Saturday, December 4, 2010

A little better ballhandling and State would have beaten Syracuse

N.C. State sophomore Scott Wood and freshman Lorenzo Brown made late-game ballhandling errors that led to turnovers and stopped any chance of the Wolfpack coming back in a 65-59 loss at Syracuse.

But actually the game was lost midway through the second half. With State up 56-53, Syracuse employed full court pressure and the Pack got discombobulated. Three turnovers and a shot-clock violation later, Syracuse ended a 10-3 run to take a 57-56 lead.

State led once more on a basket by freshman C.J. Leslie to make it 58-57 but the Pack never scored another bucket the rest of the way - in other words, they went nine minutes with only one basket.

After Syracuse went up 59-58, the Wolfpack had a chance to take lead, but Leslie, who had penetrated the defense, threw a weak pass back out that was picked off. Later, Wood had a chance with an open three with 45 seconds left that would have put the Pack up but missed. Then he missed a harder three from further out 20 seconds later that would have tied it.

The Wolfpack committed 17 turnovers that resulted in 26 points for Syracuse whereas the Orange turned it over only five times leading to just four points for State.

UNC's Williams says home crowd helped Heels beat Kentucky

North Carolina went from the Not Ready for Primetime Players to the Big Time in one game. After falling flat at Illinois before a wild crowd, the Tar Heels came back to win at home before a boisterous crowd in Chapel Hill.

"The crowd helped us tonight," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "The fans can help us, they really can, but they gotta do it all the time."

Of course a CBS national game on a weekend day against one of the best programs in college basketball history is a little more special than playing UNC-Asheville on regional TV on a weeknight. Naturally fans were fired up for this one.

Carolina needed to stay focused and fired up to offset the nine three-pointers that Kentucky drained. The Heels, on the other hand, had only one three pointer. So, the 26 points from the foul line and the eight blocked shots were big for the Tar Heels.

Still, Carolina only shot 70 percent from the line and John Henson missed the goal entirely on two consecutive attempts. But they were 14 of 16 over the final five minutes of the game.

For more on the game itself, please click here.

Defense, determination stand out as UNC knocks off Kentucky


North Carolina looked like a different team against Kentucky, and you can't help but be impressed by the Tar Heels' effort and determination in Saturday's 75-73 win at the Smith Center.

First of all, Carolina's defense was much improved over previous games. The Wildcats couldn't get good shots off in the final four minutes, and that allowed the Heels to grasp control. Justin Watts, as previously mentioned, is emerging as one of the Heels' best defensive players, and astute fans noticed he was on the floor often in the closing minutes.

It helps UNC that Reggie Bullock is now healthy and in the rotation. Coach Roy Williams subs him in for Harrison Barnes and also used a lineup that had Barnes at power forward (for John Henson) and Bullock at small forward.

Henson had a tremendous first half, but the star of this game was Tyler Zeller. Zeller is playing like an elite ACC player and scored against Kentucky's burly inside players. It was obvious Carolina fed him the ball on sets in the closing minutes. Zeller isn't Tyler Hansbrough - yet - but he produced like him on Saturday. His 27 points was impressive enough, but the calm he showed at the foul line, hitting all of his six free throws in the final 90 seconds, was extraordinary.

You can look at the minutes and tell where Roy Williams is going with this team (starters in bold):


That second five provides decent depth with players who will be used in certain situations, but there's little offense coming from the bench - that group was just 3 of 12 from the field against Kentucky.

Overall, Carolina still can't shoot from the outside - just 1 of 11 on 3-pointers Saturday - and that's going to be an issue for this team. The Tar Heels must make up for it with rugged defense and a running game, and that was the formula Saturday for an impressive win over Kentucky.

Friday, December 3, 2010

State's Irving shares ACC's Brian Piccolo Award

ACC RELEASE - Boston College senior linebacker Mark Herzlich (Wayne, Pa.) and NC State senior linebacker Nate Irving (Wallace, N.C.), a pair of hard-hitting defensive standouts who each rebounded from life-threatening situations, have been named the recipients of the 2010 Brian Piccolo Award, Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford announced Friday.

The Piccolo Award has been given annually since 1972 in memory of the late Brian Piccolo to the "most courageous" football player in the ACC. Piccolo was the ACC Athlete of the Year in 1965 and played for the Chicago Bears before his career was cut short when he was stricken with cancer. His courageous fight against that disease was an inspiration to the Bears and the entire football community.

