Daniel Martin

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_

Joel James inactive for North Carolina Saturday vs. Virginia due to concussion

Joel James
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North Carolina freshman Joel James has not been cleared to play and will be unavailable for the Tar Heels when they take on Virginia, the school announced Saturday.

James missed North Carolina’s game Wednesday against Duke, a 73-68 loss at Cameron Indoor. According to the school, he suffered a blow to the head on Feb. 5 in North Carolina’s win over Wake Forest, but did not tell team trainers of his symptoms until Monday. In the mean time, he played nine minutes in a loss to Miami.

On the year, the 6-10, 260-pound James is averaging 2.7 points and 2.9 rebounds in just over 11 minutes per game. His best game of the season came Nov. 11 against Florida Atlantic when he scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

Without James available against Duke, North Carolina went with a much smaller lineup, essentially keeping to a six-man rotation with James Michael McAdoo as the lone interior presence.

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

Iona alum Richard Guerin elected to Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

Richard Guerin
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Iona’s career leading scorer and six-time NBA All-Star, Richard Guerin, has been selected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Guerin was selected as part of the direct-election process, which is in its third year. This process works to bridge the gap between two distinct eras of basketball, a release from the MAAC explains.

Guerin averaged 19.6 points per game in his career at Iona for a total of 1,375 career points. He was then drafted by the New York Knicks in the second round of the 1956 NBA Draft and went on to play 13 years in the NBA. He was a six-time all-star and became the first New York Knick to score 2,000 points in a season.

Over the course of his career, he averaged 20.1 points per game and amassed 4,278 rebounds and 4,211 assists. He also coached at the NBA level, compiling an overall record of 327-291 and winning the NBA’s Coach of the Year award in 1968.

The other members of the 2013 Hall of Fame class will be announced at the Final Four in April. Finalists for that honor include current Louisville head coach Rick Pitino and former UNLV coaching legend Jerry Tarkanian.

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

Pregame Shootaround 2.16.13: San Diego State-UNLV is nightcap to watch Saturday

Anthony Marshall
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Game of the Day: No. 16 Pittsburgh vs. No. 18 Marquette (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

Pittsburgh began its Big East schedule with two straight losses. Since then, though, the Panthers have gone 8-2 and have quality wins over Syracuse and Cincinnati. One team they have yet to beat, though, is Marquette, who won in overtime on Jan. 12. In that game, Tray Woodall played just four minutes after suffering a concussion. With him in the lineup Saturday, his 10.9 points and 5.4 assists per game could make the difference.

For Marquette, Davante Gardner has struggled over the last five games. In that January meeting with Pittsburgh, he was 6-of-6 from the floor for 13 points. Another night like that from him would have the Golden Eagles on the right track for a win Saturday.

Who’s Getting Upset?: North Carolina (-6) vs. Virginia (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

North Carolina does well when it is able to get out in transition and score when the defense is scattered. Against Virginia, those opportunities will be limited because the Cavaliers take care of the basketball and shoot a solid percentage from the field (46% FG, 40% 3pt FG).

Joe Harris will again be the key for Virginia on the road. If he continues to hit shots as he has for much of ACC play, it will open up opportunities for complementary scorer Akil Mitchell toward the interior. With limited possessions, North Carolina can’t afford to turn the ball over, and will need James Michael McAdoo to bounce back after shooting 4-of-12 from the floor vs. Duke.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: San Diego State vs. UNLV (9:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Saturday night’s matchup sees two of the Mountain West’s best players (and likely the two top contenders for the conference’s Player of the Year award) face off. The Rebels are in need of a win after dropping three of their last four, including losses to Boise State, Air Force, and Fresno State.

San Diego State, on the other hand, has won two of its last three but fell on Wednesday to Colorado State. In that game, Frankling struggled to shoot just 4-of-13 from the floor for 11 points. He needs to return to his typical 17 points and nine rebounds for the Aztecs to get a win Saturday.

Five Things to Watch For

1) No. 2 Duke has responded with six straight wins after getting blown out by Miami on Jan. 23. We’ll see one of the better individual big man matchups Saturday as the Blue Devils’ Mason Plumlee meets Maryland’s Alex Len. The Terrapins will be without Pe’Shon Howard because of suspension.

