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Up and Down the ACC: Some Get Separation; Others Need Miracles

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Photo Caption: Only 10 teams in ACC history have achieved a 10-0 start to their conference seasons. On Monday, Feb. 6, 2012, Duke’s women’s basketball team became a member of that elite group with a 96-56 victory over arch-rival North Carolina, giving the Blue Devils their best start under head coach Joanne P. McCallie.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Duke Photography

By Rob Clough

The story of last week in the ACC is that the league’s best teams got a little more separation, while the teams desperate for wins now need miracles. 

No. 5 Duke followed up a fairly uninspired 75-43 victory over Wake Forest (as uninspired as a 30+ point victory can be) by dominating arch-rival North Carolina in Durham by 40 points (96-56). Five different Blue Devils players—led by Tricia Liston, who came off the bench for 23 points on seven-of-10 from the floor, including four-of-six from downtown—scored in double figures to give Duke its second-largest margin of victory ever in the longstanding rivalry between these two women’s basketball powerhouses.

The victory continued the best-ever ACC start under Coach Joanne P. McCallie for Duke, now 10-0 in-conference, while the loss essentially eliminated the Tar Heels from serious contention for the regular-season ACC title.

McCallie credited her team’s efficient ball movement (the Blue Devils’ 37 buckets were fed by 23 assists) for the 54-percent field-goal shooting (including an impressive 10-20 from beyond the arc) that led to the lopsided win:

“You’ve got to move that ball and you’ve got to find each other,” McCallie said. “The reason we shot so well was because there were a lot of easy buckets. There (were) a lot of easy looks with no defense because of the way we were passing the ball.”

Duke’s Chelsea Gray (15 points) put it a bit more simply:

“We were knocking down shots like it was nothing,” the sophomore guard stated.

At the other end of the floor, North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell was left wondering when the onslaught would finally stop:

“I just kept thinking, ‘Well, they’ve got to miss some shots once in a while,’” said Hatchell, concluding glumly, “and they hardly missed any.”

Meanwhile, in Georgia, No. 9/10 Maryland pulled off a tough series sweep with a 64-56 win over No. 24/22 Georgia Tech and pulled into sole possession of third place in the league. With the top four teams getting a first-round bye in the ACC tournament, nailing down one of those seeds is crucial.

Alyssa Thomas continued to make her case for ACC Player-of-the-Year honors with a 23-point/12-rebound double-double in the Terps’ take-down of the Yellow Jackets. Thomas got plenty of help from junior forward Tianna Hawkins who posted a career-high 23 points of her own on white-hot 11-of-13 field-goal shooting. Hawkins iced the cake with nine boards.

The Terps had started the week off last Thursday by taking care of business (86-44) against
Boston College, who sank to 0-10 in conference play when they followed their drubbing by Maryland with a 60-73 loss to Wake Forest.

Summing Up the Week’s Results

Thursday, February 2, 2012

  • Wake Forest 43 @ No. 5/6 Duke 75
  • North Carolina State 68 @ No. 24/22 Georgia Tech 75 (OT)
  • Boston College 44 @ No. 9/10 Maryland 86

Friday, February 3, 2012

  • Clemson 55 @ Virginia Tech 51 (OT)
  • Virginia 56 @ No. 23/24 North Carolina 64

Sunday, February 5, 2012

  • Wake Forest 73 @ Boston College 60
  • Virginia Tech 60 @ Florida State 78
  • Clemson 47 @ No. 7 Miami (FL) 68
  • Virginia 55 @ North Carolina State 47

Monday, February 6, 2012

  • No. 5/6 Duke 96 @ No. 23/24 North Carolina 56
  • No. 9/10 Maryland 64 @ No. 24/22 Georgia Tech 56

Parsing The Week’s Results

In other ACC action last week:

  • Virginia 56 @ No. 23/24 North Carolina 64 No. 5/6 Duke 96 @ No. 23/24 North Carolina 56

    North Carolina split the week’s games but swept its season series with Virginia, thanks to a typically big game by center Chay Shegog (20 points, five rebounds, one block, but four turnovers). But despite Virginia’s unranked status, the Tar Heels struggled to pull off the win on Friday. UVa got off to a rocky start that saw UVa shoot a feeble 27.3 percent (nine-for-33) from the field in the opening half. But the Tar Heels, who shot a lofty 50 percent (14-28) in the period were having their own troubles hanging onto the basketball, with 14 first-half turnovers.

