of getting the feeling that we’re going to win one of those games. We feel like going down to Clemson against a ranked team, undefeated team, it’s the best chance of anything.”

- On what N.C. State needs to do better: “Guys are really concentrating on taking care of the ball. That’s what hurt us, was turnovers. And I think that’s one thing we’ve focused on these past couple days in practice. If we take care of the ball and get in our offensive set we’re going to win some games.”

- On whether his work with Costner has been a good development after 2007-08 leading scorer J.J. Hickson left for the NBA following his freshman season: “I think it has. Especially because I’ve been playing with Brandon for three, four years now. He and I have great chemistry together, and for us to be back out there four and five men, we work well together. That’s kind of getting back to two years ago. And we haven’t lost any steps. If anything, we took some steps forward. So I think with Tracy and Dennis coming off the bench, that gives us even more firepower.

“Tracy’s a horse for us. He’s really working hard and has come up big for us in some games. As far as post play, I think we’re as solid as we ever have been since I’ve been here. If we continue to work hard down low, I think it carries over to our guards. And they’re going to see that our big men are working hard underneath. We need to step it up, too. And I really think they will. They’re going to be ready. It’s good to have Javi (Gonzalez) at point guard because he went through ACC play last year. Farnold (Degand) was on the team, but he was injured. And Julius (Mays) was a freshman, so to have an experienced point guard to teach these guys and push them through the ACC play, that’s going to help us out a lot, because point guard play in the ACC is crucial. It really is. There are some great guards, and you have to be ready to match them and surpass their energy.”

– Ken Tysiac

Pack's Ferguson might start at Clemson

Shooting guard Trevor Ferguson will play Saturday at Clemson after missing N.C. State’s last three games because of a broken bone in his left hand, and there is a chance he will start.

Javi Gonzalez has recovered from an ankle injury but remains the third option for the Wolfpack at point guard. Courtney Fells’ ankle injury has improved thanks to a week without a game, but he still sat out Thursday’s practice with soreness.

N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe delivered all these injury updates at his news conference Friday as the Wolfpack (10-3, 0-0 ACC) prepares to visit No. 12 Clemson (15-0, 1-0) at noon Saturday. Here are some other quotes from Lowe’s news conference:

On his point guard rotation: “Farnold (Degand) will start. We’ll still put Julius (Mays) in there, and Javi will work his way in as well. There are certainly opportunities where we might have two of those guys in there together to have two solid ball handlers.”

On breaking Clemson’s pressure defense, which is forcing 18.3 turnovers per game: “The part we’re going to have to deal with, obviously, is the full-court pressure and the traps. Which again, we worked on it for four days (in practice), so hopefully we’re prepared for it and we have to execute. And again, if we get numbers, we have to take advantage of that, too, if we get a 2-on-1 or a 3-on-2, we have to score that. Otherwise you’re playing into their hands. They can press you, and you’re not making them pay for it.”

On defending Clemson’s 3-point threats (K.C. Rivers and Terrence Oglesby) and post presence (Trevor Booker): “They have some guys that are just playing great. Not to mention some of the other guys, besides Oglesby. You can’t leave Oglesby. You know that. He knocks it down, and Rivers makes big shots. He makes difficult shots. And then Booker is doing everything. He’s inside. He’s outside. Watching him, he put it on the floor and went by a guy a couple times. He’s doing it all. . . .We just have to be tough and really make it hard for them to get the ball.”

On forward Brandon Costner’s re-emergence as a standout after a difficult 2007-08 season: “He got in and got extra work with assistant coaches, and it’s paying off for him. Brandon deserves a lot of that credit because he kept himself mentally into it, didn’t get down on himself. He knew he was going to come out of this thing at some point, and he did.”

On N.C. State’s fall semester grade-point averages: “I’m more proud about that than anything right now. We’ve got seven guys that are 3.0 or better. Three (more) with 2.9 or better. That’s pretty good. Just in case you guys didn’t know that.”

On his admiration for N.C. State women’s coach Kay Yow, who announced this week that she won’t coach the rest of the season because she’s battling cancer: “We’d sit down and talk basketball strategies. Press breakers. Press attack. Zones. Everything. She’s a wealth of knowledge. She’s been in it a long time. She’s seen it all from a basketball side, an organizational side, and obviously me coming in here and if there’s anyone I could sit down and talk to about the dynamics of N.C. State and how things are run and things to expect and look out for, she was one. And she is great in that area.”

- Ken Tysiac

Heels' Ginyard may sit while he heals

Marcus Ginyard (right), out much of the season after surgery on a stress fracture in his foot, has played in three games, including Rutgers.

CHAPEL HILL — After watching North Carolina wing Marcus Ginyard struggle to return to 100 percent after foot surgery, the coaches are considering sidelining the senior to allow him to heal.

“I just thought, and Marcus thought, that he would be farther along at this (point),’’ coach Roy Williams said. “We are even discussing holding him out a little bit, just seeing him rehab and letting him get back to that point where he was is in the past. And if that’s the case, then we’ll be a heck of a lot better off.”