2) No. 8 Michigan State finds itself in a trap game Saturday against Nebraska. With a brutal four-game stretch waiting over the next two weeks (No. 1 Indiana, No. 13 Ohio State, No. 4 Michigan, No. 20 Wisconsin), the Spartans need not overlook the Cornhuskers on the road. Don’t expect any problems, but it’s something to keep in mind.

3) No. 15 Kansas needed a big win over Kansas State to try to return to equilibrium after three straight losses. They got it. Now they face a Texas team that has gotten a lift from the return of guard Myck Kabongo.

4) No. 11 Butler has a chance to bounce back after a loss to Charlotte on Wednesday. The Bulldogs travel to 6-19 Fordham, though they could be without center Andrew Smith, who was cleared to practice but is a game-time decision. Expect Rotnei Clarke to find his groove again after being quiet until late vs. Charlotte.

5) Both UCLA and Stanford need a win Saturday. The Cardinal are fresh off a loss to USC on Thursday, and the Bruins started off their road trip to the Bay Area with a loss to Cal that same day. Stanford will look to the interior with Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis, while UCLA hopes Shabazz Muhammad finds his shooting touch again after going 4-of-13 from the floor vs. Cal.

The Top 25

No. 1 Indiana vs. Purdue (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 2 Duke vs. Maryland (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 5 Gonzaga vs. San Francisco (4:30 p.m. ET, ROOT Sports)

No. 6 Syracuse vs. Seton Hall (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 7 Florida vs. Auburn (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 8 Michigan State vs. Nebraska (8:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 10 Kansas State vs. Baylor (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 11 Butler vs. Fordham (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

No. 14 Kansas vs. Texas (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 16 Pittsburgh vs. No. 18 Marquette (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 17 Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 19 New Mexico vs. Boise State (9:00 p.m. ET)

No. 21 Notre Dame vs. Providence (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 22 Memphis vs. Marshall (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

No. 23 Oregon vs. Washington State (7:00 p.m. ET, Pac 12 Networks)

No. 24 Colorado State vs. Air Force (4:00 p.m. ET)

No. 25 Kentucky vs. Tennessee (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

Other Notable Games

Villanova vs. Connecticut (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Virginia vs. North Carolina (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Saint Joseph’s vs. La Salle (1:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

NC State vs. Virginia Tech (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Army vs. Navy (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Creighton vs. Evansville (3:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Missouri vs. Arkansas (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN2)

Stanford vs. UCLA (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN2)

Temple vs. Massachusetts (6:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Detroit vs. Valparaiso (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Princeton vs. Harvard (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Charlotte vs. Saint Louis (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Saint Mary’s vs. Loyola Marymount (7:00 p.m. ET)

Georgia vs. Ole Miss (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Arizona State vs. Colorado State (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

San Diego State vs. UNLV (9:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

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

Late Night Snacks: UConn brings the energy, Mountain West brings the excitement

Colorado State
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Game of the Day: No. 24 Colorado State 66, San Diego State 60

The key to beating San Diego State is often shutting down the heart of that team’s offensive attack, Jamaal Franklin. Colorado State was able to do that in the second half. Dorian Green had 16 points, including a big but controversial layup, plus the foul, that proved to be the dagger Wednesday night.

The Mountain West is a crowded conference race, yes, but Colorado State showed that it has the firepower to make a run for the top.

Important Outcomes

1. No. 2 Duke 73, North Carolina 68

It wasn’t pretty, but No. 2 Duke was able to clean up its act in the second half by sharing the ball and locking down on defense to seal a win over rival North Carolina. Mason Plumlee overcame early offensive struggles to finish with 18 points and 11 rebounds. He imposed his will in the paint once he found his comfort zone, despite playing in foul trouble down the stretch.

2. Connecticut 66, No. 6 Syracuse 58

The Huskies might be banned from the Big East and NCAA tournaments, but don’t tell Kevin Ollie’s team. UConn continues to play with the fire of an NCAA tournament-bound team. The backcourt trio of Omar Calhoun, Ryan Boatright, and Shabazz Napier combined for 42 of Connecticut’s 66 points in the win.

