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Friday, July 19, 2019

Up and Down the ACC: Home Courts Prove Inhospitable for Many as Conference Play Gets Under Way

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Photo Caption: Georgia Tech’s Dawn Maye gets the nod as Full Court’s “Surprise ACC Player of the Week” after her career game on Monday helped propel the Yellow Jackets to a 76-66 win over North Carolina State on the opening day of ACC conference play. The sophomore guard posted a career-high of 17 points, plus four boards, three assists and three steals. If she can continue to perform at that level, Maye could prove to be the second scoring option the Jackets so badly need to take the pressure off scoring leader Tyaunna Marshall.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Georgia Tech Sports Information

By Rob Clough

As conference play got underway last week for the most of the ACC last week, home proved not not to be an especially welcoming place for league teams playing their home openers: Clemson, North Carolina State and Florida State all lost at home, and North Carolina barely pulled out a win.  Even Duke struggled to put away Virginia in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The biggest news from opening night was the Tar Heels’ stunning, 65063, comeback victory over Miami.  Despite 31 turnovers and the loss of starting guard She’la White to an ankle injury, the Heels rallied in the final minute to pull ahead of a Miami team that had gone ice cold.  Hurricane stars Riquna Williams and Shenise Johnson combined to shoot 10-32 from the floor, but the ‘Canes got nothing from their bench. Conversely, UNC got significant contributions from the likes of Shannon Smith, Candice Wood and Danielle Butts, who combined for 17 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. 

Combined with the welcome news of the return of Laura Broomfield, who missed the last five games with a foot injury, and 6-6 center Waltiea Rolle, suiting up for the first time since the birth of her daughter in early November, this win was a major confidence-booster for North Carolina, which demolished cupcakes Savannah State and North Carolina Central earlier in the week, but until the Miami victory, had no real quality wins under its belt.

Let’s take a quick look at the rest of last week’s results, the league’s current standings, and the coming week’s top games in the ACC.

Parsing The Week’s Results

North Carolina State’s 77-66 loss to Georgia Tech at home was discouraging, given the Pack’s success in Hawai’i last week.  The Wolfpack Women knocked off a solid Florida Gulf Coast club along with two weaker opponents.

But back at home for their first game of the conference season, the Wolfpack looked all but toothless. The Jackets smashed them on the boards (45-28) and Georgia Tech’s guard trio of Ty Montgomery, Dawnn Maye and Mimi Walthour ran wild, racking up a combined 52 points. State’s Marissa Kastanek did her best with 27 points, but it was too little, too late.

This was an important win for Tech which has the easiest conference schedule in the ACC. Beating NC State in Raleigh will be one of their tougher games. 

Duke won a scrappy game against Virginia, 77-66, after playing, and ultimately defeating, a similar Temple team, 65-54, in Philly a few days earlier.  Both of those teams exposed Duke’s shaky ballhandling against heavy pressure. Duke coughed up 25 turnovers against both the Owls and the Hoos, but in both cases, the Devils were aggressive enough to break the press and pull out the win thanks to high-percentage shooting (49 percent from the field and 33 percent from the arc against Temple, and 56.3 percent from the field and 50 percent from long range against UVa). Sophomore guard Tricia Liston played the hero in both victories, with a game-high 20 points, plus six rebounds and four assists against Temple and a team-high 18, to go with seven rebounds, also a team-high, against Virginia, and she’s not just getting her offense from threes. 

Duke is going through another weird transition period as senior guard Shay Selby returned from a five-game suspension but soph guard Chloe Wells is temporarily ineligible, pending the resolution of an unspecified academic matter.

The best team in the league, Maryland, handed the Delaware Fightin’
Delle Donnes their first loss of the season in College Park, 85-76, despite 32 points from Elena. Then the Terps traveled to Tallahassee where their frontline demolished Florida State. Maryland’s Laurin Mincy scored 23 points, Alyssa Thomas added a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds and Tianna Hawkins had 20 points and 13 rebounds to hand the ‘Noles a 91-70 defeat, their worst home loss in nearly five years.

The chemistry on this Maryland team is top-notch, as senior center Lynetta Kizer seems comfortable coming off the bench, allowing the younger posts to soften up the opposition. Lauren Mincy is clearly the most improved player in the league.