This year’s Award marks the third time two student-athletes shared the award. Irving is the fourth NC State student-athlete to be honored with the Picccolo Award, joining former teammate Toney Baker, who received the award last year, Scott Adell (1991) and Ralph Stringer (1977), as past Wolfpack honorees. Herzlich becomes the first Boston College student-athlete to be honored with the Piccolo.

In May of 2009, Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma in his left thigh. Ewings is an aggressive cancer which attacks both soft tissue and bone. He underwent extensive radiation and chemotherapy in the months following his diagnosis. Once the cancer was controlled, a titanium rod was also inserted into his left leg to stabilize the bone. Once cleared, he began a rehab program to restore his lower body strength. This past summer, probably as a by-product of his aggressive rehab, Herzlich developed a fracture in his right foot. Despite this setback, Herzlich was able to start and compete in Boston College’s 2010 season opener against Weber State. On October 5, Herzlich suffered a broken bone in his left hand, resulting in a cast which has basically made him play “one-handed” this fall.

Still, Herzlich has responded to be Boston College’s third-leading tackler on the nation’s top ranked defense against the run. Herzlich has recorded 54 tackles this year, including 41 solo hits, 3.5 for loss. Despite the “club cast” on his hand, he has four pass interceptions, five pass deflections and one forced fumble.

NC State’s Irving was severely injured in a single car motor vehicle accident on June 28, 2009. Irving suffered a compound fracture of the tibia, a broken rib, a punctured lung and a separated shoulder. The fracture of the tibia required a surgical insertion of an intermedullary nail to allow proper alignment and healing of the bone. Irving faced a length rehab due to the severity of his injuries and the quantity of body parts that were affected.

Due to an extensive rehab program, Irving was able to return to football activities in March of 2010. He has enjoyed a sometimes spectacular senior season as the 2nd leading tackler for an NC State defense which ranks 3rd nationally in sacks and 4th in tackles for loss. He ranks 4th nationally in tackles for loss with 19 and has five quarterback sacks among his 85 total tackles.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Elite Duke team could hold its own in any era

It's only December, but two trends jump out when you are talking about Duke basketball.

The first is that the yearly predictions of how much depth Duke has are once again not true. Early in every season, people talk about how many options Coach Mike Krzyzewski has, but Krzyzewski always shortens his bench as the season progresses. We saw a glimpse of that Wednesday night as Coach K relied on six players and reserves Miles Plumlee and Seth Curry saw their minutes shrink.

The second is that the Blue Devils may be the rare great team in this age of college basketball. North Carolina was just that in 2009, a seasoned team that could compete with some of the ACC's all-time bests. We're not saying that UNC team was better than N.C. State in 1974 or Carolina in 1982 or Duke in 1992, but it was a powerhouse that wouldn't get wiped off the floor by the all-time greats.

Duke could be in a similar situation this year. The ACC is down - North Carolina is not nearly as good as projected, and N.C. State is much better but still has a long way to go. The Blue Devils could easily steamroll the league and win 14, 15 and maybe 16 conference games. Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith are elite college players, and Kyrie Irving and Mason Plumlee are strong in their own rights. The depth on the bench means competition for playing time, which is always healthy.

One always has to be careful when evaluating Duke early on. The Devils are unreal at home, especially when bolstered by a crowd like Wednesday. So there's a tendency to see these early-season efforts at home and overproject the Devils. But you can't help but be impressed. Duke looks like a great team for any era in a year in which the ACC in basketball sadly seems to resemble the ACC in football.

High school sports show talks about Triangle area athletes and teams

Check out the Outer Loop Sports Show online as high school sports experts discuss the football playoffs, including Wake Forest-Rolesville's big win over Garner and Panther Creek's high-scoring win over Fayetteville Seventy-First.

Outer Loop Sports Show: December 1, 2010 from Outer Loop Sports Show on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

VT's Taylor beats out State's Wilson for ACC Player of the Year

ACC RELEASE - Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who has led the No. 12 Hokies to 10 consecutive victories and his third berth in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game following an 0-2 start, is the ACC Player of the Year for 2010.

Taylor, a senior, was the choice of 27 of the 57 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACSMA) that voted. Russell Wilson of NC State was second with 19 votes.

Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers won ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

Taylor, also the offensive player of the year and the league's first-team All-ACC quarterback, has played for four years, and set himself up for a big finish this summer.

"I think I put in the work this offseason and previous years to come out and have a big season and I think it just paid off," Taylor said of his All-ACC selection.

