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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Up and Down the ACC: Mixed News Last Week as League Wraps Up First Month of Preconference Play

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Photo Caption: Duke’s Haley Peters (White, No. 33) shoots over Purdue’s Brittany Rayburn (Black, No. 5), as she helped lead the No. 7/6 Blue Devils to a 64-53 victory over the No. 13/16 Boilers in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Thursday, December 1, in Durham, North Carolina. Peters was selected as Full Court’s “Surprise ACC Player of the Week,” after leading her team with 14 points and eight rebounds in the closer than expected game, then finished the week with 10 points and eight rebounds in just 26 minutes in Duke’s 92-43 blowout of Pitt on Sunday.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Duke Photography/Jon Gardiner

By Rob Clough

Last week featured some good results for the ACC’s three elite teams and middling news for everyone else.

The annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge dominated the news of the week, but that was trumped by the exciting Miami-Rutgers game on December 5th.  Let’s talk about the Hurricanes’ week before we get to the rest of the league.

Though still holding at No. 9 in both national polls, Miami went into the week needing to prove itself as a legitimate Top-Ten squad. The ‘Canes’ loss to Tennessee, which has had troubles of its own, left many wondering just how tough this team really was.

It helped a bit when the Hurricanes went to East Lansing on Thursday and convincingly defeated Michigan State, 76-60, in the 2011 edition of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.  Miami held a 13-point lead at the half thanks to 13 points from Morgan Stroman, the junior who’s the quiet member of the team’s Big Three.  Stroman missed just one shot on the night en route to 20 points, an achievement made all the more important given that Miami’s star guard Riquna Williams was held to just nine points. 

Had Miami lost that game, it would have been a big blow to the team’s confidence, given that the unranked Spartans are a team whom the ‘Canes should have been able to defeat, even on the road.

Instead, it was a more self-assured Miami squad who returned home to take on what looks like one of the best Rutgers teams in years.

The No. 11 Scarlet Knights, who came into Coral Gables as yet unbeaten, dominated the first half in this Monday’s contest, taking a 16-point lead (40-24) early in the second before the ‘Canes rallied. 

And, boy, did they rally, outscoring the Knights 68-41 the rest of the way in this battle been Hurricane offense and Rutgers’ notoriously grinding “D.” Indeed, Miami had its chances to ice the game in regulation, but the ‘Canes’ Shenise Johnson was only 2-4 from the line down the stretch—certainly an aberration for this otherwise-clutch foul shooter.  Johnson’s rare misses opened the door for Rutgers’s Erica Wheeler to tip in a miss from Monique Oliver with 1.5 seconds left, knotting the score at 63-all and sending the game into overtime.

The first of two overtimes, that is.

Miami led by four near the end of the first overtime, but Rutgers’s April Sykes drained a three, and after another Miami miss
from the foul line, Betnijah Laney tipped in yet another buzzer-beating miss to make it 74-74 and tack on another
five minutes.

Williams, who finished with a career high of 36 points, plus four assists, three boards, three steals, and a very well-timed block late in the game, took matters into her own hands in the second extra period, dropping in a pair of three-point bombs to give Miami an 80-77 lead the ‘Canes never relinquished. Miami went on to outscore the Scarlet Knights, 18-7, in the second overtime, to seal a 92-81 victory and preserved the ‘Canes school-record home-court winning streak (now at 28 games). In the process, the Hurricanes proved they have the juice to play with the best.

Now let’s take a look at how the rest of the league fared last week, and what’s coming up this weekend.

Parsing The Week’s Results

The ACC’s other big win this week came as No. 7/6 Duke defeated No. 13/16 Purdue, 64-53 in Durham, a win that became more impressive when the Boilermakers subsequently upset the the reigning national champions, as then-undefeated Texas A&M (then ranked No. 4 in both polls). 

The Duke-Purdue game, one piece of the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge, was closer than the final score implies, featuring six lead changes and three ties, and Purdue led by three with 12 minutes to go. But that’s when Duke took control with a 13-2 run, sparked by three lay-ups by bench player Allison Vernerey and fueled with help fellow reserve Richa Jackson. Chelsea Grey also contributed three assists and a steal over the six-minute span of the decisive Duke spurt.

It was a tough evening for Duke’s freshman sensation Elizabeth Williams, who frustrated by the Boilers’ double teams, posted just nine points on a dreadful two-for-17 from the field. But showing a maturity beyond her years, Williams found other ways to contribute, hauling down 17 rebounds (a school record for freshmen), swatting down four shots, and opening up scoring opportunities for her teammates, among them, glue player Haley Peters, who led the way for Duke with 14 points to go with eight boards. 