    Virginia turned things around in the second frame, erasing a 24-35 half-time deficit and tying the game at 54 apiece with four minutes to go, as three Cavaliers finished in double figures, led by Arianna Moorer, who came up huge with a game-high 21 points on seven-of-14 from the field and a perfect six-of-six from the foul line.

    It would not be enough, however. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt answered with a traditional three-point play on the next possession to put North Carolina back on top for good, as the Heels suffocated the post and got enough scoring from their guards to pull away in the final minutes of the game.

  • Virginia 56 @ No. 23/24 North Carolina 64
  • Virginia 55 @ North Carolina State 47

    Virginia picked up a must-win game against North Carolina State behind 20 points from Ataira Franklin. The win was the Hoos’ fifth in league play and dropped the Pack to 4-7.

  • North Carolina State 68 @ No. 24/22 Georgia Tech 75 (OT) Virginia 55 @ North Carolina State 47

    North Carolina State had already fallen earlier in the week in a narrow overtime loss to Georgia Tech. Had the Wolfpack been able to pull off a win in that contest, it would have greatly boosted their tournament chances. As things turned out, the Pack are now in a position where they must win four of their last five league games to have a realistic shot at an NCAA bid. In other words, they need to upset any two of No. 7 Miami, No. No. 9/10 Maryland and No. No. 23/24 North Carolina. Tough assignment!

  • Virginia Tech 60 @ Florida State 78

    Florida State took care of Virginia Tech to stay among the league’s top six, but the Seminoles desperately need wins of any shape to boost their overall record if they hope to punch their ticket to the Big Dance.

  • Clemson 55 @ Virginia Tech 51 (OT) Clemson 47 @ No. 7 Miami (FL) 68

    Miami remained just one game in back of Duke by thrashing humble Clemson. On a brighter note for Tigers’ fans, Clemson notched its second league win by narrowly beating Virginia Tech in overtime in Blacksburg. The Hokies pulled down a season-high 28 offensive boards, out-rebounding the Tigers 51-47 overall; they also forced 26 Clemson turnovers to just 15 of their own.

    Virginia Tech led by five (26-21) at the break. But the Tigers battened down on defense, holding Virginia Tech to just 21.5 percent (17-79) from the field, and freshman guard Nikki Dixon, who took two stitches to her forehead after a first-half collision, appeared to be none the worse for wear, posting 13 of her game-high 19 points after the intermission.

    By the first media time out of the second half, Clemson had erased the deficit and taken a one-point lead (29-28), and though the Hokies twice battled back to tie the score and take small leads, the Tigers extended their edge to as many as seven points (47-40) with just under three minutes to go.

    Three minutes is a lot of time, however, as the Hokies demonstrated by putting together a 7-0 run down the stretch as Larryqua Hall dropped in a lay-up, Monet Teller knocked down two foul shots, and LaTorri Hines-Allen converted a traditional three-point play to tie the game at 47 all with 30 seconds left to go.

    Dixon missed a lay-up and each side turned it over to burn up the remaining clock and send the game to extra minutes.

    If Virginia Tech shot poorly in regulation, it’s hard to find words to describe their one-for-eight (12.5 percent) performance in overtime. Clemson was just enough better (two-for-six, or 33.3 percent, from the field) and made just enough of its free throws (four-of-nine, or 44.4 percent) to outscore the Hokies, 8-1, in the extra minutes, sealing the win.

Trending Up: Maryland

With star sophomore Alyssa Thomas sidelined with a sprained left thumb, Maryland wobbled even against Virginia Tech, a team in the league’s bottom tier. But the Terps righted their ship last week, and once again, Thomas is back and wreaking havoc in the front court.

The Terrapins still have a number of tough games ahead—this Sunday’s contest with No. 6 Miami among them— but their path is still clearer than that of North Carolina at the moment.

Trending Down: North Carolina State

It seems as though Bonae Holston and Marissa Kastanek are starting to wear down from the burden of having to carry the team in every game.  The Pack had a chance to put themselves in contention last week but blew it, and it’s their lack of consistency that is most frustrating.

Forward Kody Burke is the most maddening player of all, given how unpredictable her contributions can be.  It’s not over for the Wolfpack, obviously, but they are now in a position of having to overachieve to rekindle their fading NCAA dreams.

