North Carolina's Justin Jackson (44) reacts following a basket against UNC Greensboro during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. North Carolina won 96-63. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP Photo/Gerry Broome

Justin Jackson, No. 9 North Carolina survive at Boston College

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No. 9 North Carolina’s trip to Chestnut Hill to play ACC cellar dweller Boston College was expected to be a routine one, with Roy Williams’ team taking care of business and heading back home. The game was anything but routine, beginning with Williams’ decision to start a completely different front court from the one that struggled in a loss at Notre Dame Saturday night.

Add in Williams having to leave the sidelines after collapsing in the second half and the Tar Heels’ struggles throughout the night against Jim Christian’s Eagles, and North Carolina was in position to suffer a stunning setback. Yet in the end North Carolina won 68-65, thanks to a timely four-point play from Marcus Paige and 20 points from sophomore forward Justin Jackson.

Due to his recent shooting slump Paige has been the most often discussed Tar Heel of late, but given his overall track record there were few who thought he wouldn’t find a way to turn things around. He is North Carolina’s best player, and ultimately how far the Tar Heels go this spring will depend upon how well Paige plays. But he can’t do it all alone, and in the case of Jackson the Tar Heels have a gifted wing capable of making plays offensively…when he chooses to do so.

Against Boston College an aggression that hasn’t been seen from Jackson on a consistent basis this season, since a stretch in late November of three straight games of 20 points or more, was present. He attacked the Boston College defense on a night in which North Carolina’s perimeter shots once again missed the mark (5-for-16 3PT), scoring 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting from the field. The benching seemingly lit a fire under Jackson, giving North Carolina a much-needed boost in a game that turned out to be far more difficult than many expected.

The question now is what Jackson does to build on this performance. The skill is there, but this is a matter of having the mindset needed to make plays without being prodded. Brice Johnson has struggled with similar issues throughout his career, but he put forth the best basketball of his career earlier this season with Kennedy Meeks out of the lineup.

North Carolina struggled for much of the night, even before Williams had to leave the sidelines, and that cannot be glossed over. The Tar Heels have the talent needed to produce better performances than this, one that nearly led to them losing a game they were expected to win convincingly. But there is the positive of Jackson’s performance to take from it, as he looked to attack the Boston College defense consistently and experienced success in doing so.

The Tar Heels will face tougher competition in their remaining ACC games, and with that comes the need to have Jackson continue to play at this level. Tuesday night represents a step forward for Jackson, but how big of a step that is will be determined by what he does over the next month.

No. 19 Louisville rolls past Boston College 79-47

Surrounded by teammates, Louisville graduate students Damion Lee, seated left, and Trey Lewis meet with reporters during a press conference, Friday, Feb. 5, 2016, in Louisville Ky.  The president of Louisville announced a one-year postseason ban Friday for the Cardinals men’s basketball team amid ongoing investigations into a sex scandal, a decision that stunned coach Rick Pitino. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Trey Lewis scored 16 points and Deng Adel added 13 as No. 19 Louisville routed Boston College 79-47 on Saturday, a day after the school imposed a postseason ban for recruiting violations.

The Cardinals (19-4, 8-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) followed up Monday’s upset of No. 2 North Carolina with a lopsided win despite uneven stretches. The absence of leading scorer Damion Lee (bruised knee) impacted their rotation, but plenty of teammates stepped up to fill the void in an emotional game.

Several baskets by Lewis midway through the second half help spark a 10-0 run that got Louisville back out to a comfortable lead en route to keeping the Eagles (7-16, 0-10) winless in league play.

Donovan Mitchell added 10 points, Quentin Snider and Jaylen Johnson each had nine and Chinanu Onuaku added eight with 13 rebounds.

Sammy Barnes-Thompkins scored 11 points for Boston College before fouling out.