The Hokies will play No. 20 Florida State for the championship on Saturday night in Charlotte, N.C., with the winner earning the conference's berth in the Orange Bowl.

Taylor said he will approach this game like any other - with high expectations.

"I challenge myself every week to be the best player on the field," he said. "That's my mindset going into the week and when I step onto the field, I want to let it be known that I was the best player on the field in that game."

Taylor was the MVP of the 2008 ACC Football Championship Game against Boston College. He is the first Hokies player to win the ACC Player of the Year honor since quarterback Bryan Randall in 2004.

Taylor leads the ACC in passing efficiency, having completed better than 60 percent of his attempts while throwing for 20 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He also is the Hokies' second-leading rusher with 613 yards, and has two runs of more than 70 yards.

Bowers, who led the nation with 15½ sacks, received 36 of 55 votes to finish ahead of Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, the nation's leading tackler, who had 14 votes.

Voting for the 2010 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year awards, as voted on by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACSMA)

UNC's turnovers and Barnes' shooting are quickly becoming problems

North Carolina basketball has committed 73 turnovers in the last four games, including 18 turnovers in a 79-67 loss at Illinois Tuesday night.

Also troubling is the free throw shooting. UNC missed nine of 17 foul shots.

Harrison Barnes, the heralded rookie, was taunted by Illinois fan as being "overrated." He hit only two of nine shots. UNC coach Roy Williams said Barnes hasn't found his niche yet, isn't playing smoothly and needs to move better without the ball.

Williams said the Tar Heels need to do a better job of getting the ball to Barnes while guard Kendall Marshall said that the Tar Heels are getting the ball to Barnes too far away from the basket.

Carolina is now 4-3 on the season - that's already a third of the number of losses that Barnes had in four years of high school ball.

For more on the game itself, please click here.

Monday, November 29, 2010

UNC men's soccer team continues to win shootouts

Another penalty kick shootout has given the North Carolina men's soccer team a 5-4 NCAA playoff victory and sends them to quarterfinals for the third straight year. UNC's Enzo Martinez was the hero Sunday.

Read Tim Candon's piece in the Raleigh News & Observer here.

Tech's Taylor beats out NCSU's Wilson for All-ACC quarterback


Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor got the nod as the first-team All-ACC quarterback in voting released Monday by the ACC. N.C. State's Russell Wilson was second team.
Overall, the four North Carolina schools had only three players on the first team. Tight end George Bryan and linebacker Nate Irving of N.C. State joined UNC defensive tackle Quinton Coples on the first team.

QBTyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech (77)
RBMontel Harris, Boston College (122)
RBAnthony Allen, Georgia Tech (108)
WRLeonard Hankerson, Miami (118)
WRTorrey Smith, Maryland (96)
TEGeorge Bryan, NC State (92)
OTAnthony Castonzo, Boston College (79)
OTChris Hairston, Clemson (69)
OGRodney Hudson, Florida State (116)
OGBrandon Washington, Miami (50)
CSean Bedford, Georgia Tech (91)
KChris Hazley, Virginia Tech (100)
Spc.Tony Logan, Maryland (69)
DEDa'Quan Bowers, Clemson (120)
DEBrandon Jenkins, Florida State (101)
DTQuinton Coples, North Carolina (101)
DTJarvis Jenkins, Clemson (63)
LBLuke Kuechly, Boston College (112)
LBNate Irving, N.C. State (105)
LBAlex Wujciak, Maryland (78)
CBJayron Hosley, Virginia Tech (112)
CBChase Minnifield, Virginia (57)
SDeAndre McDaniel, Clemson (99)
SKenny Tate, Maryland (78)
PMatt Bosher, Miami
QBRussell Wilson, NC State (75)
RBDamien Berry, Miami (37)
RBKeith Payne, Virginia (30)
WRConner Vernon, Duke (70)
WROwen Spencer, NC State (41)
TEDwayne Allen, Clemson (31)
OTOrlando Franklin, Miami (65)
OTBlake DeChristopher, Virginia Tech (39)
OGJaymes Brooks, Virginia Tech (41)
OGOmoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech (35)
OGJonathan Cooper, North Carolina (35)
CRyan McMahon, Florida State (47)
KWill Snyderwine, Duke (38)
Spc.David Wilson, Virginia Tech (61)
DEAllen Bailey, Miami (51)
DESteven Friday, Virginia Tech (42)
DTJohn Graves, Virginia Tech (46)
DTJoe Vellano, Maryland (33)
LBBruce Carter, North Carolina (43)
LBBruce Taylor, Virginia Tech (41)
LBSean Spence, Miami (37)
CBXavier Rhodes, Florida State (49)
CBBrandon Harris, Miami (45)
SDavon Morgan, Virginia Tech (48)
SRay-Ray Armstrong, Miami (25)
PBrian Saunders, Virginia Tech (48)
Honorable mention
WRDwight Jones, North Carolina (20)
OTJake Vermiglio, NC State (34); Paul Pinegar, Maryland (27).
OGThomas Claiborne, Boston College (34).
CBeau Warren, Virginia Tech (22).
TECooper Helfet, Duke (24); Andre Smith, Virginia Tech (23)
RBJohnny White, North Carolina (22).
QBT.J. Yates, North Carolina (21).
PKCasey Barth, North Carolina (20).
SPMarcus Gilchrist, Clemson (24).
DTJ.R. Sweezy, NC State (26).
LBColin McCarthy, Miami (34); Abraham Kromah, Duke (30).
CBGreg Reid, Florida State (20).