Current Standings

ACC Women’s Basketball Standings
(As of February 7, 2012)
Rank School Conf. Pct. Overall Pct.
1 Duke 10-0 1.000 19-3 .864
2 Miami 9-1 .900 20-3 .870
3 Maryland 7-3 .700 20-3 .870
4 North Carolina 7-3 .700 17-6 .739
5 Georgia Tech 7-4 .364 17-7 .708
6 Florida State 5-5 .500 13-11 .542
7 Virginia 5-6 .455 17-8 .680
8 NC State 4-7 .364 14-10 .583
9 Wake Forest 3-7 .300 13-10 .565
10 Virginia Tech 3-8 .273 7-17 .292
11 Clemson 2-8 .200 6-15 .286
12 Boston College 0-10 .000 5-18 .217
Source: TheACC.com

Full Court ACC Surprise Player of the Week: Tianna Hawkins, Maryland

Hawkins scored a career-high 23 points in Maryland’s big win over Georgia Tech, and did it on a night when Maryland’s perimeter players offered little in the way of offense.  Hawkins has been steady all year as one of the ACC’s leading rebounders (No. 2 in the league with 9.5 rebounds per game) and her career has been especially fun to follow given that the 6-3 forward was not at all highly ranked coming out of high school.  Her relentlessness on the boards and her nose for the basket (No. 19 in the ACC with 12.1 points per game) make her a tough match-up.


Stat of the Week: Full Court ACC All-Freshman Team

With the regular season winding down and the candidates for some of the year-ends awards seeming pretty clear, let’s take a look this week at the performance of the ACC rookies and the leading nominees for this year’s Full Court ACC All-Freshman team:

  • Elizabeth Williams, Duke (Rookie of the Year).—Rarely has this choice been more obvious. A six-time ACC Rookie-of-the-Week selection so far this season, Williams is headed toward possible first-team All-ACC Team honors as well.

    A WBCA, McDonald’s, USA Today and Parade All-American and the Morgan Wooten National Player of the Year as a high school senior, Williams has more than lived up to they hype. The 6-3 center out of Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach, Va., is already leading her team with 14 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.9 blocks.  Williams swatted down six blocks against Duke arch-rival North Carolina, bringing her block-count to 82 for the season, an ACC rookie record.

  • Nikki Dixon, Clemson. In contrast, Nikki Dixon arrived at Clemson as a relatively unheralded recruit, but she has proved herself to be a warrior for the Tigers, breathing fresh hope for a better future into the hearts of Clemson women’s basketball fans everywhere.

    Dixon leads the Tigers in scoring with 13 points per game, and also averages four rebounds, three assists and 2.5 steals per game. Even in games in which Clemson otherwise looked terrible, Dixon has been a consistent and positive force, and will be a major part of the team’s foundation as coach Itoro Coleman tries to rebuild the program.

  • Brittany Rountree, North Carolina.  This shooter-deluxe was starting for the season’s first 17 games, until shortly after Tierra Ruffin-Pratt came back from surgery, and it can be argued that Rountree’s demotion to the bench has not helped the team.

    Even so, the 5-9 freshman guard out of Jacksonville, Florida’s The Potter’s House, remains the Tar Heels’ second-leading scorer at nine points per game, and is also second on the team in assists, dishing out nearly three per game.

    Rountree’s 40-percent (28-of-72) mark from long range is easily the best on the team, and she even gets two steals per outing.  Why Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell is giving her fewer minutes is a mystery.

  • Brene Moseley, Maryland. Though Moseley has had a solid season. this is where the rookies’ overall impact starts to drop. The slim, diminutive (5-7) guard known to her teammates as “Bones” has seen action in all 24 of the Terps’ games this season, and obviously has a big future ahead of her, but at this point, she is simply not a part of the extended rotation in big games. She has, however, given Maryland a shot in the arm coming off the bench for a solid eight points (while shooting 39 percent from three-point range), two rebounds, three assists per game.

    In the highlight of Mosely’s debut NCAA season, Mosely, who a Maryland native who hails from Paint Brush High in Burtonsville, won ACC Rookie-of-the-Week honors after putting up 26 points against Towson—the most points scored in a game by any Terp freshman since Kristi Tolliver laid 28 on Utah in the Elite Eight in 2008.

    Expect Mosely to step in as a starter next year and flourish.

  • To Be Determined. With no clear shoo-in for the slot, the final berth is still up for grabs. Another Clemson Tiger, Chelsea Lindsay, has got to be considered a leading contender, however.  Lindsay has already earned a spot in the starting line-up and with it a tough job as Clemson’s point guard, where she has averaged four points and four assists per game so far this season. Her teammate Kelly Gramlich also deserves some consideration. Gramlich has gotten the starting nod in more than half of Clemson’s games this season (13-of-22), and is putting up more points, averaging eight points per game, but Gramlich lacks Lindsay’s more well-rounded game. 

