WASHINGTON, D.C. – The second day of the 2016 ACC Tournament opened with a classic Big East game. At least that’s what it looked like as Pittsburgh bumped Syracuse to the edge of the NCAA Tournament bubble with a hard-fought 72-71 victory.
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Then the Washington spectators got to see what ACC basketball is all about.
Duke and N.C. State renewed the most frequently played rivalry in ACC Tournament with a game that was equally competitive, but far more exciting. The two old rivals put 103 points on the board in the first half and ended up with the highest scoring regulation game played in the tournament in more than a quarter of a century.
"What an afternoon for the ACC, for basketball," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after watching his Blue Devils edge the red-hot Wolfpack, 92-89. "We both played well. Both teams were difficult to stop."
The victory – Duke’s record 95th win in ACC Tournament play – puts the Devils into today’s second quarterfinal game against Notre Dame. The short-handed Blue Devils suffered another physical setback Wednesday as senior center Marshall Plumlee suffered a broken nose late in the game.
It didn’t slow the future Army lieutenant down – he returned to the game with just over five minutes left and immediately pulled down an offensive rebound and made two free throws to give Duke a nine-point lead. But moments later, the game was tied at 89 and Plumlee made the play of the game, ripping down a missed shot by Brandon Ingram and converting an old-fashioned 3-point play.
And just to complete his heroic finish, Plumlee made the key defensive play on State’s final possession, stepping out to cut off a driving Cat Barber, who was forced to make a difficult pass to BeeJay Anya – a pass the Pack big man fumbled away.
"That’s what he’s been doing all year," Grayson Allen said of Plumlee. "We know how tough he is. We know he battled down there in the post. To see him come in – he’s got blood dripping down his face –and he’s still out there yelling like a maniac. It fires the team up."
Krzyzewski quipped "usually with a nose, I’m an authority on noses. It’s one thing I know a lot about, at least big noses."
He’s not sure whether Plumlee will have to wear a mask against Notre Dame – as Grant Hill did in 1991 after breaking his nose.
"He would probably want to wear something, right?" Krzyzewski asked Allen. "Knowing Marshall, I’m sure he would."
Plumlee’s issue is just one small question mark looming over Duke as the tournament progresses. Five Duke players played at least 32 minutes against N.C. State. Six players played 192 of the 200 minutes available in the super-fast tempo game.
How tough will it be for those six Iron Dukes to come back 24 hours later and play a tough, physical Notre Dame team?
"That’s a good question," Krzyzewski said. "What we’ve talked about this week is, ‘Don’t pace yourself. Play one game at a time and let’s get better.’
"We got better today. We had to get better because State was so good."
Indeed, the often-erratic Wolfpack was on fire against the Devils. Barber, who had been in a mild shooting slump, hit three first-half 3-pointers and finished with 29 points and seven assists. Freshman Maverick Rowan followed up on his Tuesday explosion against Wake Forest with another strong shooting performance – at one point banking in a double-clutch 3-pointer.
State shot 55.4 percent from the field … 45 percent on 20 3-pointers … and committed just six turnovers.
So Duke committed just four turnovers! And shot 44.4 percent on 27 3-point shots. And 52.4 percent overall. And, wonder of wonder, actually had one more offensive rebounds than the Pack!
"This is the best we’ve played offensively in about three weeks," Krzyzewski said. "I was worried. The team that plays the second game here on the second day only has 20 minutes to warm up, so you’re never in the gym."
It didn’t hurt the Devils, who hit four of five 3-pointers to open the game … and it found itself down 17-16.
"Duke stepped up and made some good shots," Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said. "They made some big ones, some tough ones. Got to give them credit."
Duke was fueled early by freshman Brandon Ingram, who poured in 19 first-half points. Duke trailed 53-50 at the break – just the second time in ACC history that both teams reached 50 at the half. The only other time that happened was the greatest game ever played – the 1974 championship game between N.C. State and Maryland.
