Today North Carolina plays NC State for the ACC Tournament Championship in the final game of my attempt to live blog the entire ACC Tournament. A win for that Wolfpack would mean an NCAA berth, while a win for the Tar Heels would almost assure them of a #1 seed. We could discuss about NC State’s plan to slow down the game, how UNC needs to have the killer instinct, win the rebounding battle and not turn the ball over. We could talk about how NC State’s subs need to play out of their minds if Atsur and Costner can’t play to the level they’ve been playing this week, and how they they need to shoot above 60%.
But you and I both know that the deciding factors of the game won’t be the players, or even the coaching gameplans. It will come down to the intangibles. Accessories to be exact. If Hansbrough’s mask continues to compromise his play, Brandan Wright will need to have a great game inside, both offensively and defensively. And I heard that Sidney Lowe’s suit was dry cleaned. Don’t you know that dry cleaning robe the suit of its voodoo? Or does it? The answer to that question will determine whether they’ll keep it close.
I heard that Lawson felt something wrong with him today in warmups. The voodoo may still work yet. If NC State wins, that suit will become legendary.
1:06 pm: 3-2, NCSU. Hansbrough draws first blood, but Fells hits a three off a great pass from Atsur.
1:07 pm: 4-3, UNC. Wha? Can it be? It is! IT’S A MIRACLE! BRANDAN WRIGHT HITS BOTH OF HIS FREE THROWS!
Of course, dunks are much easier for him. 6-3, UNC.
1:09 pm: 6-6. Fells hits another three to tie the game.
1:10 pm: 8-6, UNC. WAYNE’S WORLD! WAYNE’S WORLD! PARTY TIME! EXCELLENT! WHOOOOOO!!!
So far the game is clearly going at UNC’s pace. Even if NC Stats keeps it close, they’ll need to bring the pace down to a halt, or else they’ll run out of gas.
1:11 pm: 9-8, NCSU. Brandon Costner hits a three as Brandan Wright fails to follow him to the perimeter. He’s every bit as talented as Wright.
The Wolfpack are now 3 for 4 from beyond the arc. My worst nightmare for this team, poor perimeter defense, may finally be realized today.
1:14 pm: TAR! HEELS TAR! HEELS! TAR! HEELS!…
1:15 pm: 10-9, UNC. Danny Green comes in for Terry, and he hits a jumper from the free throw line to give UNC the lead.
1:16 pm: 12-11, UNC. Costner hits a tough basket, but Lawson goes coast to coast for a layup seven seconds later.
1:17 pm: 16-12, NCSU. NC State is now 4-for-6 from 3-point range. McCauley then drives in for an easy basket.
I’m really concerned about the Tar Heels. They’ve abandoned the paint, taking low percentage outside shots.
1:18 pm: 18-12, NCSU. Costner gets the basket and the foul. But he misses the free throw.
1:19 pm: 18-15, NCSU. Terry hits a three, but I still think the Heels should keep attacking the middle. They can’t be effective if they’re chucking up shots from the perimeter without even looking inside. They need to pass more.
1:22 pm: 18-17, NCSU. Nearly midway into the first half. Ginyard’s free throws cut the lead to 1.
1:24 pm: 21-17, NCSU. The Wolfpack are much better able to slow down the game with Frasor at point guard. I know he’s been hurt, but he’s been really ineffective this season.
1:25 pm: 21-21. The Heels are able to get two quick baskets in transition, the latest off a turnover by Atsur. The trap defense UNc has been running since the last TV timeout seems to be affecting him.
1:27 pm: 23-21, UNC. UNC forces another turnover, and and get another easy layup to take the lead.
1:28 pm: 25-23, UNC. Costner gets a tough basket inside, but Thompson gets an easy layup less than five seconds later. If they’re able to play at this level for 30-40 minutes, there isn’t anyone who can beat them.
1:32 pm: 27-25, UNC. The Wolfpack defense still doesn’t have an answer for Brandan Wright.
1:35 pm: 30-27, UNC. Atsur hits another three to take the lead back, and MCauley hits an easy one inside to bring the lead to three, as UNC is again chucking shots from outside.
