Monthly Archives: November 2010

Vanderbilt hands Tarheels second loss of the weekend

Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Festus Ezeli threw back his head and let out a big "Yeeeah!!!" that could be heard from the island to Nashville, Tenn.

Call Vanderbilt's win an upset because of North Carolina's inflated ranking — just don't tell coach Kevin Stallings.

"Everyone's up in arms when Carolina loses," Stallings said. "Our team's not bad."

The Commodores (3-1) beat a top-10 team for the first time since knocking off No. 1 Tennessee on Feb. 26, 2008.

The few hundred Vanderbilt fans who made the trip to Puerto Rico serenaded the Tar Heels (2-2) with chants of "Overrated!" For this year's Tar Heels, they may be right.

Coach Roy Williams insisted after losing to Minnesota on Friday that he didn't think anymore about last year's 17-loss debacle. He'll now be forced to answer more questions about the Carolina blue sky falling again.

"I don't feel anything like I felt last year," Williams said. "That's what I truly feel. That's what I can tell you."

Tyler Zeller had 20 points and 10 rebounds for North Carolina, and freshman Harrison Barnes rebounded from a poor performance to score 11.

"I believe it's better than last year," Zeller said. "It's something we've got to be able to change. I think we always wanted to win last year. I don't know if we were the smartest team at the end of the games last year. I think we're a lot smarter this year."

Outside of Zeller, the Tar Heels had no offensive threat inside or out. He made seven baskets, and no one else made more than four.

That wasn't a problem for the Commodores. Taylor and Ezeli were tough inside, with 16 rebounds and three blocked shots between them. Jenkins did his work from the free-throw line with a 10-for-12 effort that first built the lead, then helped Vanderbilt keep it for the win. The Commodores bounced back after losing in the final seconds to West Virginia on Friday.

When Ezeli subbed out in the final seconds, he ran to the bench and let out his scream.

"I just played my game," said Ezeli, who grabbed nine rebounds. "I'm big, I'm strong and Coach tells me to just use that to my advantage. Stop fouling so much. That's what I did."

The Tar Heels had made a last gasp effort for the win when they got the ball inside to Zeller, who got the basket and the foul. Vanderbilt forward Andre Walker fouled out on the play and Zeller made the free throw to make it 59-57.

It wasn't enough.

Vanderbilt fattened the lead from the free-throw line and Taylor slid down the baseline for a bank-layup and a 65-58 lead. Lance Goulbourne slammed home a 3-point miss for a seven-point lead with 1:20 left.

That was all for North Carolina.

"What I'm looking for is five guys that play together as one," Williams said.

After trailing by 10 at the break, the Tar Heels started the second half in attack mode and trimmed the deficit to one. Ezeli pushed them back with a sweet spin move in the paint for a three-point play that got the lead back to four.

The Tar Heels wasted several chances to score off turnovers — they got nothing off a Zeller blocked shot or a Leslie McDonald steal at midcourt — that could have inched them closer to the lead or put them ahead.

Try as they could, the Commodores couldn't hold down the charging Tar Heels completely.

Brad Tinsley was whistled for an intentional offensive foul for clocking McDonald in the face. When the refs went to check a replay, Stallings called his team over and basically told them to snap out of it.

"That's what we're waiting for! We're just waiting for the next bad thing to happen!"

They didn't wait long.

McDonald made one of his two free throws, then hit a jumper off his own offensive rebound for a 48-47 lead.

The Commodores got sloppy and Carolina pounced. Zeller dunked off Vanderbilt's 20th turnover of the game — and there was still 10 minutes left to play.

Ten minutes was plenty of time for Vanderbilt.

The Commodores went ahead on free throws and Ezeli dunked like he wanted to destroy the rim for a 57-51 lead.

It was an emotional win for Stallings, who was an assistant for Williams at Kansas from 1989-1993 when the Jayhawks went to two Final Fours.

"I'm very, very happy for my team, but, this [win] feels not as good as the rest of them in a way for me personally," Stallings said.

