With exams in the rear view mirror, the ACC resumed play this week with teams heading into their final tune ups before conference play starts New Year’s weekend. Let’s get right into it.
#4 Duke Blue Devils (12-1, 0-1)
12/20 - defeated Evansville 104-40
Last night, Duke took to the court for the first time since losing to Boston College and took out 11 days worth of frustration on poor, poor Evansville. The Blue Devils shot the lights out of Cameron, hitting 62% of their field goals en route to a 64-point victory. Duke’s defense forced 21 turnovers and blocked 9 shots to smother the Aces’ slow-paced attack. Freshman F Wendell Carter Jr led Duke with 27 points in just 18 minutes of action.
#5 North Carolina Tar Heels (10-2)
12/17 - defeated #20 Tennessee 78-73
12/20 - lost to Wofford 75-79
North Carolina outscored Tennessee 11-3 in the game’s final minute to rally for a huge road win in Thompson-Bowling Arena. Tennessee led for most of the game but the Tar Heels turned up the defensive intensity and took better care of the ball in the second half, sparking the comeback. PG Joel Berry II scored 21 points to lead all scorers. G Kenny Williams added 15, including the go-ahead three pointer. In their follow up game, UNC was stunned by Wofford 79-75. The Tar Heels trailed the entire second half and by as many as 14 points before clawing their way back into the game. In the end it wasn’t enough to stop Fletcher Magee and the Terriers. UNC struggled against a feisty Wofford defense, shooting just 36% from the field and 28% from beyond the arc. These struggles were best exemplified by F Luke Maye, who needed 16 shots to score 17 points. Berry led the Heels again with 23 points.
#6 Miami Hurricanes (9-0)
12/16 - defeated George Washington 59-50
Miami kicked off their December road trip with a trip to the nation’s capital to take on George Washington. The Hurricanes showed no signs of rust after a long layoff for exams, jumping out to a 32-15 halftime lead. GW’s offense woke up some in the second half but they were never able to cut the lead under 7 points. Miami’s stifling defense held the Colonials to just 30% shooting from the field and 22% from deep. F Dewan Huell scored 15 points to lead all scorers to go along with 12 rebounds.
#13 Virginia Cavaliers (10-1)
12/16 - defeated Davidson 80-60
12/19 - defeated Savannah State 78-47
On Saturday, Virginia struggled a bit out of the gates but grad transfer G Nigel Johnson scored 22 points off the bench (14 in the first half) to lead the Cavaliers to a 20 point win over Davidson. UVA’s defense was a bit off, allowing the Wildcats to shoot 48% from the field, but they were able to limit one of the nation’s most prolific three-point shooting team to just 8 threes, 5 less than their season average. A few days later, Virginia welcomed Savannah State into John Paul Jones Arena. The Cavs had little trouble with this opponent, holding them 28% shooting and forcing 19 turnovers. PG Ty Jerome had a career high 17 points and made all 3 of his shots beyond the arc.
#24 Florida State Seminoles (10-1)
12/16 - lost to Oklahoma State 70-71 in the Orange Bowl Classic
12/18 - defeated Charleston Southern 69-58
Florida State suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday in a thrilling game against Oklahoma State. The Seminoles took a lead with 10 seconds left, thanks to a Terance Mann layup but OK State answered right back to take a 71-70 lead with 4 seconds left. FSU had one last chance but CJ Walker was called for a charge as he drove into the lane. Oklahoma State’s defense bothered the Noles all night, forcing 22 turnovers. F Phil Cofer led FSU with 22 points while Mann recorded a double-double with 20 points and 14 rebounds. Florida State rebounded on Monday with an 11 point win over Charleston Southern. The Noles only led by 2 at halftime but went on a 21-4 run early in the second half to take control of the game. Cofer and Mann led the way again, scoring 19 and 17 points, respectively.
Boston College Eagles (9-3, 1-0)
12/17 - defeated Central Connecticut 84-65
Your first place Boston College Eagles is 2-0 against Blue Devils this season after defeating the Central Connecticut variety 84-65. BC extended a 7 point halftime lead with a 21-4 run to start the second half that Central Connecticut was never able to recover from. G Jordan Chatman scored 15 points to pace a balanced scoring attack. Freshman F Steffon Mitchell tallied 13 points and 14 rebounds for his first career double-double.
Clemson Tigers (10-1)
12/16 - defeated #22 Florida 71-69 in the Orange Bowl Classic
12/19 - defeated South Carolina 64-48
Clemson went 2-0 against a pair of SEC teams that made the Elite Eight last season to continue their hot start to the season. On Saturday in Miami, the Tigers rallied from a 12-point second half deficit to get coach Brad Brownell’s 300th win. G Marcquise Reed scored 22 points, including 2 free throws in the final minute to seal the victory. Reed continued his hot streak on Tuesday, shooting 5/9 from beyond the arc and scoring a game-high 25 points to lead Clemson to a win over in-state rival South Carolina. After these two wins and an easy game against Louisiana on Friday, Clemson is in good shape to sneak into the Top 25 when the next poll is released on Monday.
Louisville Cardinals (8-2)
12/16 - defeated Memphis 81-72 in the Gotham Classic
12/20 - defeated Albany 70-68
On Saturday, Louisville took on an old CUSA foe in Madison Square Garden, defeating Memphis 81-72. Tied at halftime, the Cardinals raced out of the locker room with a 17-4 run to seize control of the game. The Cardinals’ excellent defense again led the way, holding Memphis to just 4/11 shooting from 3 and blocking 14 shots. PG Quentin Snider continued to turn his season around, hitting 6 of 10 shots and 3 of 4 from deep on his way to a team-high 19 points. Last night, the Cardinals overcame a long second half scoring drought to hang on to a 70-68 win over Albany. Louisville led by as many as 12 points but went nearly 9 minutes without scoring, allowing the Great Danes to take a lead with about 5 minutes left in the game. F Ray Spalding was limited much of the game with foul trouble but scored 5 of his 7 points in a 37-second span to put Louisville ahead for good. Snider again scored 19 points to lead the Cards.