3. Charlotte 71, No. 11 Butler 67

It’s crowded at the top of the Atlantic 10. With the loss, Butler falls into a tie with La Salle and Xavier for third place, but still just a half game behind Virginia Commonwealth and Saint Louis for the conference lead. Charlotte pounded Butler in the paint, which the Bulldogs had no answer for without center Andrew Smith, who was sitting with injury. Guard Rotnei Clarke almost single-handedly brought Butler back in the final minutes, scoring 15 points in just over three minutes, but came up short.

Starred

1. Elston Turner, Texas A&M (37 points, 13-of-20 FG, 7-of-10 3pt FG)

Texas A&M needed every last one of Turner’s points Wednesday to score a two-point win over Ole Miss. He carried the Aggies, including a basket with 0:16 to play that pushed the game to two possessions. It is the second major win in which he has exploded for 35 or more points, having put down 40 in a road win over Kentucky earlier in the year.

2. Joe Jackson, Memphis (21 points, 10-of-12 FG, 10 assists)

The Memphis offense was firing on all cylinders Wednesday and Jackson was at the center of it. He was efficient and a threat both scoring and distributing the basketball. The Tigers have climbed back into the Top 25 and are looking regain the respect that they had prior to their early season slump.

3. Markel Brown, Oklahoma State (25 points, 7-of-8 3pt FG)

The Cowboys remain tied for the top of the Big 12 after their blowout win over Texas Tech Wednesday. Part of the reason Oklahoma State was able to jump out to such a lead was Brown’s hot shooting from beyond the arc.

Also of Note: Jackie Carmichael, Illinois State (27 points, 13 rebounds)

Struggled

1. Brandon Triche, Syracuse (9 points, 3-of-15 FG, 0-of-7 3pt FG)

Triche was part of a Syracuse offense that couldn’t find its mark on Wednesday night. As a team, the Orange shot just 35 percent which was a major factor, especially considering that the defense was able to amass a +8 turnover margin.

2. Winston Shepard, San Diego State (2 points, 0-of-5 FG, 2 TOs)

Shepard could not find his groove, but continued to look for a shot when it wasn’t there. In the second half, he missed a close layup, got his own rebound, and missed the putback, which Colorado State ultimately grabbed and got out in transition. This game comes on the heels of a solid 10-point outing he had against Fresno State on Saturday.

3. Josh Benson, Dayton (6 points, 1-of-6 FG, 3 TOs, 5 Fouls)

Benson was well off his season average of 10 points per game and was only able to log 16 minutes due to foul trouble. It was in part why the Flyers fell to a Rhode Island team that was previously 1-8 in A-10 play.

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

Fundamentals are difference in No. 2 Duke’s win over rival North Carolina

Mason Plumlee Duke
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This won’t go down as one of the gems of the Duke-North Carolina rivalry. It featured 30 total turnovers, 41 percent shooting from the floor, and nearly the entire Duke starting lineup in foul trouble.

Despite all of that, the No. 2 Blue Devils erased a 10-point first-half deficit to outlast North Carolina, 73-68, Wednesday night at Cameron Indoor in Durham, N.C.

Duke has continued to adapt as Ryan Kelly sits out with injury, but it wasn’t something flashy that won this game. Ultimately, 17-of-20 shooting from the free throw line, a renewed defensive energy in the second half, and the willingness to share the basketball helped Duke to a victory Wednesday.

Without Kelly, it is crucial that Mason Plumlee works to be assertive and effective inside, but his teammates need to help him. He finally worked to get closer to the basket as the game progressed and was able to impose his will on North Carolina forward James Michael McAdoo. It was exactly what Duke needed.

The Blue Devils had just one assist in the first half, but began to share the ball in the second. Kelly is not there to spread the floor from the power forward position, so it will fall to the guards to do so. Tyler Thornton was 3-of-4 from three-point range, and Seth Curry was quiet until late, but his outside shooting down the stretch was key.

The Blue Devils might not have depth, but they have a solid core of experience. As Wednesday showed, that can be the difference in a close conference game, which means the same for the NCAA tournament.

The means Plumlee and Curry, along with strong point guard play from sophomore Quinn Cook, need to be the engines of a fundamentally sound Duke attack. There won’t be many other opportunities for a 17-turnover game to still end up as a victory. The Blue Devils got one tonight, but more second halves like Wednesday’s will keep Duke as one of the nation’s elite.

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