    Also in the hunt are two Texans—5-9 guard Krystal Barrett of Skyline High School in Dallas, Tex. (seven points per game) and 5-11 Erica Donovan, also a guard, from Northside, Texas’ John Jay High School (five points per game), both of whom come off the bench for North Carolina State. However, neither player is especially efficient at this point in her career.

    Any of these players might move into that fifth slot with solid performances in the last few games of the regular season.

Five ACC Games To Watch, February 7-13, 2012

  1. No. 22/NR-RV (19) North Carolina @ No. 6 Miami

    Just two days after taking a 40-point flogging from their arch-rival Duke, North Carolina heads to Miami to take on a team that hasn’t lost at home in two years. Of course, the Heels did beat Miami, 78-68, in Chapel Hill earlier in the year, and this time around the Hurricanes will be minus their do-it-all junior forward Morgan Stroman who underwent season-ending surgery in late January to repair a torn Achilles tendon in her left leg.

    Stroman accounted for 12.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game for the ‘Canes, and her loss,  Miami’s lack of a true low-post scorer, and the ‘Canes’ frenetic style actually makes this a favorable matchup for the Heels. 

    That said, Carolina’s guard play has been mediocre of late and Miami’s tandem of Riquna Williams and Shenise Johnson have been hot.  Prediction: Look for some late threes from Miami to seal a fairly close win.

    When: Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012, 7:00 p.m. EST, Bank United Center, Coral Gables, Fla.

  2. No. 22/23 Georgia Tech @ No. 22/NR-RV (13) North Carolina.

    The Tar Heels return home on Sunday to face another nationally ranked opponent in Georgia Tech. (Indeed, in a tough finish to the regular-season, North Carolina faces ranked opponents in four of its last six games.)

    In contrast, this will be the Yellow Jackets’ last tough game of the year before closing out with four easy games in a row.  As a result, this game is crucial to both teams for seeding purposes.

    Georgia Tech forces lots of turnovers, is quite deep and has a low-post beast in Sasha Goodlett.  She and Chay Shegog will cancel each other out, meaning the game will come down to the guard play of both teams.

    Prediction: Expect guard Ty Marshall, who is hot on Goodlett’s heels with 15.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and nearly two assists per game, to be the difference-maker for the Jackets as Tech pulls out a physical victory.

    When: Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012, 2:00 p.m. EST, Carmichael Arena, Chapel Hill, No. Car. (ESPN3).

  4. No. 6 Miami @ No. 8 Maryland.

    In the ACC Game of the Week, Miami, too, meets its second nationally ranked foe of the week in No. 8 Maryland. The Terps lost a tough one at Miami in mid-January when the ‘Canes’ Riquna Williams went wild down the stretch. Williams is the kind of player who always gives the Hurricanes a puncher’s chance of beating anyone, because when she gets hot from three, there’s not much you can do but hope she starts missing.

    Without Stroman around, however, Miami loses a crucial rebounder, a disadvantage that Maryland is as well-positioned as any team in the league to exploit.

    Prediction: Expect Maryland to dominate Miami inside, with Alyssa Thomas closing out the game for the Terps.

    When: Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012, 2:50 p.m. EST, Comcast Center, College Park, Md. (ESPN2).

  5. Wake Forest @ North Carolina State.

    This is a “last call” game for both teams.  The loser pretty much has zero chance of making it to the NCAA tournament. Though both teams have struggled this season, North Carolina State’s long-range threat presents a difficult challenge for a Wake squad that can pressure the ball but cannot play great half-court defense.

    Prediction: The Wolfpack Women should take care of business in this one, leaving Wake to contemplate how to regroup next season.

    When: Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012, 5:00 p.m. EST, Reynolds Coliseum, Raleigh, No. Car. (ESPN2/ESPN3).

  6. Boston College @ Virginia Tech.

    The Eagles have a couple of great chances to pick up their first league win, with their game at Virginia Tech being the first of them.  The Hokies beat Boston College, 38-35, earlier in the year in a game so bad one had to hope that the game tape was burned afterwards. But despite a signature win a week ago over a Maryland squad playing without injured star Alyssa Thomas, Virginia Tech is far from a sure bet, having gone 2-8 in its last 10 outings.

    Prediction: Look for the Eagles to make some shots and pick up the win.

    When: Monday, Feb. 13, 2012, 7:00 p.m., Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Va.

Originally published Tue, February 07, 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.