NC State Wolfpack (9-3)
12/16 - lost to UNC Greensboro 76-81
12/19 - defeated Robert Morris 81-69
NC State started their winter break schedule by losing to UNC Greensboro for the first time in program history. The Wolfpack got off to a fast start but UNCG went on a 14-1 run to pull within 2 points before halftime and started the second half with a 20-3 run to take command of the game. NCST was led by 17 points from senior G Allerik Freeman. Freshman G Braxton Beverley played the full 40 minutes and added 16 points and 8 assists with starting PG Markell Johnson suspended indefinitely for a violation of the Student-Athlete Code of Conduct. The Pack bounced back on Tuesday, coming from behind to beat Robert Morris 81-69. NCST struggled shooting, making just 2 of 14 3-pointers, but dominated the paint, outrebounding the Colonials 48-38. Three Wolfpack players recorded double-doubles, paced by G Torin Dorn’s 17 points and 10 rebounds. C Omer Yurtseven scored 12 points and 10 boards while F Lennard Freeman added 11 and 12 off the bench.
12/16 - lost to Indiana 77-80 in OT as part of the Crossroads Classic
12/19 - defeated Dartmouth 97-87
Notre Dame fell out of the Top 25 following an overtime loss to in-state rival Indiana on Saturday in Indianapolis. The Irish were led by National Player of the Year Candidate Bonzie Colson’s 29 points and 11 rebounds but down the stretch it was Indiana’s own star forward that looked like he was an All-American. James Morgan scored the final 8 points by either team in regulation to force OT, where he scored 8 of the Hoosiers’ 15. Notre Dame just had no answer for his heroics and dropped their second game to an in-state school (the Irish also lost to Ball State). On Tuesday, Colson took out his frustrations on Dartmouth, going off for 37 points to lead Notre Dame to a much needed victory. The Irish were never quite able to put away the Big Green but Colson and Company did enough to keep them from getting closer than 3 points in the second half.
Pittsburgh Panthers (7-5)
12/16 - defeated McNeese 72-51
12/19 - defeated Delaware State 74-68
Pitt returned from finals missing senior F Ryan Luther, who was out with a foot injury, and really struggled to find an offensive spark in the early going against McNeese. At halftime the Panthers led just 24-19 but junior Jared Wilson-Frame scored 16 second half points to get the offense going and earn an easy win. Wilson-Frame finished the game with 19 points in just 21 minutes of action. On Tuesday, Pitt survived a scare against Delaware State, hanging on for a 74-68 win. The Panthers were up by as much as 27 in the first half but came out of halftime lacking intensity, allowing the Hornets to close the lead to just 2 points in the final minute. G Jonathan Milligan scored 13 points, including some key free throws at the end of the game to seal the win. Wilson-Frame also scored 13 to tie Milligan for the team high.
Syracuse Orange (10-1)
12/16 - defeated Georgetown 86-79 in OT
12/19 - defeated Buffalo 81-74
Last weekend, Syracuse traveled down to Georgetown for an old Big East battle against the Hoyas. The Orange trailed by 13 points in the second half but were led back by freshman freshman F Oshae Brissett, who scored 24 of his career-high 25 points after halftime. Brissett and G Tyus Battle both played the full game for the 4th time this season. Battle’s 29 points led both teams. On Tuesday, the Orange returned home to play pesky, upstate New York neighbor Buffalo. Syracuse led by 9 at halftime but was never able to fully put the Bulls away in the second half. With just under 9 minutes remaining, Buffalo took a brief lead and kept it close the rest of the way. Brissett scored 25 points to lead all scorers while C Paschal Chukwu anchored the Syracuse zone, blocking 8 shots.
Virginia Tech Hokies (10-2)
12/16 - lost at #8 Kentucky 86-93
12/19 - defeated Presbyterian 63-55
Virginia Tech led Kentucky by 6 at halftime but faded down the stretch, losing by 7 at Rupp Arena. Both teams shot very well and the game featured plenty of offensive fireworks but it was the Kentucky press that turned the game. VT turned the ball over 19 times leading to 36 points for the Wildcats. G Ahmed Hill scored a team-high 20 points while G Justin Robinson added 19 points and 9 assists. Coming off that tough loss and in the middle of exams, Virginia Tech struggled mightily against Presbyterian. The Hokies average 96 points per game but let the Blue Hose control the tempo and slow the game way down. VT finally started to take control of the game in the last 10 minutes but, even then, let Presbyterian linger. Hill led the Hokies with 12 points on 5/8 shooting.
12/18 - defeated Coastal Carolina 84-80
On Monday, Wake Forest took their five-game winning streak to Myrtle Beach, narrowly escaping with a win over Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers led most of the game but defense and clutch free throws down the stretch put the Deacons over the top. PG Bryant Crawford led Wake with 22 points, including 5 huge free throws in the last 2:30. C Doral Moore continued his breakout season, recording 11 points on 4/4 shooting (increasing his NCAA-best shooting percentage to 85.2%) to go with 10 rebounds and 5 blocks.
This time next week we’ll be looking down the barrel of ACC play. Most teams just play one game this week with the Christmas holiday and there are only a few enticing matchups. The headliner is #21 Tennessee traveling to Winston-Salem to play Wake Forest on Saturday. That same day, UNC will look to bounce back from their Wofford loss when Ohio State comes into the Dean Dome.