Even with their top scorer on the bench in street clothes, the Cardinals got the dominant win they wanted one day after an announcement by Louisville’s president that the team would not play in either the ACC or NCAA tournaments. President James Ramsey said an investigation revealed that violations did occur when the school reviewed allegations by escort Katina Powell that former staffer Andre McGee paid her and other dancers to strip and have sex with recruits and players.

Lee and Lewis – graduate transfers who came to Louisville with hopes of playing in the tournament – said the team wanted to make the most of its nine remaining games with a focus on holding serve at home. Other than a few lapses that allowed Boston College to get within single digits, the Cardinals used most of their bench to that end.

The Cardinals made 16 of 26 from the field after intermission to finish at 51 percent. They controlled the paint 44-20 and out-rebounded Boston College 38-30.

Louisville’s reserves outscored the Eagles 24-12, chipping in some key points for a 32-14 lead at the break despite 42 percent shooting. Johnson’s seven points led nine Cardinal scorers and featured a 3-pointer by reserve David Levitch late in the half.

Boston College meanwhile started 1 of 7 from the field and shot just 30 percent in a first half, which included 11 turnovers leading to 12 Louisville points. Those struggles made it easy for the Cardinals to mount a 17-0 run over 4:05 for a 19-2 lead and an advantage that reached 19.

The Eagles showed some life early in the second half with five straight baskets to get within 37-28 and create some uneasiness before Lewis took charge.

TIP-INS

Boston College: Dennis Clifford added nine points for the Eagles, who shot 39 percent. … Saturday’s game ended a three-game road stretch against ranked teams.

Louisville: The Cardinals’ 1956 NIT Championship team was honored in a halftime ceremony that featured several members. … Louisville took a 4-3 lead in the series and remained unbeaten at home against BC.

UP NEXT:

Boston College: Hosts No. 2 North Carolina on Tuesday.

Louisville: Visits Duke on Monday.

No. 2 UNC rolls to 12th straight win, 89-62 over BC

North Carolina's Brice Johnson (11) reacts following a basket as Boston College's A.J. Turner (11) looks on during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. North Carolina won 89-62. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) No. 2 North Carolina kept taking the ball from Boston College. Marcus Paige finally saw it go through the net.

The Tar Heels won their 12th straight game, forcing a season-best 23 turnovers in an 89-62 victory over the Eagles on Saturday.

Paige had 12 points in his highest-scoring game in three weeks, hitting three 3-pointers after making just one in his previous four games. After swishing the first 3 he tried, he shot a look of relief toward the Smith Center roof.

“I want you to go to the gym, miss 20-some in a row, then make one and have the whole arena cheer for you, just so you know how it feels,” Paige said with a laugh. “I’ve never missed that many shots in a row in my life, so just to finally get people (cheering), it was very relieving.”

Brice Johnson had 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Joel Berry II added 13 points for the Tar Heels (19-2, 8-0 Atlantic Coast Conference). After shaking off a slow start, the ACC’s leaders routed the league’s last-place team by turning those takeaways into 30 points.

Eli Carter had 19 points to lead the Eagles (7-14, 0-7), who were without guards Jerome Robinson (wrist injury) and Darryl Hicks (concussion). They shot 44 percent and hit 10 3-pointers but couldn’t overcome that season-worst turnover total while losing both their eighth straight overall and eighth in a row in the series.

“I thought defensively, we played hard, just offensively, we turned the ball over,” coach Jim Christian said. “We’re really short-handed. … A lot of them were on-ball turnovers, ballhandling turnovers. That was the difference in the game, obviously.”

The Tar Heels took care of the easy part of their schedule, and now things are about to get tougher, starting with Monday’s trip to No. 16 Louisville. After facing no team ranked in the AP Top 25 through their first eight ACC games, the Tar Heels will have six against teams currently ranked during the month of February.

For Paige, a few shots finally started to fall. He finished 4 of 9 and was 3 of 8 from 3-point range, a drastic improvement over his last few games. He was 5 of 35 from the field and 1 of 22 from 3-point range during the four games that followed his 30-point outburst at Florida State on Jan. 4.