Ingram couldn’t keep up the offensive pace, scoring just three points after intermission to finish with 22. Freshman Luke Kennard was strong late, finishing with 22 of his own.
That matched the best ACC Tournament performance by a Duke freshman in his first game. Amazingly, that record was not held by Jahlik Okafor, Jabari Parker, Grant Hill, Johnny Dawkins, Mike Gminski, Jason Williams or J.J. Redick.
The record of 22 points in an ACC Tournament debut was held by Kenny Dennard, who had a career high (to that point) 22 against Clemson in the 1978 ACC Tournament opener.
Ingram and Kennard not only combined for 44 points, but also had between them nine assists (no turnovers), 11 rebounds and two steals. Grayson Allen finished with 19 points and a team-high six assists. Plumlee – broken nose and all – added 17 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Duke needed every bit of that on a day when State was not only on fire, but the Blue Devils were blatantly screwed on two plays by the refs. I’m not talking about the controversial flagrant foul on Allen late in the game, but two other plays where the refs clearly blew it.
One was a baseline inbounds that was supposed to be a spot throw-in after Kennard’s missed free throw with 2.0 seconds left. State rebounded and called timeout. On the throw-in, Caleb Martin ran the baseline, getting the ball to Cat Barker for a desperation 3. It didn’t go in, but it might have.
The other play was late in the game, when Rowan was scrambling with three Duke players to get a loose ball. Before the refs could call a jump ball, ref Louie Andrakakos – standing 40 feet from the ball and right in front of the State bench – gave Gottfried a timeout.
Only under college basketball’s new rules, the coach can’t call timeout with the ball in play.
No matter. None of that will change the narrative that "Duke gets all the calls." Check out an N.C. State message board and you’ll see that’s the only reason that Duke has knocked N.C. State out of the tournament in three straight seasons and eight of nine times since 1999.
Officiating is very much on Coach K’s mind as Duke prepares to face Notre Dame in the quarterfinals today.
"Big thing for us is not getting in foul trouble," he said. I’m not as worried about them being tired as I am worried about foul trouble. We’re thin, but we’ve been thin since Amile [Jefferson] got hurt."
Derrick Coleman can kiss my ^%$.
The former Syracuse star is being honored this week as one of the ACC’s "Legends" (no matter that he didn’t play a minute of ACC basketball.
Wednesday, he was given a mike during the Pitt-Syracuse game so he could trash the ACC.
Coleman expressed his pleasure that the tournament was in Washington and not in "Greenville or wherever it used to be." He also waxed poetic about how great the old Big East Tournament used to be.
His words evoked cheers from the handful on fans on hand to watch the two Big East refugees play their ACC Tournament game. Of course, if the game had been in Greensboro, the attendance would have been three or four times as large.
And the game wouldn’t have been stopped five times in the first three minutes because the NBA arena couldn’t make its 24 second clocks work.
The atmosphere was much better for the day’s second half, when Duke and State played a much more entertaining game before a near full house (over 18,500 fans … there were maybe 2-3,000 for the first game).
Maybe the Syracuse alum takes his dislike of the ACC from Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who has never tired of trashing Greensboro.
Then again, after three ACC Tournaments, Syracuse has yet to win a tournament game.
Maybe they can make a run at Clemson’s record of eight straight tournament losses before finally winning an ACC Tournament game.
I had computer problems Tuesday in Washington. For awhile, I wasn’t sure I would be able to file anything for the Duke Basketball Report this week.
The problem was resolved (at least temporarily) and my six-year old Toshiba laptop is operational again.
But my problems gave me time to reflect on the technological revolution that has occurred in journalism in my half-century in the business.
When I started as a sports writer in the late 1960s, we composed our stories on portable typewriters. Our copy was filed, page by page, with Western Union, which set up stations at every sporting event and transmitted the copy directly to our newspapers.
Indeed, that was my first job as a student assistant in sports information – running copy from sports writers on press row to the Western Union operators that were usually located somewhere deep in the bowels of the various arenas.
