By Rob Clough
Parsing The Week's Results:
The biggest win of the week was Notre Dame going to College Park and beating Maryland (see below). However, that wasn't the only significant game Maryland was involved in, as Virginia upset the Terps in their final visit to Charlottesville. Both of those games revealed an essential flaw in this year's Terps: the lack of a go-to scoring guard. Laurin Mincy is trying but is still playing her way back into shape after tearing an ACL. Maryland's point guard rotation has been decent, but no one has truly seized the job as was hoped. Opponents are able to key in on Katie Rutan a bit more now that the Terps don't have the fearsome offensive rebounding of Tianna Hawkins to contend with. The other problem is that Maryland doesn't have a perimeter stopper of any kind. Virginia and Notre Dame's guards were able to score at will and got plenty of open looks, and pressure from both clubs forced too many turnovers. Maryland is still tough and scrappy, but they need to have more of their guards take on the personality of their leader, Alyssa Thomas.
Meanwhile, Duke nearly fell victim to an upset the same night as Maryland, as Florida State took them to overtime before falling. FSU outhustled and outworked Duke all night, with forward Natasha Howard piling up an astounding 28 points and 22 rebounds. FSU had a four point lead with over a minute left, but Duke's Tricia Liston and Alexis Jones tied the game up and Duke got its hustle back. In overtime, Duke scored the first nine points to put it away quickly. The Devils continued to adjust to life without Chelsea Gray by crushing an overmatched Pitt team in Durham; the Panthers simply didn't have the talent or depth to keep up with Duke, especially in the post.
NC State and Syracuse separated themselves from the middle of the ACC Pack just a bit. The devastating inside duo of Kody Burke and Markeisha Gatling crushed an undersized BC club to the tune of a combined 51 points and 19 rebounds. They then teamed up for 30 points and 13 rebounds against Georgia Tech. State held star Tech guard Kaela Davis to just five points on 1-7 shooting. Picking up a road win against a competitive peer (I'm not quite ready to put State in the top tier of the ACC just yet) is big for the Pack, who are winning the games they need to win. See below for an account of Syracuse's week.
UNC had a relatively quiet week, playing just once as they took care of Wake Forest in tidy fashion. The most interesting thing one can say about that game is the coach Andrew Calder went back to a more veteran starting lineup with Latifah Coleman and Brittany Rountree, as Diamond DeShields and Jessica Washington came off the bench. I imagine this was more to reward the hard work of Coleman and Rountree than it was to punish the rookies, but both responded quite well to coming off the bench. DeShields had 19 points and 7 rebounds; again, what's turning her into the leading candidate for ACC rookie of the year is not so much her scoring but her ability to get boards from the wing. I don't talk about Stephanie Mavunga enough in this space, but that's partly because her stat line is a steady double-double nearly every time. For Wake, Dearica Hamby and Chelsea Douglas combined for 42 points and the rest of the team for 23, which is a line that I feel I've written more than once this year.
Virginia Tech continues to be the hard-luck team in the ACC. Their lack of a bench is starting to wear on them even as forward Uju Ugoka continues to put up All-ACC numbers. Vanessa Panousis is also in a deep slump after erupting for 21 against Duke, and the Hokies can't hope to win any ACC games if their offense continues to be mired in the 50s. Defensively, they couldn't contain Georgia Tech's Ty Marshall, who dropped 30 on the Hokies. The Hokies looked to be in great position to have a winning season, but they'll have a lot of work to do if they still hope to achieve that goal.