North Carolina took control of this one late in the first half, reeling off 15 straight points to build a comfortable lead. Johnson hit a jumper from the key one possession before he capped the run with two free throws that made it 39-23 with 3:45 left. Berry then pushed the lead into the 20s for the first time with his three-point play made it 50-30 with 15:03 to play.

A BIG GREEN ROOM?

Most of North Carolina’s students wore neon-green T-shirts and ski caps as part of the school’s recycling campaign, with the shirts made from recycled plastic bottles. It made for an odd juxtaposition with Tar Heels coach Roy Williams’ criticism a day earlier of ESPN’s “frickin’ green room” and how the network touts NBA prospects playing in college games.

TIP-INS

Boston College: The Eagles started what might be the toughest three-game conference road swing in the country. After this one, they go to No. 11 Virginia and No. 16 Louisville. Those three have an average rank of No. 6 in Ken Pomeroy’s advanced stat rankings.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels missed their first eight free throws and nine of their first 10. … Kennedy Meeks did not start because he was late to the team’s shoot-around. Isaiah Hicks started in his place, while Meeks finished with eight points in 15 minutes.

UP NEXT

Boston College: visits No. 11 Virginia on Wednesday night.

North Carolina: visits No. 16 Louisville on Monday night.

Follow Joedy McCreary at http://twitter.com/joedyap. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/joedy-mccreary

AP college basketball site: http://collegebasketball.ap.org

No. 15 Miami halts 2-game skid with 67-53 win over BC

Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga gathers his team around him after calling a timeout late the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Boston College, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
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BOSTON (AP) Sheldon McClellan scored 19 points, Ja’Quan Newton had 12 and No. 15 Miami rebounded from consecutive losses with a 67-53 win over Boston College on Wednesday night.

It was the 11th straight victory for the Hurricanes (14-3, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) against Boston College. Tonye Jekiri matched his career high with 17 rebounds, and Angel Rodriguez scored 12 points.

Jerome Robinson led the Eagles (7-11, 0-5) with 20 points and leading scorer Eli Carter had 12 on 4-for-18 shooting.

It was BC’s fifth straight loss. The previous four – all in conference games – were by an average of 22.5 points.

Closing a stretch of three road games in nine days, Miami rode a solid start in the second half by Rodriguez, who scored nine points to help the Hurricanes open a 45-35 lead with 14:15 to play.

BC sliced it to 45-41 on Darryl Hicks’ 3-pointer from the right corner with just more than 14 minutes to play.

Miami, which seemed to be relaxing on the defensive end of the floor on many possessions early in the second half, pushed its lead to 56-49 on Newton’s baseline jumper with 5:45 to go.

The Eagles never trimmed their deficit below five points the rest of the way. They didn’t have a basket in the final 7 minutes.

In the first half, the Hurricanes pounded the ball inside early and took advantage of nine BC turnovers in the opening 11 minutes to build a six-point edge before the Eagles answered with a 10-1 spree.

Miami closed the half by scoring eight of the final 12 points to grab a 29-28 advantage at halftime.

Neither team was crisp offensively in the opening 20 minutes, at times turning the ball over on consecutive possessions.

TIP-INS

Miami: The Hurricanes lost road games at Virginia and Clemson in their previous two. . Coach Jim Larranaga improved to 9-0 against BC since taking over the Hurricanes.

Boston College: Carter entered third in the conference in scoring at 17.6 points per game. He had 31 in a loss at then-No. 20 Pittsburgh on Saturday.

HONOREE

BC honored wounded veteran Cedric King at halftime, playing a video tribute from First Lady Michelle Obama. King then walked out to center court to a long standing ovation. It was part of Military Appreciation Night.

UP NEXT

Miami hosts Wake Forest on Saturday.

Boston College plays at Notre Dame on Saturday.