Ginyard, one of the team’s top defensive stoppers, had surgery in early October to repair a stress fracture in his left foot. But since returning last month, he’s only been able to participate in about 50 percent of each practice. He played against Rutgers, at Nevada and against Boston College, but sat out Wednesday’s game against College of Charleston.

If he doesn't play at No. 4 Wake Forest on Sunday, he will be missed.

“The guy was our defensive player of the year, and we look at our club right now, and is there anybody who can make life miserable on the 6-3 to 6-6 guy on the other team?” Williams said. “And I don’t know if we have (that).”

Asked if there was any situation where they might try to get a medical redshirt for Ginyard, thus sidelining him for the rest of the season, Williams said: “Right now, I’m trying to get Marcus ready to play for our team, period. … You guys look at it yourself: Isn’t there sometime you’re going to want a healthy Marcus Ginyard? And that answer is every day, but you also open your eyes yourself, and we don’t have that right now.”

— Robbi Pickeral

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Curry up to No. 2 in Davidson scoring

Now only John Gerdy awaits.

Almost lost in Davidson's 79-67 loss at Duke Wednesday night was Wildcats guard Stephen Curry's continued climb up the Davidson career scoring ladder. Curry's 29 points pushed him to 2,040 in his 2 1/2- year career, and he slipped past Fred Hetzel (2,032), the former No. 2 man on the list.

Now Curry trails only John Gerdy (Class of 1979), who has 2,483 points.

With Curry averaging just under 30 points a game and trailing Gerdy by 443 points, he could possibly catch the leader this season. Should he average 30 points during the remainder of his chase, he would run Gerdy down 15 games from now, against an as-yet unscheduled opponent in one of ESPN's Bracket Busters games Feb. 20-21.

--Stan Olson

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Curry SoCon player of month -- for 10th time

My guess is this comes as no surprise to anyone, but Davidson guard Stephen Curry has been named the Southern Conference's Player of the Month for December.

Curry, whose Wildcats play at Duke tonight at 7 on ESPN, has been the league's choice for a ridiculous seven straight months.

He averaged 30.8 points, 6.8 assists, five rebounds and 2.8 steals a game in Davidson's five games, including a career-high 44 in his team's Dec. 6 win over N.C. State. The Wildcats won four of those.

Curry, a junior, has won the award 10 times in his career.

--Stan Olson

Monday, January 5, 2009

Zoubek gives Singler break from post

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski appears to be committed to keeping sophomore forward Kyle Singler from having to take a lot of punishment in the post this season.

Singler got worn down and became less effective in the late stages of last season because he had to play center. This season, Brian Zoubek is in the starting lineup at center after being limited by injuries in 2007-08.

That allows Singler to play facing the basket on offense and defend away from the low post on defense.

“There’s no question about that, (Zoubek) is something we really missed last year,” Krzyzewski said during Monday’s ACC teleconference.

Lance Thomas also is getting playing time off the bench in the post for Duke, and freshman Miles Plumlee played three minutes in the ACC opener against Virginia Tech.

“I do believe that Lance and Miles Plumlee also can help us,” Krzyzewski said. Miles as a freshman is just learning the physicality of the college game. We do have some guys there this year, and that’s a big help for us.”

– Ken Tysiac

Pack's Lowe says Yow on his mind

Since he was a player at N.C. State in the early 1980s, Wolfpack men’s basketball coach Sidney Lowe has admired Kay Yow, the team’s women’s coach.

Yow, a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, is battling cancer and has missed four straight games. N.C. State athletics director Lee Fowler said Yow is resting with the intention of returning.

During Monday’s ACC coaches’ teleconference, Lowe said he is keeping up with Yow’s status as much as possible:

“When I played here, she and I had a relationship where we talked and I just always admired her as a coach. And obviously being back here and what she’s accomplished in her career and for the university is to be admired. I keep up with what’s going on with her, pretty much not daily but pretty often.

“One of the reasons is the Wolfpack family around here. Everyone, we get information and we inquire how she’s doing and what’s going on. Not into the full detail, though. I knew she wasn’t doing well the first day that it happened.

“This group is so tight, there are people who will let us know. Whether it’s an e-mail. Whether it’s a coach letting you know. We really communicate that.”

– Ken Tysiac

UNC coach: I'm 'concerned' about Ginyard

One of the biggest elements missing from North Carolina during its 85-78 loss to Boston College on Sunday night: the impact of Marcus Ginyard.

The senior, who finally returned late last month after left foot surgery, played 14 minutes off the bench Sunday night, but he still wasn’t moving well enough to help slow the Eagles' Tyrese Rice (25 points) or Rakim Sanders (22).

He was also sporting a sleeve on his right leg. Coach Roy Williams’
explanation on Monday: "He took whack on his knee the day before the BC game in practice. I don’t have any idea whether that was (the reason for the sleeve) or it was Marcus making a fashion statement."

What North Carolina is missing is Ginyard’s healthy defensive statements.

Williams said he is "concerned" about the player because he’s still not moving as well as he would like to.

