âThey punched us in the mouth and we sat there and took it."
That's how State's Scott Wood summed up what Clemson did to the Pack and it says a lot that a 6-7 guy who weighs about 170 was the one who said it.
Realistically, this is a game that State should have won.Â They were up by 19 on the road. Granted, it's harder to do on the road than at home, but still, Wood is correct when he says â[i]f you have them pinned down, you have to keep them pinned down.Â Theyâve got the perfect mascot for that because (tigers) grab people by the throat. I feel like they did that to us tonight. We need to learn how to do that.â
Actually, tigers usually prefer the neck rather than the throat, but do use the throat against bigger prey.Â In this case, the neck was sufficient.
No doubt they are young, but youth doesn't entirely excuse a second-half collapse which saw Clemson scored 16 straight points.
To use the popular clichÃ© of the day, State needs to get their big boy pants on and play 40 minutes of serious basketball. Dadgummit!
In the night's other game, Virginia Tech fell in Atlanta, 72-57.
Pat FordeÂ has takenÂ to callingÂ Georgia Tech the Psycho Jackets, and it's a brilliant encapsulation of this team.
Equally capable of losing to Kennesaw State or thumping Carolina, there's not much reason to their season.
Brian Oliver racked up 28 and Iman Shumpert put together an impressive triple-double with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. He was three steals shy of an exceedingly rare quadruple double as he had seven for the game.
Georgia Tech also held Malcolm Delaney to just eight points. Virginia Tech shot just 9.1% from three-point range against the worst three point defense in the league. Psycho Jackets indeed.
On the bright side, often erratic Jeff AllenÂ finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
On Wednesday night, Carolina visits Miami as Kendall Marshall gets his second start.
It's likely to be a bit different than it was against Clemson.
Not to knock Clemson's guards, but they are, generally speaking, undersized (6-5, 6-2, 5-10, 5-9).
Miami will counter UNC's backcourt of Marshall, Larry Drew, Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald with Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant.
Neither one is a giant or anything, but both are capable of dominating a game, particularly Scott.
UNC's biggest advantage in this game will come down low with Tyler Zeller and John Henson going up against foulÂ prone Winston-Salem native Reggie Johnson and 6-9 Durham native Julian Gamble.
It's not unheard of of course for North Carolina natives, particularly ones who felt slighted when recruited, to have big games against the Tar Heels, but in this game we're going to see two thick guys of somewhat limited athleticism up against two highly athletic seven footers.
If Miami pulls this game off, it's probably not going to happen inside.
Speaking of UNC, after the firestorm last week over Roy Williams' comments about callers his radio show, Williams followed up by saying he wished he'd just kept his mouth shut.
Bit late for that.
Williams went on to say this:
âWhether it was uncharacteristic or not for me to do that, everybody has got to realize that Iâm human, Williams said on his radio show this week, according to InsideCarolina.com. âThat if you say something that upsets me and that I donât think is fair, then Iâll try to swallow it for 24 hours and then somebody said something at the press conference. Do I wish that I would have just let it go and not said a word? Youâre darn right I do. I wish I had not said one word. I wish that I would have just kept swallowing it. I hate that I said that. What I hate even more is that I categorized people when I said fans, because our fans donât upset me. My gosh, the fans in the Smith Center this year have been unbelievable. Theyâve helped us in games. North Carolina fans have just been phenomenal.
âBut it is, and people have just got to accept it, Iâm not perfect. Never will be and never have been. But if somebody says something that is not fairâ¦ Somebody told me Mack Brown used to say, âWell, how many times have you been to practice?â But was I wrong. â¦ Youâre darn right I was wrong. I shouldnât have said it because it came out that I was criticizing fans.â
Well, it's not like it's the the first time that's happened.
Aside from his overreaction to the Presbyterian fan last year, we distinctly remember a similar situation happening at Kansas, although we cannot remember nor find the details. But we do remember Williams blasting fans and it seems to us it had something to do with recruiting.Â If anyone remembers, we'd appreciate being refreshed.
It's perfectly fair to say that most fans, including us, don't have nearly the understanding that guys like Williams do.
It's also fair to say that for them, the call in shows are as much fun as a root canal.
However, there are two points to consider. First, many of the people he collectively blasted have enormous emotional investments in the Carolina program. He is in charge to be sure, but he is also a caretaker or, if you prefer, a curator. It's somewhat different being at a school like UNC or Indiana or Kentucky because of the vast popularity of the program and the public nature of the University it represents.
It's really not the same at schools like Duke, Georgetown, Notre Dame and Butler.Â Schools like that can be excellent, dominant even, yet not draw the same level of passion and support.
The responsibility at, say, Kentucky is much more than coaching.
The second point is that Williams gets paid to talk to fans on his radio show. It is a long tradition at UNC, and one which Dean Smith turned to his advantage. He never demeaned the fans, never responded to someone's questions about his coaching, and never took anything personally, at least not on the air.
In fact, arguably one of Smith's secrets of success was that he was always, unfailingly, polite to his fans. His answers would usually feature some comment along one of these lines:
- "Well bless your heart."
- "I've been to Bat Cave and there's a great restaurant on Main Street.Â I eat there every time I'm in town and Jerry, the owner, makes the best pie in the whole world."
- "We recruited John Smith out of Bat Cave several years ago, but we weren't smart enough to understand how good he was and and he signed with Coastal Carolina instead.Â He was a heckuva player."
- "Do you know Doc Johnson? I met him about 30 years ago. He's a great Carolina fan."
Of course it was hokum, but it was hokum well conceived and the fans ate it up.
Williams clearly learned a lot from Smith, but he could have learned this lesson too.
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