I recall one long afternoon at Wallace Wade Stadium. Duke experimented with a 10 a.m. start to a football game (in the mistaken belief that there were thousands of fans in the Triangle area who wanted to watch a Duke game in the morning, a UNC game that after noon and a N.C. State game that night). The game was over about 1 p.m. and by 3 p.m., all the reporters had filed their stories and left.
All but one – Bob Lipper of the Norfolk paper was still working. My boss – Sports Information Director Dick Brusie – left me to lock everything up after Lipper finished. But Lipper – nicknamed "Lipper the Ripper" – kept writing. For the next three hours, I sat there with the last remaining Western Union operator and we chatted while Lipper pounded on his keyboard.
We had a nice conversation until Lipper finally typed –30—to his last story at about 8 p.m.
I’m not blaming Lipper for doing his job. In fact, I can recall a night very early in my career with the Durham Sun when I was the last reporter in the press box at the Astrodome after Lou Holtz’s N.C. State football team played in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl. It was just me and a Western Union operator, patiently waiting for me copy.
It was soon after that 1975 event that technology changed the job.
Western Union was replaced by the telecopier – basically a portable fax machine that was the size of a small suitcase. We still wrote our stories on portable typewriters, but now, instead of handing the pages off to Western Union, we had to send the stories back ourselves.
The problem was that the telecopier was such a finicky device. You could send stories at a setting that transmitted pages at four minutes each, but that only worked bout 50 percent of the time. There was a six minute setting that was slightly more reliable, but obviously slower.
The transmission success rate depended on the phone lines. I can recall a night at our hotel in Landover, Md., after the first night of the 1976 ACC Tournament, when it took Frank Dascenzo and I over four hours to transmit 21 pages of copy. It was obviously a big step backwards from the old system – not only did we have to carry a heavy and bulky piece of equipment with us, we had to spend hours sending our copy back to the office … plus we needed somebody in the office to receive it.
That was far more inconvenient than handing your copy to Western Union and forgetting it … the desk man back at the office would come in at his normal starting time and find the copy on the Western Union machine.
We lived with the telecopier for a few years until the first world processors were introduced in the late 1970s. These weren’t really portable computers – they were purely machines to write on. They were big and bulky – about as bulky as the old telecopier – and were utterly unreliable. Copy was stored in something called a "bubble memory" and would be lost when the machine lost power.
That led to a nightmare in Syracuse during the 1983 NCAA East Regional (when Georgia upset Michael Jordan and UNC in the title game). The power in our whole hotel fluctuated all weekend – twice wiping out stories that were done or near done.
There were at least a dozen incidents I can recall when a crowded press room was disrupted when one reporter accidently unplugged another reporter’s machine – costing him an hour’s work (on deadline!). I never saw a fistfight over such an incident, but several came close.
At least transmission was faster. But it still required someone back in the office to check and make sure the transmission had arrived (and it didn’t with dismaying frequency).
But the sports writer’s world got a lot better with the introduction of the Radio Shack TSR 80, Model 100 – the first modern notebook computer.
Introduced in 1983, the TSR 80 had a tiny screen and a very limited memory. But it was cheap, amazingly durable and absolutely reliable. You could write a story and never worry that it would be lost when the power failed. Transmission remained a problem when you couldn’t use the direct connector to a phone line – the alternative was an awkward rubber cradle for a phone that was finicky to get working correctly. Plus, the system almost never worked in hotel rooms (anything that went through a switchboard), so you could see reporters lined up at the pay phones in the hotel lobbies, trying to file their stories.
Still, the TSR 80 remained the standard for sports writers for almost a decade, especially with the introduction of the Model 200, with a much larger flip-top screen and increased memory.
We started to get real portable computers in the early 90s, but transmission remained a problem until the growth of wireless transmission in the late 1990s.
Now we use portable lap-top computers and send our stories by e-mail.
It’s fast, reliable and easy (provided the computer works).
It’s almost as good a system as the one Western Union provided when I broke into the business.