Thursday, March 08, 2007

Shorthanded Blue Devils can enjoy the Bay area beaches

NC State 85, Duke 80 (OT)

File this one under "you could see this coming a mile away."

The Duke Blue Devils came to Tampa for this years ACC Tournament low-ranked (#21), high-seeded (7th) and coming off four days and five nights of intense scrutiny after Gerald Henderson's perceived cheap shot on North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough on Sunday.

Apparently the country did not agree with Hansbrough's view of the hit.

Thanks to that dubious, season-ending play by Henderson, intentional or not, the reeling Devils would be forced to face a scrappy NC State team without the freshman forward, who had been on a hot streak of late, scoring 31 points off the bench in losses to Maryland and UNC.

That lack of scoring punch didn't really hurt the Devils, as it scored 80 or more points for just the third time this season (mull that one over) and 5 Devils scored 14 or more, but the psychological & emotional disadvantage suffered by the Devils from the Henderson/Hansbrough fallout was apparent.

Duke took a slim lead at the half, 34-29, thanks to a three-point barrage (6-11) led by Jon Scheyer (3-3) and Henderson's replacement Martynas Pocious (2-2), but sharpshooting senior guard Engin Atsur scored 21 of his 23 points after halftime, when the Wolfpack outscored the Devils 56-46, and freshman forward Brandon Costner outplayed underachiever Josh McRoberts by adding a career-high 30 points and 7 boards to overpower the undermanned Devils.

By the time overtime rolled around Duke was even more shorthanded thanks to foul disqualifications by DeMarcus Nelson and David McClure, and the Devils were ready to roll over, which they did. The team that had won the last 2 conference tourneys had gone done to defeat in the tourney for just the second time in the last eight years, and it had no one to blame but itself. Erratic play, lackluster efforts and disappointing season from players expected to be ACC Player of the Year contenders left this edition of the Duke Blue Devils an embarrassing shell of its former great self.

Maybe a few days on Sand Key will help them get through the sting of being a 10+ seed in the NCAA tourney next week.

Other tourney developments:

-3nd ranked UCLA lost in the opening round of the Pac-10 tournament to a mediocre Cal team, 76-69 in OT. All-Name Team candidate Ayinde Ubaka poured in a career high 29-points as the .500 Bears (16-16) dealt a severe blow to the Bruins' (26-5) chances of getting a #1 seed in next weeks tourney.

-#15 Louisville survived against a pesky West Virginia team, 82-71 in 2 OTs, after blowing a 17-point 2nd half lead. Freshman guard Edgar Sosa drove the length of the court and hit a layup at the buzzer to force overtime,and after matching 8 points each in the first OT, the Birds ripped off 16 in the 2nd extra frame to run its win streak to 7 games.

- Unranked and horrible (12-19) Miami knocked off the ACC's hottest team, #20Maryland, 67-62 in another first round upset. The Terps looked unprepared and were consistently out- hustled by the shorthanded Canes, who dressed only 8 players due to injuries & suspensions. Maryland had won 7 straight and 9 of 11 coming in.

The 'Canes get to take on ACC player of the Year Jared Dudley and the 4th seeded BC Eagles tomorrow afternoon in Tampa.

Early Games to watch tomorrow:

-ACC: Florida State vs. #8No. Carolina
Most experts say FSU needs to win this one to get in the Big Dance; ain't gonna happen

-Big 10: Michigan vs. #1 Ohio State
Greg Oden's first- and last- collegiate postseason career begins. Catch him as an amateur while you can.

-Big 12: Oklahoma vs. #2 Kansas
With UCLA's loss the Jayhawks have a lock on a #1 seed if it wins this tourney

*Photo courtesy of AP

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