"You look there (at the box score) and he plays 14 minutes and doesn’t take a shot,’’ Williams said Sunday. "There’s no question that he’s not 100 percent. And when he came back, I said that it’s going to take us two or three weeks to get him there… And I think he’s concerned. I’m concerned."

— Robbi Pickeral

Pack's Ferguson returns, might play at Clemson

Guard Trevor Ferguson, who has missed the past three games with a broken left hand, is returning to practice today and might play in N.C. State’s next game Saturday at Clemson, Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe said Monday.

The left hand is Ferguson’s non-shooting hand, and he will wear a pad to protect it.

“We’ll have to see how it feels tomorrow and then how comfortable he is with that pad in terms of handling the ball, shooting the ball,” Lowe said during Monday’s ACC coaches teleconference.

Despite the three-game absence, Ferguson remains tied for N.C. State’s lead in 3-pointers made with 17. He is averaging 7.9 points per game.

Lowe said having a week between Saturday’s loss at Florida and the Clemson game will help his banged-up team get healthy. Point guard Javi Gonzalez didn’t play at Florida because Lowe didn’t think he was ready after practicing just once since returning from an ankle injury.

Wing Courtney Fells also has been struggling with an ankle injury. He played at Florida, but was listed as a game-day decision before the game.

“We need all of our pieces,” Lowe said. “We need all of our guys. We need Trevor back. We need Javi back, and certainly the teams we’re playing against and the way we would like to play, we need to keep fresh bodies. Having those guys in there certainly would help us.”

Fells will move from shooting guard back to small forward when Ferguson is ready to rejoin the starting lineup, Lowe said. During Ferguson’s absence Fells has played in the backcourt, with Dennis Horner replacing him at small forward.

– Ken Tysiac

Curry turns attention toward Duke

So now Davidson guard Stephen Curry is the third player in school history to score 2,000 points. His 21 in Saturday's 76-55 victory against Samford at Belk Arena pushed him to a career total of 2,011. He trails only John Gerdy (2,483) and Fred Hetzel (2,032).

"It's really pretty crazy," Curry said afterward in a soft voice, sitting at a table in the team's media center. "I didn't really know coming into the game, and didn't let it be a distraction. But it's really big for me personally to be up there on that list. I think I'll be able to cherish it a little more after the season's over with and really realize what I've done."

Curry is still just halfway through his junior season.

"We've got more of the season left, and more business to take care of," he said.

That starts Wednesday night at Duke.

- Stan Olson

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Future Davidson big man leads team to title

Future Davidson big man Jake Cohen led Conestoga High (Berwyn, Pa.) to the championship of the Surf 'N Slam basketball tournament over the holidays.

Cohen, a 6-foot-10 center, had 23 points in his team's 53-44 victory over Woodcreek (Roseville, Cal.) in the title game Tuesday night.

Cohen has an excellent shooting touch for a big man, with three-point range. Conestoga, traditionally a power in the Philadelphia area, is undefeated. --Stan Olson

Friday, January 2, 2009

No.1 Heels remain focused on defense

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina has blown out its first 13 opponents by an average of 26.4 points. Its "closest" victory was by 15. And it leads the ACC in scoring offense, scoring margin, assists, steals, turnover margin and assist-to-turnover ratio.

So what’s left for the top-ranked team in the nation to work on, as it begins conference play against Boston College on Sunday?

"Just our focus defensively — of making teams take a bad shot and limiting them to one bad shot,’’ said senior wing Danny Green.

Coach Roy Williams said his team has played better defense since a three-game letdown around semester finals, when Evansville, Valparaiso and Rutgers each shot 50 percent or better for one half against the Tar Heels, albeit in North Carolina blowouts.

But even at Nevada, when the Wolf Pack shot 28.6 percent in the second half, Williams wasn’t happy.

"Most of the time, when you give up 14 points on offensive rebounds in the second half, … [and you] put a team on the line and let them shoot 20 free throws, you’re going to lose,’’ he said. "I was not pleased, and yet everybody’s going to say, ‘Gosh, you can’t have everything, they shot 28 percent in the second half.’ But I think it’s my job to try to get everything."

UNDEFEATED TALK: North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough has never played on an undefeated team, but he’d like to — even though he’s trying not to think too much about it. No. 1 North Carolina is 13-0.

"We’ll see what happens," he said. "I want to take it game by game, but I think if you ask every team I’ve every played on, it would be great to go undefeated."

— Robbi Pickeral

Pack unsure if Fells will play at Florida

N.C. State is listing wing Courtney Fells as a game-day decision for Saturday’s game at Florida as he continues to be bothered by an ankle injury.

“We’re hoping he’s going to be able to play,” coach Sidney Lowe said.

Lowe said Fells, who ranks third on the team in scoring at 11.3 points per game, may not be fully healthy until he gets time to rest and undergo lots of treatment.

N.C. State has a week off after the Florida game to prepare for its Jan. 10 ACC opener at Clemson.

Although he has played N.C. State’s last four games, Fells has been hampered by the injury he suffered Dec. 6 against Davidson, which caused him to miss two games.

Fells did not practice Friday, but Lowe said point guard Javi Gonzalez is back in practice after missing two games with an ankle injury.

– Ken Tysiac