No. 15 Duke beats Boston College 81-64 in ACC opener

Duke guard Brandon Ingram (14) shoots the ball over the reach of Boston College forward A.J. Turner (11) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Boston. Duke beat Boston College 81-64. (AP Photo/Gretchen Ertl)
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BOSTON (AP) Grayson Allen intercepted a pass and went in for a dunk so emphatic that the ball, after passing through the net, bounced off his head and wound up a half-dozen rows back in the stands.

The Duke guard fell to the court with a thud.

“(He’s) powerful, and then he’s fearless. So he goes with a little bit of a reckless abandon,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the 15th-ranked Blue Devils beat Boston College 81-64 in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams.

“He usually is either knocked to the floor or he falls to the floor because of those Herculean plays that he makes,” Krzyzewski said.

Allen does the same thing in practice, but his coach doesn’t dare tell him to take it easy.

“I think you have a greater chance of getting hurt by tempering your natural instincts,” Krzyzewski said.

Allen had 17 points, nine rebounds and five assists for the Blue Devils (12-2), and Brandon Ingram finished with 25 points and nine rebounds. Duke fell behind by six points early in its first true road game of the season before scoring 20 of the next 25 points.

“I think we had a little bit of nervousness at the beginning,” Allen said. “But first time playing on someone’s home court, first ACC game, that’s expected.”

Luke Kennard added 17 points, and Matt Jones had 16 to help Duke beat BC for the 10th consecutive time.

Eli Carter scored 19 points for Boston College (7-7, 0-1), and Jerome Robinson had 15 points and seven rebounds.

BC led 12-6 with 7 minutes gone in the game before Derryck Thornton made a jumper on an assist from Allen and then Jones made a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to one point. Allen then stole the ball from Robinson and took it in for a dunk to give Duke its first lead of the game.

Allen was slow to get up after landing hard among the media sitting courtside.

It was 18-17 Duke before the Blue Devils made eight consecutive free throws. Duke scored the last five points of the first half to take a 37-24 lead.

The Eagles ran off 10 straight points in the second half to cut a 21-point deficit to 57-46. But after Duke called timeout, Allen hit a free throw and then had another steal that led to a three-point play.

GOING STREAKING

Ingram was one point off his career high. He entered the game averaging 21.3 points and 8.2 rebounds in his past six games. The 6-foot-9, 190-pound forward has topped the 20-point mark and led the Blue Devils in five of the past seven games.

One of seven freshmen on the roster, Ingram got his first taste of an ACC road game.

“It felt very different,” he said. “We knew it was a hostile environment coming in here. It was our first ACC game, so we knew we had to play our hardest.”

COMPLIMENTARY K

Krzyzewski took time out during the postgame handshakes to praise BC center Dennis Clifford, who played limited minutes as a sophomore and then missed almost his entire junior year because of damage to the cartilage in both knees.

“I can remember coming up here a few years ago, and Clifford could hardly walk,” Krzyzewski said. “He must have done a lot of stuff, because he moves well. I admire that, that kids’ commitment, and his commitment to BC.”

Clifford said he hears that from other coaches often, but it’s a nice compliment from a basketball Hall of Famer.

“I appreciate every time somebody shouts me out because of all I’ve been through,” Clifford said.

TIP-INS

Duke: The Blue Devils improved to 19-2 against BC. … Duke is 28-8 in ACC openers under Krzyzewski. … The Blue Devils made just 3 of 13 attempts from 3-point range in the first half. … Duke is 19-0 when Allen scores in double figures since the start of last season.

Boston College: BC last beat Duke on Feb. 15, 2009, when the Blue Devils were ranked sixth in The Associated Press’ Top 25.

UP NEXT

Duke: at Wake Forest on Wednesday night.

Boston College: hosts Notre Dame on Thursday night.

ACC CONFERENCE RESET: North Carolina, Virginia the favorites, but what about Miami?