The Blue Devils also pounded a young Pitt team, 92-43, to complete a nice bounce-back from their previous week’s loss to No. 3 Notre Dame. Sunday’s game marked Duke’s second game without starting point guard Shay Selby, a senior, who was suspended indefinitely last week for an undisclosed violation of team rules.

No. 6/7 Maryland got a stiff test at home last week from unranked but previously undefeated Michigan, a physical opponent which was within one point of pulling off a huge upset with six minutes to go.  But over the next two minutes, Laurin Mincy, Lynetta Kizer and Anjale Barrett combined for an 8-0 run to give the Terps a nine-point cushion, and after Michigan’s Carmen Reynolds sank two from the foul line, Maryland’s Tianna Hawkins knocked down back-to-back baskets to make the lead 11 and deal the Wolverines a mighty knockout blow. Final Score: 74-65, Maryland.

The Terps then took care of business against local rival American University to go to 8-0 on the season and remain the ACC’s
lone unbeaten team.

It’s a good thing the league’s powerhouses (joined by wins by Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Virginia) won as expected in the Challenge, because six ACC squads were not up to the task, leaving this year’s Challenge knotted at six wins per conference.

Georgia Tech followed up the previous weeks pair of tight losses to Rutgers and Green Bay in the San Juan (Puerto Rico Shootout) with a solid 73-57 Challenge win last week against Big Ten newcomer Nebraska. Behind a 28-point/15 rebound double-double from Ty Marshall, the Jackets really stepped up to the moment and never gave the Cornhuskers any breathing room.

Unfortunately, the team looked a lot more like a Ramblin’ Wreck Sunday, unable to follow up on their Nebraska win when they visited arch-rival Georgia where they suffered a 68-75 loss.  It was an odd game for Tech in that the Jackets finally got Marshall some help—Sasha Goodlett augmented Marshall’s 19 points and nine boards with a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds of her own, while Metra Walthour chipped in 14 points—but a rare series of Tech defensive lapses allowed Georgia to shoot 50 percent in the second half, establishing enough of a lead to keep Georgia Tech at arm’s length.

Tech is still in position to take fourth place in the ACC given their schedule, but they still haven’t captured a premiere nonconference win.

Wake Forest and Virginia won their Challenge games with relative ease (Wake beat Minnesota by 17 (82-65) and Virginia defeated Indiana by 16 (65-49).  Both programs followed up their Challenge victories with relatively easy road wins, as the Deacons defeated Seton Hall on Sunday, 60-44, and Virginia downed Richmond, 69-56.  While neither opponent is great this season, simply getting a solid road win under their belts will help build confidence for both ACC programs.

The most crushing of the Challenge losses had to have been Florida State’s 75-78 overtime loss to Ohio State. The Seminoles are a team that’s been struggling to begin with this season, but they had No. 17/18 Ohio State on the ropes last week in Columbus. Had they been able to pull of the upset, it would have been a huge confidence-booster for the ‘Noles, but after leading by as many as nine and still up six with under a minute to go, Florida State (there was plenty of blame to go around) missed crucial free throws down the stretch. This in turn allowed the Buckeyes’ Tayler Hill to play the hero for the home team, draining two long balls to narrow the gap, then dropping in a lay-up with two seconds left to tie the score at 69 and send the game to extra minutes.

In an overtime marked by more misses than makes by both sides, FSU again led, this time by two, on a Cierra Bravard lay-up with just over a minute to go. But Bravard’s lay-up would be the last points scored by the Seminoles. Turnovers proved the villain this time, as Hill once again took over for the Buckeyes, tying the score at the charity stripe, giving Ohio State the final lead on a lay-up and nailing two free throws in the waning seconds to hand the Buckeyes the win and the Seminoles a real heartbreaker and its fifth loss in their last six games. Bravard, who hails from Ohio, led the way for the ‘Noles with a career-high 27 points and a season-high 12 boards. Alexa Deluzio added 17 points and Natasha Howard pulled down 10 boards to go with eight points.

Florida State stopped its free-fall Sunday with a narrow 64-62 win over a solid but not great Charlotte club. Despite being out-rebounded, 48-45, the Seminoles saw five players, led by Deluzio with 14 points, finish in low double figures. This game, too, was close throughout, witnessing three ties and 14 lead changes, but the Seminoles and Charlotte leading by as many as eight midway through the second half. But Florida State took the lead for good on a Natasha Howard lay-up with under two minutes to go, and this time the ‘Noles made enough of their free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.

Narrow as it might have been, the win stopped the bleeding for the Seminoles for the time being, but this is a team that still has a lot of work to do.

