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Friday, July 19, 2019

Up and Down the ACC: Does Duke’s Loss to Kentucky Presage a Change in League’s Power Structure?

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Photo Caption: Two standout freshmen—Duke sensation Elizabeth Williams (Blue, No. 1) and Kentucky upstart Azia Bishop (White, No. 50)—battle it out in an ACC-SEC contest in which the SEC’s Wildcats ultimate prevailed. Williams logged a team-high 17 points and grabbed six rebounds, but it would not be enough as Kentucky’s defense forced 24 Duke turnovers (converting them to 23 points). Bishop registered a career game with a double-double of 12 points and 11 boards. While the loss to another Top 10 team did not hurt the Blue Devils that badly in the polls, it revealed some serious vulnerabilities in what has long been one of the ACC’s premiere programs.

Photo Credit: Courtesy UK Media Relations

By Rob Clough

The biggest game of the past week was yet another disappointment for the ACC, as one of the league’s elite, Duke, which came into the week ranked No. 6/5 nationally, suffered a 65-72 loss at the hands of the SEC’s Kentucky Wildcats, then-ranked No. 10.

It was the second loss of the preconference season for Duke, which fell to No. 3 Notre Dame, 54-56, in a Thanksgiving tournament game in the Bahamas that went down to the wire. The pollsters haven’t punished the Blue Devils too severely for either stumble, with both defeats having come against top-10 opponents. Duke remains in the Top 10 at No. 9 this week. But the underlying causes of the Kentucky loss suggest that all may not be entirely well in Durham.

The Blue Devils committed 24 turnovers, which Kentucky turned into 23 points. Moreover, despite a significant height advantage for the Blue Devils, the two teams were even on the boards at 33 apiece, and worse, Duke gave up crucial offensive rebounds to the Kentucky Wildcats, resulting in a 21-12 Kentucky advantage in second-chance points.

In a rare appearance in Rupp Arena (with a record 14,000+ in attendance), Kentucky survived an early Duke run by getting stickbacks. Especially in the second half, the Wildcats’ defensive pressure wore Duke down despite 17 points from superfrosh Elizabeth Williams. Kentucky’s star guard A’dia Mathies got plenty of open looks from three from Duke’s frequently casual perimeter defense, an indication that defensive communication and recovery is spotty at best for this young unit. 

Another problem was that Duke’s sophomore sensation, guard Chelsea Gray, took only four shots from the field in the entire game.  It’s not like she was being double-teamed, either—Gray was simply passive for much of the game, especially in the second half when Kentucky took over halfway through. 

This isn’t the first time Gray has seemed reluctant to take over a game the way her size, shooting and overall talent make her capable of, and it’s a troubling trend for Duke.  Right now, both Miami and Maryland are playing better and more confident basketball than the two-time defending league champs. 

The Devils bounced back with a 93-35 romp against a hapless USC Upstate team as Williams went 10-10 from the floor for 22 points, but Duke’s only win against a nationally ranked foe thus far was its 64-53 victory over Purdue (then-ranked No. 13/16) in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Purdue’s stock rose briefly after an early December win over Texas A&M, but a subsequent rout by Notre Dame (38-66), followed by a humbling 62-75 loss at Central MIchigan, have left the Boilers clinging to the lower echelons of the Top 25 by the skin of their teeth this week, taking much of the gleam off that Duke win. And regardless the score, a beatdown of USC Upstate or its kin is not a win likely to instill fear in the hearts of many of Duke’s upcoming ACC opponents.

Parsing The Week’s Results

Miami won its 29th straight game at home, routing Mississippi, 76-48. But despite the final score, things weren’t entirely rosy for the Hurricanes, who handed back much of a 34-22 halftime lead, twice allowing the Rebels to pull within five. Riquna Williams, who won this week’s official ACC Player of the Week honors for her performance, took over with a well-timed three when Ole Miss climbed within four points midway through the second half, netting 13 of her game-high 17 points in the second period and allowing the ‘Canes to blow the game wide open. 