Best Win: Notre Dame 87, Maryland 83. This was a great win in the sense that the Irish went to a tough place to play and won to stay undefeated. It was great in the sense that Jewel Loyd dropped 31 points on the Terps and is closing in on being our ACC player of the year at the midway point. It was great in the sense that the Irish won despite getting absolutely pummeled in the paint (50-34) while getting very little from a foul-plagued Natalie Achonwa. It was not so great when one considers that the Irish had a 22-point lead with four minutes to go in the first half and somehow let that dwindle to just twelve at the half. The Terps just kept pounding it inside to Alyssa Thomas and Alicia DeVaughn, and the Irish were helpless to stop that duo. Indeed, Thomas actually brought her team all the way back in giving her team a 64-63 lead midway through the second half. The Terps kept fighting but were a little punched out after that point. Still, it took a Jewel Loyd stickback with a minute left to put the Irish up by two possessions and seal the deal. Loyd's return was a welcome one after she sat out the game against Miami. It took the Irish a while to get going against the Canes, but they still managed to drop nearly 80 points on a Miami team that couldn't keep up on the offensive end. When playing the league's elite teams, you have to have at least three or four scorers to keep things competitive.
Worst Loss: Clemson 60, Miami 52. The worst thing about this game from Miami's perspective is that the final score could have been much worse, if the Tigers hadn't missed sixteen free throws. Miami was pretty much stuck in the mud in this game; even though they crashed the boards for 20 offensive rebounds, they still kept missing shots, shooting just 26% from the field. A middle-tier team like Miami simply can't afford any losses to lower-tier teams, but Miami's inability to generate any easy offense combined with Clemson's veteran duo of Nikki Dixon and Quinyotta Pettaway combining for 30 points and 16 rebounds in a low-scoring game put them in a tough spot. Throw in a beatdown loss against a Notre Dame team minus Jewel Loyd, and the Canes took a step backward this week.
Trending Up: Syracuse. The Orange got two hard-earned wins to vault into sixth place in both the standings and the ACC WBB Digest power rankings. The first came against Clemson, who led the Orange by six with eight minutes to go, but a 26-11 Cuse run put them away. What was encouraging about this run is that it was led by Rachel Coffey (8 points) and Taylor Ford (6 points), instead of being spearheaded by the usual Brianna Butler-Brittney Sykes duo. The Orange then had to hold on against a resurgent Virginia club to pick up their fourth league win. Syracuse blew a fifteen point lead against Virginia's suddenly-hot shooters Ataira Franklin, Lexie Gerson and Faith Randolph. This time around, it was the Sykes-Butler tandem that preserved the win, though once again Coffey (surely one of the most underrated players in the ACC) made some key plays.
Trending Down: Boston College. The Eagles are banged up, with Kat Cooper missing the loss to NC State after getting her arm wrenched out of her shoulder vs UNC and Kristen Doherty suffering from bruised ribs. The bottom line is that the Eagles lost a couple of winnable games. They actually led by one against Wake Forest with a minute left and didn't score again, as Wake scored 7 points at the foul line. Live by the three, die by the three, but losing a home game to a conference peer is devastating. The Eagles were down just two at the half against NC State before the Pack went on a 21-10 run that kept them at arm's length the rest of the way. The good news for the Eagles is that Karima Gabriel is back and starting to play effectively in the post. Cooper came back after missing a game. If they can get everyone healthy, they have a shot at evening their conference record, with the goal of getting to .500 and a WNIT bid. Their next three games are against Pitt, Virginia Tech and Virginia, so this is all in the realm of possibility. If the Eagles struggle in those three games, then their postseason hopes will be dim indeed.
Stat Of the Week: Talking RPIs. Let's take a look at the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and Strength of Schedule (SOS) for each ACC school, and what that currently means. Numbers are from realtimerpi.com as of 1/29/2014 and are presented in RPI order.
Five Games To Watch:
On Thursday, Orin will be covering either Syracuse at UNC or Maryland at NC State - lingering snow in the area and road conditions will dictate this decision. JP Mundy and Dana Warren will cover Wake's home contests Thursday and Sunday. Also on Sunday, Orin and Rob will be on hand for the marquee Notre Dame at Duke matchup. Primary coverage will be hosted at DWHoops, with a recap and a Irish-centric gallery seconded to the Digest. Just five weeks until Greensboro!
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Website Contents are Copyright ©
2012-2015 DWHOOPS.COM (Orin A. Day, Durham, NC, USA.),
All Rights Reserved.