Defense still lacking with this UNC basketball team

North Carolina’s basketball team will go as far as its defense takes it, and this season, that may not be far. The Tar Heels are sorely missing some players they had last year – Ed Davis, the Wear twins, Will Graves – and what is left does not look like an upper-tier ACC team.

Fans know this, too. You can’t fool ACC basketball fans, and the light crowds in the Smith Center the last two games knew they weren’t watching one of Carolina’s best teams.

Harrison Barnes is very good, and may someday be great, but the preseason prediction of him making first-team All-America was a stretch. He may not make first-team All-ACC – you can expect Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and Malcolm Delaney to take three spots, and the next two are likely Jordan Williams of Maryland and Chris Singleton of Florida State.

Many thought the arrival of Barnes and the other freshmen would overcome the problems that led to last year’s disappointing effort. It was easy to point to Carolina’s problems last year. You could just name any facet of the game, point to that as an issue, and you were probably right. It was a strange year and one coach Roy Williams surely figured he would not repeat.

This team is not that team, but some issues are continuing. The obvious ones are shooting and ball-handling, but perhaps what is more surprising is there seems to be a recurring lack of desire on defense. You could see that against UNC-Asheville Tuesday night and you could see it again Sunday. The fact that UNC slowed College of Charleston scorer Andrew Goudelock in the second half garnered headlines, but the way Carolina played without intensity on defense in the first half – and much of the second - was jarring. It wasn’t until the Heels buckled down on defense with around seven minutes to go that the game changed.

Two factors may be at play here. One is Carolina lacks lock-down defenders. Against UNC-Asheville, the player who hustled the most on defense was Justin Watts, the junior from Durham Jordan. Of course, Carolina does have two shot-blockers in Tyler Zeller and John Henson, but there is no heir to the Marcus Ginyard-Jackie Manuel role. Reggie Bullock might have the talent and strength to do it, but injuries have slowed him down.

The other is more collective. Carolina doesn’t seem to have the tenacity of a great defensive team. Reaching any real conclusions is unfair – it’s a young team, and a young season. But right now, we do know this – Carolina is good, but not great. The Heels lack overwhelming offense, and the key to this season will be how well this team comes together on the defensive end.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Carolina basketball overcomes Goudelock this time

While North Carolina had to overcome the College of Charleston's Andrew Goudelock - something the Heels couldn't do last year - to win 74-69 at home tonight, Goudelock only hit 11 of 27 points and he went 10 minutes without a point. Dexter Strickland mainly had the responsibility in covering Goudelock.

During the two minutes in which Goudelock hit 13 points, including three threes, he really had no open shots. He just hit very, very long or tightly-covered shots en route to a game-high 28 ponts.

Carolina got into the more uptempo, fast-breaking style in the second half and tired the Cougars. John Henson led the way with 19 points. With a little better free throw shooting and without those wild threes from Goudelock, it would have been a comfortable margin.

But it wasn't.

"I loved our poise," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "They go up five and Goudelock's making some unbelievable shots, and we kept playing. I don't want to call a timeout and have the kids panic. I think you get stronger through the course of your program if the kids can figure it out themselves."

Even though Williams seems to be trying to inject confidence in his young team for the way they persevered, it's going to be tough for the Heels to win at Illinois Tuesday.

Click here for a game story and click here for a photo gallery.