Malcolm Brogdon
(AP Photo/Ryan M. Kelly)
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College basketball’s non-conference season is coming to a close, and to help you shake off post-holiday haze and the hangover of losing in your fantasy football playoffs, we’ll be providing you with some midseason primers to get you caught up on all the nation’s most important conferences.

Today, we’re taking a look at the ACC.

ACC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia

By the end of the year, I think that Marcus Paige will be the recipient of this award, but given the fact that he has yet to really find his rhythm offensively and has essentially played half of the season as he’s dealt with a broken hand and an ankle injury, it’s impossible to give the North Carolina star this award. Enter Brogdon, who has been Virginia’s best player and one of the most underrated players in the country. He averages 16.5 points, 4.5 boards and 3.0 assists on a team that gets the second-fewest offensive possessions per game out of the 351 Division I teams in the country. Throw in the fact that the ‘Hoos are currently the highest-ranked team in the nation’s best conference, and it’s hard to go against him at this point.

ALL-ACC FIRST TEAM

  • Cat Barber, N.C. State
  • Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
  • Damion Lee, Louisville
  • Grayson Allen, Duke
  • Brice Johnson, North Carolina

[2015 REVIEW: Best Dunks | Best Games]

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED

  1. Louisville is actually good: They haven’t actually beaten anyone this season — which is something that will probably come back to bite them come Selection Sunday — but I do think that Louisville is one of the top 25 teams in college basketball. I’m not yet convinced, however, that they have enough front court strength to be able to compete for a league title, but those grad transfers, Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, are the real deal. They won’t reach their ceiling unless a couple of the young guys come of age during league play.
  2. Miami looks like they’re better: I’ve said it a thousand times by now: this Miami group reminds me so much of the team that won the 2013 ACC title. They’re loaded with veterans, they have a talented back court full of playmakers (Sheldon McClellan, Angel Rodriguez, Ja’Quan Newton), they have a front line that’s chock full of big, athletic, old guys that play hard and understand what they’re going to be asked to do, and they have a head coach that knows how to fit all of those pieces together. This is a really, really good basketball team.
  3. North Carolina is probably the league’s best: I know that they lost at Northern Iowa and I know that they lost at Texas, but I’m still riding with the Tar Heels as the best team in the ACC; I’ve yet to change my pick of North Carolina as the eventual national champion. The key for this group is going to be health — Kennedy Meeks and Marcus Paige have been banged up — but their absences may actually be a boon come March. When Paige was out, Joel Berry and Justin Jackson had to learn how to play a leading role. Without Meeks in the lineup, Brice Johnson has looked like Dwight Howard. It will be interesting to see how that carries over to ACC play.

[CONFERENCE RESETS: ACC | Big Ten | American]

KEY STORY LINES IN LEAGUE PLAY

  1. Amile Jefferson’s foot: Jefferson broke his foot a couple of weeks ago and underwent surgery to repair the injury, and while he’s not Duke’s best player — Grayson Allen is — or their best prospect — hello, Brandon Ingram — he’s their most valuable in the sense that they don’t have anyone else on their roster that can do what he does. He averages a double-double and can switch onto guards in Duke’s half court defense. When will he return, and will he be back to full health when he does?
  2. Virginia’s slow starts: The four times that Virginia has played top 25 caliber teams this season they’ve managed to dig themselves a first half hole and dig out of it down the stretch. Much of that has been the result of timely three-point shooting from London Perrantes against West Virginia, Villanova and Cal, but those late threes are going to dry up eventually just like they did against George Washington in November. In other words, you can’t count solely on late runs to win a conference as good as the ACC, and Virginia, when they’re playing well, is good enough to win the ACC.
  3. Who else stands out?: That’s the big story about the ACC this season. There appears to be a clear-cut top five in the league, but in putting together the power rankings below, I can see as many as six more teams being capable of earning themselves an NCAA tournament bid. Can Syracuse figure out their issues defensively? How far can Cat Barber lead N.C. State? Is Wake Forest for real? What about Pitt and Florida State? Can Notre Dame turn things around in league play? As many as three of those teams are probably going to make the NCAA tournament. Any guesses on which three?
North Carolina's Brice Johnson (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
North Carolina’s Brice Johnson (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

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BETTER THAN THEIR RECORD: I really like this Wake Forest team. They already have a win over Indiana under their belt, and that came before Codi Miller-McIntyre had returned from his injury. The combination of Devin Thomas and Konstantinos Mitoglou is better than anyone gives them credit for, and Bryant Crawford is quietly having a freshman all-ACC caliber season.