Maryland had another fine week against lesser opponents, holding Delaware State (108-33) and George Mason (78-50) to a combined total of 83 points in two games. The Terps have rarely had the rep as a defensively ferocious program, but their imposing front line is doing the job and then some this season. As for offense, all but one Terrapin (Lynetta Kizer, with nine points and three assists in just 18 minutes’ playing time) posted double figures in Maryland’s dismantling of Delaware State.

Wake Forest warmed up with an easy win over Radford (90-67), but went through an epic offensive drought in the second half, resulting in their second loss of the early season, this one to last week’s No. 23/25 Delaware.  This was a chance for the Deacs to register a major non-conference win, but Elena Delle Donne and her 30 points had other ideas.  Wake has always been known as a poor offensive team, but going nearly twelve minutes without a field goal will doom any team.

North Carolina State whipped Alabama, 79-57, in a game that saw the Wolfpack’s best players—Marissa Kastanek (game-high 13 points, plus five assists) and Bonae Holston (10-point, 10-board double-double)—play well in the same contest, something that has not always been the case in the early going of this season.  Kastanek has struggled with her shot a bit this year, and Holston took a while to return to form after coming back from a concussion.  This game was never in question, however, as the Pack won by more than 20 points. 

Georgia Tech picked up a solid road win against frequent NCAA tournament invitee Middle Tennessee State, rebounding from last week’s loss to rival Georgia to beat the Blue Raiders by double digits (73-57) after trailing by three at the half.  Senior Mo Bennett had a 10-point, 10-board double-double, and Sasha Goodlett fell just shy of another, dropping in a team-high 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds—which is precisely the kind of help Ty Marshall (10 points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals), the Yellow Jackets’ leading scorer at 16.2 points per game, needs on a regular basis. 

North Carolina, recovered from last week’s 84-103 beat-down by Penn State, logging two more easy wins, over Lipscomb (95-53) and East Tennessee State (93-77), behind huge performances from center Chay Shegog.  Sheggog registered a career-high of 26 points, plus 11 rebounds against Lipscomb, then tied her own record four nights later with 26-points and 12 boards against ETSU.

Florida State pulled back to the .500 mark, evening its season record at 5-5 with a much-needed road win by whipping Akron, 90-64. Both Cierra Bravard (28 points, 12 rebounds) and Natasha Howard (24 points, 13 rebounds) recorded double-doubles in the rout.

Virginia had no trouble with intrastate rival Liberty, dominating them, 64-38, at home. Three Cavaliers—Ariana Moorer (12 points), Chelsea Shine (10 points), and Ataira Franklin (10 points) notched double figures, and Joanne Boyle emptied her bench in a game that saw all but one member of the Virginia roster on the scoreboard.

Turning to the three teams occupying the bottom of the conference standings, Boston College handily beat Massachusetts (80-64) at home, but lost to Hartford (45-54) on the road.  Despite 13 points and nine rebounds from sophomore wing Kristin Doherty, and 12 points more from redshirt junior Alyssa Fressle, the Eagles gave up 20 turnovers and shot just 35 percent from the field as a team. Guard Kerri Shields once again struggled against a team that was devoted to stopping her. The Eagles’ lot is unlikely to improve until the team develops a consistent scoring threat—or better yet, two or three of them. To date, Boston College has no player averaging double figures.

Clemson lost to Oakland (Mich.), 51-63, on the road, as Nikki Dixon (team-high 13 points, five steals, four boards, three assists, but six turnovers)—but no one else—continues to shine. 