The Seminoles are a team still searching for answers and finding themselves handicapped by an ineffective bench. To beat a good team, they have to get every one of their go-to players in the flow at the same time. In the Maryland loss, Alexa Deluzio tied a career high with 23 points, Cierra Bravard posted 14 points and Chasity Clayton contributed 13 more for Florida State, but Natasha Howard played poorly in this outing, finishing with just four points (on two-for-nine from the field and 0-for-three from the arc) and eight rebounds before fouling out of the game. Howard also accounted for five of the Seminoles’ 22 turnovers.

Florida State is now just 8-7 and has to start generating some upsets, or else they are in danger of missing the NCAA tournament.  There are plenty of teams quietly prepared to pass them if they don’t take care of business.(Wake Forest, to cite just one example, has yet to begin its conference play, but is now 10-3 overall after beating UMES and nipping Davidson)

Speaking of teams unlikely to see postseason play, Virginia Tech had a pretty good week.  They gave Cincinnati a tough game before falling, 55-66; then beat UMBC, 57-52; and then began their conference season at Clemson where they dominated the Tigers, 55-33. 

It was the third loss in a row for the Tigers, who fell at Providence, 63-73, three days before Christmas, and were then bullied by UAB at home, 36-51. Clemson coach Itoro Coleman has got to be desperate to make sure that frosh bright spot Nikki Dixon doesn’t try to flee the campus and that the ink remains dry on incoming powerhouse post Jonquelle Jones’s letter of commitment. 

Coleman has talked about wanting to make her team more competitive, yet Virginia Tech, far from the league’s strongest opponent, started the game on a mind-boggling 17-0 run.

Boston College narrowly avoided taking the “Worst Team In The League
crown thanks to their 57-49 comeback win over Central Connecticut State, four days after being pummeled, 57-74. BC is the second team in the league that has yet to begin its conference season, which will get underway on Thursday, when they hot Virginia Tech.

Trending Up: Maryland

The Terps beat a nationally ranked Delaware team and then crushed FSU on the road.  Granted, the Seminoles have been struggling this season, but winning so convincingly in Tallahassee is extremely impressive in any case.  The Terps’ frontline has been totally dominant and their guards are shooting the lights out.

Trending Down: Miami

The ‘Canes followed up their embarrassing loss a week ago at Georgetown (46-71) by somehow blowing an 11-point lead in Chapel Hill against a team that lost its starting point guard before halftime and then lost its other starting guard (She’la White) to foul trouble early in the second half.  Questionable shot selection crippled the ‘Canes, as Miami tried to blast its way to the win from behind the arc instead of trying to attack the rim.

“You’ve got to finish games on the road in the ACC,” Miami coach Katie Meier said, “and we didn’t.” That pretty much sums it up.

Current Standings

ACC Women’s Basketball Standings
(As of January 4, 2012)
Rank School Conf. Pct. Overall Pct.
1 Maryland 1-0 1.000 14-0 1.000
2 North Carolina 1-0 1.000 11-2 .846
3 Duke 1-0 1.000 10-2 .833
4 Georgia Tech 1-0 1.000 11-3 .786
5 Virginia Tech 1-0 1.000 5-9 .357
6 Wake Forest 0-0 .000 10-3 .769
7 Boston College 0-0 .000 5-8 .385
8 Virginia 0-1 .000 12-3 .800
9 Miami 0-1 .000 11-3 .786
10 NC State 0-1 .000 10-4 .714
11 Florida State 0-1 .000 8-7 .533
12 Clemson 0-1 .000 4-8 .333
Source: TheACC.com

Full Court Surprise Player of the Week: Dawnn Maye, Georgia Tech

The sophomore Jackets’ guard had the best game of her career with 17 points, three assists and three steals against North Carolina State.  We’ve been beating this drum for a long time, but if Georgia Tech finds a reliable second and third scorer to help Ty Montgomery, they will be a dangerous squad. Maye looks like she holds the potential to become one of those offensive options.

Full Court Surprise Rookie of the Week: Dearica Hamby, Wake Forest

Hamby, one of the less celebrated freshmen in this year’s incoming ACC class, had nine points, nine rebounds and three steals against UMES last week. 