Barnes, who went 0 for 12 against Minnesota, wasted no time scoring in this one, hitting a jumper on the first possession of the game. Barnes, a preseason All-America team pick as a freshman, scored 19 points in the first half against Hofstra on Thursday and hadn't made a bucket again.

Barnes was stuffed by Taylor on a one-handed baseline dunk early in the game. It was the first sign that Vanderbilt was going to be tough under the basket. They wouldn't give the Tar Heels any room underneath, blocking four shots and grabbing 13 defensive rebounds.

Led by Taylor and Jenkins (17 points), the Commodores shot 64 percent (14 of 22) in the first half.

"I felt we could win the tournament when we came down here," Stallings said. "We could have at least been playing for a championship."

Instead, a sparkling win over the Tar Heels will have to do.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

Wolfpack youth no match for experienced Hoyas

Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Georgetown coach John Thompson III hopes his Hoyas (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP) leave with more than the Charleston Classic championship trophy they won Sunday night.

"This whole experience, I think we can build upon," Thompson said after Georgetown's 82-67 victory over North Carolina State.

The Hoyas used a 15-0 second-half run to take control and improve to 5-0 for the second straight season. Hollis Thompson had 18 points and Chris Wright 17 for Georgetown.

"When league play starts, you have to come prepared every night," Thompson continued. "We're going to play good teams every night and we have to mentally, physically, emotionally be honed in and focused like we were in the second half tonight."

The Hoyas and Wolfpack hadn't played since the 1989 NCAA round of 16 when Thompson's father, Georgetown national championship icon John Thompson, outlasted North Carolina State and the late Jim Valvano 69-61 to advance.

For a half, this one looked every bit as vibrant as that NCAA matchup as the Wolfpack's young lineup went toe-to-toe with their more experienced opponents.

In the second half, Georgetown showed another dimension and powered its way to the tournament crown.

"This just shows that any night we can fight adversity," said Wright, selected the tournament's MVP.

Trailing 44-42, Big East preseason player of the year Austin Freeman started Georgetown's surge with a one-handed power jam. Henry Sims followed with a bucket to give the Hoyas the lead for good. Wright hit a jumper and Thompson and Jason Clark connected on 3-pointers to put the Hoyas ahead 57-44.

Reserve Richard Howell scored 14 points for North Carolina State (3-1), which was trying for its third in-season tournament crown in four years.

Freeman finished with 15 points and Clark had 14.

Georgetown came into the final after displaying depth, versatility, power and long-range accuracy earlier in the tournament.

The Hoyas hit 14 3-pointers in topping Coastal Carolina in Thursday's opener, then hung tough against pesky Wofford on Friday to move into the championship.

Against North Carolina State, the Hoyas were forced to call on patience and poise to handle the precocious Wolfpack.

"They beat us," North Carolina State coach Sidney Lowe said. "They took advantage of their experience."

Lowe again started two freshmen and two sophomores with forward Tracy Smith out for a few weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery this weekend.

Lowe acknowledge that Smith, a 6-foot-8 senior, could've helped settle his younger teammates during Georgetown's charge.

It looked at first as if North Carolina State's newbies might be OK.

They pushed the pace to lead 5-0 and 15-9 early on. Gradually, Georgetown's experience kicked in. Thompson hit a 3-pointer and Julian Vaughn an easy inside bucket to tie the game at 18.

The Wolfpack again went up 26-22 on a layup by speedy freshman Lorenzo Brown and a tip-in by Howell.

But 3s by Hoya veterans Clark and Wright tied it once again.

North Carolina State shook off the loss of Smith — he returned to campus after injuring his knee in Thursday's game — and blew past East Carolina and George Mason by double-digit margins.

But when pressed, the Wolfpack's young players couldn't maintain their composure. They rushed shots and, while they ran with abandon, did not play with direction.

C.J. Leslie, a freshman who keyed North Carolina State's first two wins, had only 2 points after halftime.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press