North Carolina State got worked over by Northwestern, 59-76, in Evanston but finally picked up a quality win Sunday, beating South Carolina, 55-53, when senior forward Bonae Holston, who led the Wolfpack with a game-high 20 points, swiped the rock from Northwestern’s La’Keisha Sutton, then splashed a jumper with six seconds left in regulation and the shot clock nearly exhausted. NC State’s Lakeesa Daniel removed any remaining doubts as to the outcome when she picked off Sutton’s in-bounds pass in the game’s final second.

At this point in the season, the 5-2 Wolfpack Women are showing slow but steady improvement.

North Carolina’s visit to Happy Valley turned out to be anything but happy when the No. 14/13 Tar Heels were run out of the gym by No. 16/15 Penn State in an 85-103 rout.  Despite huge games from UNC frosh Brittany Rountree, who put up a game-high 27 points, including a season-high five-of-eight from the arc, and Laura Broomfield, who registered a double-double of 21 points and 17 boards, the Heels’ defense seemed to go missing, especially in the second half, when the Nittany Lions were allowed to shoot 50 percent from the field and a sizzling 85.7 percent from three-point range. Penn State, led by 25 points and six assists from Zhaque Gray and 21 points from Maggie Lucas (despite having spent much of the second half sidelined by foul trouble), saw five players finish in double digits and shot 48.7 percent from the floor and 58 percent from three for the game as a whole. Though the Heels trailed by just seven (51-58) at the half, and closed to within four at the 11:32 mark in the second half, the Lady Lions took over the rest of the way and were never seriously threatened, finishing with a 19-point advantage.

Though it was the first loss of the season for UNC, this was a predictable result for UNC’s young and undisciplined team. At least some of the blame has got to be laid at the feet of the Tar Heels’ notoriously soft preconference schedule that does little to prepare them for taking on meaningful competition in conference challenges and later ACC league play. 

The league’s three worst teams fared about as expected: Virginia Tech lost by 11 in Iowa in a low-scoring, 47-58 snoozer; Boston College got roughed up at Wisconsin (50-58) and again on Sunday at Dayton (60-69); and Clemson lost to Illinois (50-61) as well as to Charleston Southern (77-82), with both games at home. It looks like it’s going to be a long, painful season for all three clubs.

Trending Up: Wake Forest


Other than that one-point loss to Kansas (73-74) in late November, Wake, which improved to 6-1 last week, is doing exactly what it needs to do.  They won decisively at home over Minnesota (82-65) in the Challenge and then went on the road to Seton Hall (granted, far from the toughest team in the Big East) and won (60-44) without any drama.  They started the game against Minnesota by scoring the first 20 points of the contest. Both sophomore guard Chelsea Douglas, the team’s leading scorer to this point at 12.4 points (plus four assists) per game despite coming off the bench in all but one outing, and junior guard Lakevia Boykin, a starter currently averaging 9.8 points and a steal per game, have started to elevate their games.

Trending Down:  Clemson

The Tigers are in the red at 3-4 at a time in the season where other teams are padding their resumés, and it’s not because they’ve undertaken an overly challenging preconference schedule. Losing to Illinois by 11 is bad enough, but that can be excused: Clemson is a young squad and doesn’t have the leadership or experience to navigate its schedule without picking up some early losses. Losing to Charleston Southern at home, on the other hand, is a distressing sign for a program that’s just looking to get some experience and improve.  They’re getting the experience, but as yet there hasn’t been much evidence of improvement.

Current Standings

ACC Women’s Basketball Standings
(As of December 7, 2011)
Rank School Conf. Pct. Overall Pct.
1 Maryland 0-0 .000 9-0 1.000
2 (tie) Miami 0-0 .000 7-1 .875
2 (tie) Wake Forest 0-0 .000 7-1 .875
4 (tie) Duke 0-0 .000 6-1 .857
4 (tie) North Carolina 0-0 .000 6-1 .857
6 Virginia 0-0 .000 8-2 .800
7 NC State 0-0 .000 5-2 .714
8 Georgia Tech 0-0 .000 5-3 .625
9 Florida State 0-0 .000 4-5 .444
10 (tie) Boston College 0-0 .000 3-4 .429
10 (tie) Clemson 0-0 .000 3-4 .429
12 Virginia Tech 0-0 .000 2-6 .250
Source: TheACC.com

Full Court Surprise Player of the Week: Haley Peters, Duke

All credit to Duke’s Chelsea Gray, who won the ACC’s official Player of the Week honors after registering just the fourth triple double in school history with 14 points, 13 assists and 11 boards against Pitt on Sunday. And kudos as well to Miami’s Riquna Williams for her career game against Rutgers.