Virginia Tech started off the week with a dispiriting, 28-66, loss to No. 17/18 Penn State on the road, in a game that all who saw or played in it are no doubt eager to forget. The Hokies, led by Alyssa Fenyn (15 points, eight rebounds, six steals, three assists) and Latorri Hines-Allen (14-point, 10-rebound double-double), then overcame the shocking and tragic events on campus to beat North Carolina Central, 70-52. The killing of a campus police officer by a lone gunman last week was thankfully a more isolated event than the infamous Virginia Tech mass shootings of a few years ago, but that wound was certainly raw enough to send the entire campus spinning in the wake of last week’s campus violence. Blacksburg is a tight-knit community. We know everyone is feeling this loss acutely, and our sympathies go out to them

Trending Up: North Carolina State

A week after nipping South Carolina, the Wolfpack Women crushed another SEC foe in Alabama.  This is a team that has the potential to be very good if its younger players mature quickly.

Trending Down: Clemson

Clemson has lost its last three in a row. Their record now stands squarely in the red at 3-5. Most recently, the Tigers went to Rochester and got waxed by Oakland, a Summit Conference team.  Coach Itoro Coleman said that getting her team to be more competitive was one of her top priorities this season, but so far it’s just not happening.

Current Standings

ACC Women’s Basketball Standings
(As of December 13, 2011)
Rank School Conf. Pct. Overall Pct.
1 Maryland 0-0 .000 11-0 1.000
2 Miami 0-0 .000 8-1 .889
3 North Carolina 0-0 .000 7-1 .875
4 Virginia 0-0 .000 8-2 .800
5 (tie) Duke 0-0 .000 7-2 .778
5 (tie) Wake Forest 0-0 .000 7-2 .778
7 NC State 0-0 .000 6-2 .750
8 Georgia Tech 0-0 .000 6-3 .667
9 Florida State 0-0 .000 5-5 .500
10 Clemson 0-0 .000 3-5 .375
11 (tie) Boston College 0-0 .000 3-6 .333
11 (tie) Virginia Tech 0-0 .000 3-6 .333
Source: TheACC.com

Full Court Surprise Player of the Week: Anjale Barrett, Maryland

This veteran guard may not be the routine double-digit scorer some of her younger and more celebrated teammates are known as, and she may not have their flash, but the redshirt senior has an ACC championship under her belt as well as a trip deep into the NCAA tournament.  She was in double figures in both games this week, posting 13 points, while dishing out six assists, in Maryland’s rout of Delaware State and following that up with 13 points, three assists, three steals and a block against George Mason. Even when not lighting up the scoreboard, Barrett has been a stabilizing force for the Terps all season long.

Photo Caption: Starting guard Anjale Barrett is far from the Terrapins’ leading scorer. The redshirt senior out of New York’s St. Michael’s Academy can knock down the three, but doesn’t put up many of them. Instead, Barrett quietly averages 7.5 points per game on an efficient 53.6 percent from the field, and she makes those around her better, dishing out nearly 5.5 assists per game with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.6:1. Known for her work ethic, Barrett can be counted on to come through in big games, for example, with her double-digit performance in the Terps’ 72-53 drubbing of local rival Georgetown (then ranked No. 14/11 nationally) early this season, and to bring her experience, judgment and leadership to the team. And last week Barrett did put up not one, but two, back-to-back double-digit outings to take Full Court’s “Surprise Player of the Week” honors.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Maryland Athletics

Full Court Surprise Rookie of the Week: Larryqua Hall, Virginia Tech

The lightly-regarded frosh had one of her best overall games, with eight points (on 50-percent from the field), seven rebounds and five steals in just 17 minutes on the floor against North Carolina Central.

Photo Caption: The Hokies are a team who badly need role players to step up, and that’s exactly what freshman Larryqua Hall did last week in Virginia Tech’s win over North Central Carolina. Appearing in just the fifth game of her collegiate career, the 5-10 guard out of Marietta, Gerogia’s Hillgrove High did a little bit of everything in her 17 minutes of playing time, posting eight points (nearly double her season average of 4.4 points per game), seven rebounds (again nearly twice her four rebound-per-game average) and five steals (more than twice her 2.2 steals-per-game season average)h.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Virginia Tech

Five ACC Games To Watch, 12/12 - 12/19/2011

1. Boston University @ Boston College, 12/13/2011.  The Eagles are in a three-way race for the worst team in the ACC and need to get wins where ever they can find them.  Beating their crosstown rival would certainly help, especially since losing to them would be so humiliating.  Kerri Shields needs to have a big game, and soon.