1:37 pm: 32-30, UNC. Ellington hits another three to tie, and Wright gets a dunk off another great feed inside by Lawson. Wright now has 12. Four minutes left in the first half.
1:38 pm: 32-32. McCauley ties the game again, as the UNC defense doesn’t seem to have an answer for him either.
UNC has 5 turnovers in this game, and most of them are unforced. I am really starting to get tired this team mentally fazing in and out of games. This team is capable of so much better than they’re playing.
1:42 pm: 34-32, UNC. Danny Green hits another shot in the lane, but NC State is still very much able to slow down the pace of the game when Frasor is at point guard.
1:43 pm: 40-32, UNC. I spoke too soon. Wes Miller hits two straight three in transition to extend the lead to 8. The Wolfpack must think it’s unfair that the guy to help the Heels breakaway is their 11th man.
1:46 pm: Brandan Wright scores easily again to cap UNC’s 15-4 run to end the first half. UNC leads, 42-34 at halftime. It looks like the Wolfpack are finally running on fumes at the end of the half, but UNC has kept them in the game in part because of their unforced errors. Still, the Heels are in very good position to win the game if they continue to attack the rim and keep a fast pace of the game. If they do that, eventually NC State will reach their breaking point. For NC State tp win, they’ll need to show a second wind, Atsur will need to be able to slow the game pace down to a screeching halt, and they will need to force UNC into mental mistakes.
Then again, maybe Sidney Lowe should have thought of that before getting his suit dry cleaned.
2:06 pm: 46-34, UNC. The second half begins. Lawson hits two free throws to bring the lead to double digits, and Ellington steals the ball and gets an easy layup in transition. The Wolfpack can’t afford to get far behind.
2:07 pm: 50-36, UNC. Lawson hits his first two shots of the game a long jumper and a great reverse layup. The UNC guards are playing really well to start the second half. NC State seems flat-footed so far.
2:11 pm: 50-38, UNC. Gavin Grant provides the Wolfpack their first field goal of the second half, three minutes in.
2;12 pm: 52-40, UNC. NC State forces a turnover, and McCauley gets a tough basket inside to bring the lead to 10, but Ellington drives inside for a floater almost immediately after. They can’t afford to let the Tar Heels continue at this fast pace.
2:16 pm: 54-40, UNC. Deon Thompson scores for the Tar Heels.
McCauley gets poked in the eye. If you;re keeping track, that’s three NC State players who are playing injured (Atsur, Costner).
UPDATE: Northwestern La. State University is trying to get back into the tourney. But Texas A&M, Corpus Christi, and their ridiculously bad color combination, are leading 11-5. NW St. isn;t the same without that guy with the crazy afro.
2:19 pm: 56-43, UNC. Costner hits a three, but with 13 minutes left the Pack are looking really tired. They’ll be zombies by the end of the game, win or lose.
2:22 pm: 56-47, UNC. Suddenly, the lead is back to single digits. and Roy does the worst possible thing for effective strategy against a tired team: he puts in the conservative Bobby Frasor at point guard. Right now the Heels need to run the Pack into the ground, and Bobby Frasor wonlt be able to do that. If Lawson was headed to the bench, I would out Quentin Thomas at point guard. Maybe Roy thought Q would make a few unforced errors to help bring NC State back, but I think leaving the Wolfpack completely out of gas is most important at this point.
2:27 pm: 58-48, UNC. Brandan Wright comes back off the bench, and he immediately ends the Heels’ drought to bring the lead back to 10.
2:29 pm: 64-52, UNC. NC State is getting by on offensive rebounds, but Hansbrough finally gets a basket inside and the foul to bring the lead to 12.
2:31 pm: 64-56, UNC. The Heels’ unforced errors continue to keep NC State in this game, as Costner takes advantage off of a Frasor turnover. Eight and a half minutes to go.
2:33 pm: 66-58, UNC. The Heels finally bring Lawson back into the game.
2:35 pm: Even if we win today, we may not get the #1 seed, because the Selection Committee is going to see that we clearly allowed inferior opponents stay within striking distance of winning a game because of our mistakes or because of simply not having our heads in the game. Therefore they’re going to give us a tough road to the championship, almost to say, “You think you’re the best? Then best the best…5 times.”