But Full Court’s Surprise Player of the Week accolades this week go to Duke soph Haley Peters. Peters had double figures in both of last week’s games, but it was her ability to exploit Purdue’s decision to double-team Elizabeth Williams that won the game for Duke. Peters hit tons of mid-range jumpers and set up near the hoop for even shorter shots.  She also put the ball on the deck and attacked the basket. Purdue did everything right against Duke, saying, in essence, “Okay, Haley Peters.  You’re the one who has to beat us.”  Peters, however, proved herself to be more than up to the
task, leading Duke to victory against Purdue with a team-high 14 points, plus eight boards, and finishing the week with a 12-point, eight-rebound average.

Full Court Surprise Rookie of the Week: Brittany Rountree, North Carolina

Rountree, who takes both the ACC official and Full Court’s Surprise Freshman of the Week honors, has been a season-long starter but her 27-point explosion (including 5-8 from three) in the Tar Heels’ blowout loss at Penn State certainly came out of nowhere.  It helped that this was a fast-paced game and that Rountree got plenty of open looks, but she knocked them down and hunted her shot.  While the Heels lost, Rountree, a 5-9 guard out of Jacksonville, Florida’s Potters’ House, represents the dead-eye shooter that UNC has needed since Italee Lucas left the program.


Photo Caption: Though most major scouting services had her pegged her among the nation’s top 100 girls basketball recruits in her senior year at Jacksonville, Florida’s Potter’s House Christian, they differed in their opinion about the level Brittany Rountree’s talents: Hoopgurlz had her at No. 53, All-Star Girls’ Report had her as high as 32, Blue Star as low as No. 59. But once North Carolina kicked off the 2011-12 season, the 5-9 guard quickly proved her worth, working her way into the starting line-up where she is currently averaging 11.3 points, four assists (to just 1.5 turnovers) and 2.5 steals per game while averaging 47.2 percent from the field and a cool-handed 42.3 percent from beyond the arc. Her performance during last week’s 84-103 Tar Heel loss at Penn State also showed the freshman’s poise under pressure: Rountree led all scorers with 27 points, including five of her team’s eight long balls in the outing. That’s why Rountree captures both ACC’s official and Full Court’s “Surprise” Freshman of the Week awards.
Photo Credit: Courtesy UNC Athletic Communications/Jeffrey A. Camarati

Five ACC Games To Watch, 12/6 - 12/11/2011

1. No. 5 Duke @ No. 13 Kentucky, 12/8/2011.  Things are starting to wind down as most schools enter their exam periods, so this match-up between Duke and Kentucky will be a treat.  The Wildcats just gone done thrashing arch-rival Louisville and will be looking to avenge last year’s loss in Durham. Led by silky but tough guard Adia Mathies, Kentucky is deep, athletic and versatile.  This game will come down to which team rules the offensive boards.

2. No. 25 Delaware @ Wake Forest, 12/11/2011.  This is a great opportunity for Wake to get a win against a surprising top 25 opponent.  Wake has the bodies to throw at the great Elena Delle Donne, but she will certainly get her points.  The key here for the Deacons will be simply putting points on the board.  Other than EDD, Delaware is ordinary.  However, if Wake can’t put up points against the Blue Hens’ defense and get them in a hurry, then Delaware wins going away.  On a brighter note, if Sandra Garcia, Lakevia Boykin, Secily Ray and Chelsea Douglas are all sharp, then the Deacs should pull this one out.

3. Alabama @ North Carolina State, 12/11/2011. Playing at home, NC State has a great chance of picking up yet another win, and improving its RPI, against a middling SEC team.  The Crimson tide are 7-2 but lost to Central Arkansas and Old Dominion—neither of whom are powerhouses.

4. Liberty @ Virginia, 12/7/2011. Liberty has always given Virginia trouble, but this year’s squad is just 3-4.  The Hoos need to run them off the floor early.

5. Boston College @ Hartford, 12/10/2011.  Hartford is 5-3 against a tough schedule, and I fully expect them to beat the Eagles at home. Boston College has been much worse than expected, to date, even allowing for their youth.  There’s little that BC head coach Sylvia Crawley can do at this point than to try to season her green players and hope they improve.

Editor’s Note: We apologize to our readers, as well as to our correspondent Rob Clough, that his “Up and Down the ACC” column was posted later than usual this week. We are in the course of upgrading our site software to bring you new features, and in the process have had to suffer through some “down time” when neither we, nor our readers, were able to access the site. We know you’ll enjoy the host of improvements and new features you will see to the site early next year, and in the meantime, look forward to the next installment of “Up and Down the ACC” next Wednesday.

Originally published Wed, December 07, 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
Ranking has risen 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.