PJ Hairston

P.J. Hairston, North Carolina get key win over Virginia to hold ground in ACC race

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Saturday, it was all a matter of pace.

Despite allowing Virginia to shoot nearly 59 percent from the floor, including 12-of-21 from three-point range, P.J. Hairston and North Carolina’s up-tempo offense were too much for the Cavaliers in a 93-81 victory at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Hairston scored 29 points, which included 6-of-12 shooting from three-point range, as North Carolina’s most lethal offensive weapon.

Where the Tar Heels had trouble defending Virginia guard Joe Harris and his 27 points, North Carolina dominated on the glass to finish +11 in rebounding margin and +7 on turnovers

Converting those turnovers into points was the key Saturday, along with staying out of foul trouble and keeping Virginia off of the free throw line.

The win moves North Carolina to 7-5 in the conference and keeps the Tar Heels from falling into a crowded pack of teams around the .500 mark in the ACC.

That puts more pressure on NC State, who has a very winnable game against Virginia Tech Saturday. Coach Mark Gottfried’s team is favored by 15 points and a win would pull them even with UNC in the ACC race.

It also helps North Carolina in the NCAA tournament bubble conversation. The Tar Heels could not afford to lose a game like this at home and now can chalk up Virginia as one of its best wins of the season. The only other that would likely compete is UNLV in non-conference play, though the Rebels are working through a difficult Mountain West schedule right now.

Looking forward on the schedule, North Carolina would be helped mightily if it avoid a letdown against Georgia Tech, Florida State, Clemson, andMaryland, as well as get at least one win over NC State or No. 2 Duke. A win at home over Duke would give the Tar Heels a signature win that could round out an NCAA tournament resume.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Boise State loses guard Harwell to torn ACL

Leon Rice
Associated Press
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Expected to be one of the favorites in the Mountain West this season, Boise State’s perimeter ranks have shrunk by one player due to injury. Thursday it was reported by the Idaho Statesman that freshman guard Malek Harwell will redshirt after suffering a torn ACL in practice. Along with fellow freshman Paris Austin, Harwell is expected to be a key part of the Broncos’ future beyond the upcoming season.

Now, instead of competing with an experienced backcourt that includes four redshirt seniors, Harwell will work to get his knee back to full strength for the 2016-17 season.

Among the guards who will play significant minutes this season are Anthony Drmic, who took a medical redshirt last season, Montigo Alford, Mikey Thompson and grad transfer Lonnie Jackson (Boston College). Chandler Hutchison, who started in Boise State’s final 18 games of the 2014-15 season as a freshman, will also compete for playing time.

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
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Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.