2. Richmond @ North Carolina State, 12/15/2011.  Richmond is a solid program but NC State looks to be gaining momentum.  Expect them to take care of business in Reynolds Coliseum.

3. No. 20/18 Vanderbilt @ North Carolina State, 12/18/2011. This is the true test for the Pack, who will be going up against a nationally ranked opponent who is a perennial NCAA Tournament invitee.  The Commodores are 10-0 with a win against then-nationally ranked Oklahoma, and have a typically balanced scoring attack that mixes skilled posts and shooters.  A win here will be a tough get but could signal NC State’s ascent into the league’s top six.

4. Virginia Tech @ UCF, 12/18/2011.  The Hokies have been awful to date, but they try hard; this could be a rare and much needed road win for them.

5. No. 18/16 North Carolina v. South Carolina (in Myrtle Beach, SC), 12/18/2011. This year’s edition of the annual showdown between the Carolinas, represents an interesting and relatively rare preconference contest a top-30 opponent for the Heels.  After being knocked around by a superior Penn State on the road, it will be interesting to see what the Heels can do in a neutral setting against a team with less overall talent but more experience and depth.  UNC is floundering a bit without its typical array of post players, wings and experienced guards.  This game will be a solid barometer for coach Sylvia Hatchell as ACC play approaches.

Originally published Wed, December 14, 2011

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Week: February 7, 2012
1 Baylor (31) 24-0 1 1 1 775
2 Notre Dame 23-1 2 2 2 743
3 Connecticut 21-2 3 4 3 710
4 Stanford 20-1 4 5 4 685
5 Duke 19-3 6 8 5 650
6 Miami (FL) 20-3 7 7 6 604
7 Kentucky 21-3 5 15 7 584
8 Maryland 20-3 10 10 8 534
9 Wisconsin-Green Bay 20-0 9 24 9 530
10 Ohio State 21-2 11 NR-RV
10 483
11 Tennessee 17-6 8 3 11 476
12 Delaware 20-1 13 NR 12 434
13 Georgetown 18-5 15 11 14 379
14 Texas A&M 16-5 16 6 15 378
15 Nebraska 19-3 18 NR 13 309
16 Rutgers 17-4 14 12 17 372
17 Louisville 17-6 12 9 20 276
18 Gonzaga 21-3 19 NR-RV
19 234
19 Purdue 19-5 17 21 16 222
20 Georgia 18-6 20 12 21 202
21 Penn State 18-5 21 14 18 176
22 DePaul 17-7 23 18 NR-RV
23 Georgia Tech 16-6 22 NR-RV
22 104
24 South Carolina 18-5 NR-RV
NR 24 46
25 Vanderbilt 18-5 NR-RV
NR 45
Dropped Out: No. 24 North Carolina, No. 25 Kansas.
First-place votes: Total first-place votes received (if any) are indicated in parentheses following school name.
Others receiving votes: St. Bonaventure (22-2) 34; North Carolina (17-6) 19; California (17-6) 18; Florida Gulf Coast (21-2) 16; Middle Tennessee (19-5) 15; Texas-El Paso (20-2) 8; Texas Tech (16-6) 5; Brigham Young (21-4) 4; Fresno State (19-4) 4; St. John's (15-8) 4; Princeton (15-4) 3; Oklahoma (15-7) 2; West Virginia (17-6) 2; Kansas State (15-7) 1.
Rank remains unchanged since last week
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Credit: Courtesy Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The weekly Division I Top 25 Coaches' Poll, sponsored by USA Today and ESPN, is based on voting by a Board of Coaches made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions all of whom are WBCA members.