Talking Points: Southern hospitality
Posted January 5
Updated January 6
1. Duke and NC State have the distinction of giving the newest conference members their first ACC wins of the season in football and basketball.
The Blue Devils lost in a high-scoring affair to Pittsburgh four weeks into the football season and dropped a conference road basketball game at Notre Dame on Saturday. The Wolfpack allowed 362 yards on the ground in a loss to Syracuse in the middle of the football season and were victims of a second-half rally at the hands of Pittsburgh in their conference basketball opener this weekend.
The only thing missing from Notre Dame's and Pittsburgh's ACC welcoming gifts were Smithfield's Chicken 'n Bar-B-Q party packs.
Wake Forest beat North Carolina, but they're not new to the conference. No Eastern-style pork products for you, Demon Deacons. Y'all can still get a balloon.
With UNC losing, a little ACC history. Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State all lost their ACC openers in the same year for the first time.— Patrick Stevens (@D1scourse) January 6, 2014
2. NC State and Duke lost under similar circumstances. For starters, they were simply outplayed by their opponents. The Wolfpack and Blue Devils also have defensive issues to varying degrees.
Worse for NC State, they had no response when Pittsburgh threw a counterpunch in the second half. The Panthers got into transition and racked up points off turnovers. The Wolfpack failed to challenge Pittsburgh at the rim, and matters only got worse when they played zone.
How could NC State go from cruising in the first half to back on their heels in the second half? Head coach Mark Gottfried didn't have an answer.
"It was kind of like a prize fight," said Gottfried. "Somebody knocks you a couple times, you better make a decision whether or not you're going to respond. We did not respond today with their aggressiveness."
The Blue Devils struggled to find consistency on defense entering conference play and it bit them against the Irish as they gave up gave up 44 points in the paint. Drives into the lane for layups or straight up dunks off assists, Notre Dame got theirs against Duke.
Then again, it might boil down to the hottest sport take thrown Duke's way after a particular kind off loss.
3. While North Carolina has been predictable in its unpredictability this season, let's take a moment to recognize a rather solid start to the season for Wake Forest. While it might pain folks, especially the subset of Demon Deacon fans who have thrown money into newspaper ads and billboards to voice their displeasure, maybe head coach Jeff Bzdelik can get a little credit as well.
Give Wake credit. They withstood UNC's run, and kept UNC off the FT line. That was UNC's 1st FTA of 2nd half. Strange given OReb disparity.— Adam Sobsey (@sobsey) January 6, 2014
However, the sweet taste of victory over North Carolina probably turned bitter for the anti-Bzdelik group when they realized the win negates any current momentum for their desired change.
4. Wake Forest was the better team on Sunday night, but the Tar Heels still had an opportunity to escape Winston-Salem with a win late in the game.
Marcus Paige made a 3-pointer and pulled the Heels within five with 2:49 left. The sophomore guard had been 2-10 from the field and 0-7 from beyond the arc up when he gave UNC some life. J.P. Tokoto pulled down a missed layup and followed it up with a dunk, leaving North Carolina down three points with 2:00 on the clock.
The Heels continued to make stops and could have brought the deficit down to one point, but Tokoto's subsequent steal and missed jumper led to Wake's Travis McKie getting points in transition and the foul. After making the free throw, the Deacons were up 67-61 with a minute left in the game.
Missed opportunities turned out to be a theme for North Carolina all night.
In the first half, the Heels only produced seven second-chance points despite 17 offensive rebounds. North Carolina couldn't get to the line, and their perimeter shooting is almost non-existent when Paige isn't draining shots (he's accounted for 67 percent of their made 3-pointers this season). Throw in all the turnovers and UNC had a recipe for disaster.
5. Jabari Parker is human after all, but Duke can still win when opponents keep him in check. The Blue Devils have other parts to the machine that can produce, whether it's Rodney Hood going 8-17 for 27 points or Quinn Cook finishing 7-14 for 22 points against Notre Dame.
The same can't be said for NC State. When T.J. Warren has an inefficient outing, the Wolfpack suffer.
Barber is 8-of-35 from the floor over his last three games. Some of his shots are essentially turnovers.— Austin Johnson (@austin_johnson) January 4, 2014
"The other guys have to step up," Gottfried said. "They've had opportunities. We have to have better percentages from everyone on the floor."
6. Bzdelik had to be dropping serious sarcasm during his halftime interview on ESPNU. Must have been.
Maybe my sarcasm meter is broken.