At this point, we’re going to discontinue this feature for this column, given that with conference play beginning, the league’s rookies are no longer “surprises.”

Instead, we’ll offer up this bonus feature:

Top Five ACC Rookies As Conference Play Begins:

1. Elizabeth Williams, Duke.  A future first-round draft pick.  A startling athlete who commands double-teams at all times, Williams is currently averaging 13 points, nine rebounds and three blocks per game. 

2. Nikki Dixon, Clemson. Already the best player on a weak team, this do-it-all forward has shouldered the scoring burden for the toothless Tigers, averaging 13 points and four rebounds per game.

3. Brittany Rountree, North Carolina.  This guard is leading the league in three-point percentage at 44 percent from the arc and has taken a lot of pressure off the Tar Heels’ front line. The rookie is UNC’s second-leading scorer at 11 points per game.

4. Brene “Bones” Moseley, Maryland.  This is where the productivity of the frosh starts to drop off, but Moseley is still a solid contributor at nine points and three assists per game. Coach Brenda Frese isn’t quite comfortable giving the freshman significant minutes against real teams yet, but that will come in time if Mosely continues to perform as she has to date.

5 (Tie): Kelly Gramlich, Clemson, and Danielle Butts, North Carolina.  Two totally different players: Gramlich is a shooter (38 percent from three) on a team that desperately needs scoring punch, and Butts is an undersized forward (eight points, 4.5 rebounds per game) on a team that needs help up front.

Five ACC Games To Watch, 1/3/2012 - 1/10/2012

1. North Carolina @ Virginia, 1/5/12. UNC has been shaky away from Carmichael, while UVa beat Tennessee in Charlottesville.  If the Hoos can keep up with the Heels on the boards like they did against Duke, force their customary 25+ turnovers and prevent the Heels from getting too many transition baskets, then the upset is theirs for the taking. We expect White to be back in action for this game and for the Heels to be closer to full strength. If so, the Heels will likely ultimately prevail, albeit by a slim margin.

2. Virginia Tech @ Boston College, 1/5/12.  Battle for the Basement: Part Two. Virginia Tech knocked off one weak ACC team on the road at Clemson. Expect them to do it again against an Eagles team that has yet to take wing. The Eagles have to hope that Kristen Doherty is active, that Katie Zenevitch can dominate the mediocre VT posts, and that Kerri Shields finds her shot. Neither of these teams is very deep, but VT’s overall superior size and playmaking will be the key to their likely win.

3. Maryland @ North Carolina, 1/8/12.  UNC is one of the few teams with the size to neutralize Maryland’s impressive front line. Unfortunately for the Heels, Maryland’s guard play will be superior,
and the Heels don’t have anyone who can handle Kizer off the bench. Look for the Terps to cruise to a 10-15 point win.

4. North Carolina State @ Duke, 1/8/12. To make the NCAA tournament cut, the Wolfpack need to finish at least 8-8 in the league. Nine-seven would unquestionably be better, but 8-8 would be okay if that includes a win over a league power on the road.  The Pack gave Duke fits in Raleigh last year before Duke rallied to win.  The key for this game is how well Duke contains Pack post Kody Burke.  If the Devils swallow her up, then NC State could be in for a long game.  On the other hand, Kastanek is on a roll for State, and Duke hasn’t been great at stopping hot guards this year. Nonetheless, if Elizabeth Williams gets going and Duke spaces its offense well enough to get open shots, the Devils will pull away with a second half
run, much like they did against Virginia.

5. Miami @ Georgia Tech, 1/9/12.  This is suddenly a very important game for the Hurricanes, who need a good road win in a big way.  This is also a chance for the Jackets to get a major resume-building victory simply by holding serve at home. The Jackets match Miami in terms of depth and athleticism, which means it will all come down to execution. Tech’s Sasha Goodlett could be the difference-maker here.  If she can get some points inside and help her team dominate the boards, Miami will be forced to engage in chuck and-duck shooting tactics.  Give the edge to the Jackets, who may very well pull off the upset.

Originally published Thu, January 05, 2012

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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.