Believe it or not, I’m more afraid of an inferior opponent than a top opponent, simply because of our mental state. 68-60, UNC, 7 minutes left.
2:40 pm: 68-62, UNC, 6:30 left. Is it possible for someone to dunk off the backboard? Because I think Courtney Fells just did that.
2:41 pm: 68-65, UNC, 6:00 left. UNC shoots another low percentage outside shot, NC State rebounds, and Gavin Grant gets the tough jumper in the lane AND the foul. The lead has been cut to three.
2:42 pm: 70-67, UNC, 5:30 left. The only reason UNC is still leading is because Hansbrough is 9 of 9 from the free throw line. He travels, and now the Wolfpack have a chance to tie.
2:43 pm: 75-69, UNC, 4:25 left. Fells scores again to cut the lead to one, but suddenly and unexpectedly, Rayshwan Terry comes out of whatever slumber he’s been in for the first 35 minutes and hits two tough shots, the first a baseline jumper and the second a driving layup inside and the foul. It’s good to have you back, Rayshawn, but where the hell have you been?!?
2:46 pm: 75-72, UNC, 4:00 left. Gran t misses his second free throw, but UNC fails to box out, and McCauley gets an easy basket to cut the lead to 3.
Roy, that blazer doesn’t have any mojo. It’s only blue-ish.
2:51 pm: 78-75, UNC, 3:15 left. Terry hits a three, but Costner drives inside, gets the basket, and gives Hansbrough his fourth foul. I cannot point to any good reason why the Wolfpack still have this much energy.
2:53 pm: 1:56 left. Suddenly Wright is missing point blank shots. This must be Sidney’s voodoo.
2:55 pm: 1:28 left. A sign in the stands said: “Beating Carolina: So Easy, A Caveman Can Do It.” Unfortunately, I might not disagree. Assuming that caveman is an experienced, cunning and athletic point guard.
2:56 pm: 80-75, UNC, 1:10 left. Ellington hits his free throws, and Ginyard comes in for defense.
2:58 pm: 82-75, UNC, :50 left. One of the things UNC has done extremely well: they haven’t missed a free throw shot yet.
2:59 pm: 82-78, UNC, :42 left. Costner converts the old-fashioned three, but is it too little, too late?
3:02 pm: 84-78, UNC, :42 left. TAR! HEELS! TAR! HEELS! TAR! HEELS! TAR! HEELS! TAR!…
3:03 pm: 84-80, UNC, :31 left. McCauley hits a quick shot, and the Wolfpack are back within 4. UNC burns a timeout because they can;t inbound it.
3:04 pm: 85-80, UNC, :15 left. Lawson misses his first free throw, but makes the second. McCauley misses his hot, UNC rebound, Terry is fould and this game is bout over if he can make his free throws.
3:06 pm: Terry makes his free throws, NC State misses their shot, and Lawson finishes the game with a dunk. UNC wins the ACC Tournament, 89-80, over NC State! YES! YES! YEEEAAAHHHH!!! UNC WINS THE ACC CHAMPIONSHIP!!!
You have to give a lot of credit to the NC State Wolfpack. They played out of their minds today. I don’t know how they kept their energy level throughout the game. Brandon Costner is certainly the Tournament’s most outstanding player. UNC did not play their best game, but they did enough down the stretch to win. In particular, Rayshawn Terry came up big late in the game, being the focal point of their offense and shutting down Gavin Grant on defense. Tyler Hansbrough scored 15 points in spite of only two made field goals, as he made all 11 of his free throws.
Again, I must emphasize the this Tar Heel team struggles when they don’t have the mental focus, but when they do, there may not be a better or deeper team in the country. The Tar Heels did just enough to win today, and now they can enjoy being the ACC champions. Now we’ll see later today what kind of draw they’ll get in the tournament.
And so ends the ACC Tournament. I had a lot of fun covering the whole event, and I’m definitely going to do it again next year. Again, many thanks to the Extrapolater for his help. I leave you with a new phrase that Cliff Ellis has for a three point shot: “From the Bonusphere.” He’s my new favorite analyst.