BEAT SOMEONE AND WE’LL TALK: We’re getting ready to start ACC play and Pittsburgh has yet to land a win over a team that we can count on being in the NCAA tournament. Their best win came over Davidson. Their best half of the season came against Gonzaga on opening night in a game that was cancelled due to the floor conditions. Michael Young and Jamel Artis are a solid 1-2 punch, but I’m not buying into this team until I see them beat one of the top five teams in the ACC.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Georgia Tech has actually been a bit better than I expected them to be early on this season, but they are still looking at a situation where they are likely to miss out on the NCAA tournament, and possibly the postseason altogether. If that happens, Brian Gregory may be forced to look for employment elsewhere.

POWER RANKINGS, POSTSEASON PREDICTIONS

Tourney teams

  • 1. North Carolina (10-2): Health is the key for the Tar Heels. Kennedy Meeks has missed three games and Marcus Paige, already coming off of a broken hand, is dealing with an ankle injury. When healthy, this is still my pick to win the national title.
  • 2. Virginia (10-1): As I wrote earlier, my concern with the ‘Hoos is their early-game slumps. Get those figured out, and they’ll be right there at the end of the season.
  • 3. Miami (10-1): I love Miami. Talented, veteran guards that can make plays. A big, athletic front court that plays hard and knows their roles. And a coach that knows how to make the most out of what he has.
  • 4. Louisville (11-2): I love the duo of Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, and Donovan Mitchell’s emergence on Saturday was promising, but I still have doubts about their front line. Louisville would be fifth on this list if Amile Jefferson were healthy.
  • 5. Duke (9-2): Amile Jefferson was their most valuable player because he’s the only guy that didn’t really have a backup. Until we know details regarding his injury, it’s hard to picture the Blue Devils competing for the league title.
  • 6. Syracuse (10-3): The Orange have a couple of nice non-conference wins — UConn, Texas A&M — and a pair of total head scratchers — Wisconsin at home, St. John’s. I think they iron out some of those inconsistencies come ACC play, and their shooting ability will win them some games they have no business winning.
  • 7. N.C. State (9-3): Cat Barber has been playing like one of college basketball’s best point guards. If Abdul-Malik Abu continues to do what he’s been doing the last two weeks, the Wolfpack will surprise some people once they get Terry Henderson healthy.
  • 8. Wake Forest (8-3): I’m going to roll the dice on this one. I think Wake is better than they get credit for now that Codi Miller-McIntyre is back in the lineup, and with a non-conference win over Indiana already on their résumé, the Demon Deacons have a real chance to sneak into the NCAA tournament.

NIT teams

  • 9. Notre Dame (8-3): This may be a bit of a surprising pick considering that I had Notre Dame in my preseason top 25, but Demetrius Jackson has not been quite as good as I expected and the Irish are missing Pat Connaughton more than we realize.
  • 10. Pittsburgh (10-1): We’ve been fooled by Pitt and their soft non-conference scheduling before. As I wrote earlier, I’ll believe it when I see it.
  • 11. Florida State (9-2): I still love the talent on this Florida State roster, but I’m not convinced they’re going to be able to land enough good wins to go dancing. They’re a year away.

Autobid or bust

  • 12. Georgia Tech (9-3)
  • 13. Virginia Tech (8-4)
  • 14. Clemson (7-5)
  • 15. Boston College (6-6)