ACC Tournament roundup
Hodge pours in 31 as N.C. State upsets Wake ForestPosted: Saturday March 15, 2003 4:25 PM
Updated: Saturday March 15, 2003 10:34 PM
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina State just wanted one more chance against Wake Forest after a certain win over the Demon Decons slipped away last week.
The Wolfpack got it in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and made the most of the meeting, beating No. 9 Wake Forest 87-83 on Saturday to advance to the finals for the second straight season.
The win came exactly seven days after the Wolfpack blew an 11-point second-half lead in the regular-season finale and allowed Wake Forest star Josh Howard to shoot six free throws in the final 1.7 seconds to win the game.
"Last week's loss really struck us hard," said Julius Hodge, who scored a career-high 31 points Saturday. "It was like a rib shot to us and it really hurt."
The loss probably eliminated any chance the ninth-ranked Demon Deacons (24-5) had of earning a No. 1 seeding in the NCAA tournament.
Coming off its first outright ACC regular-season title in 41 years, Wake Forest was trying to win its first league tournament championship since Tim Duncan-led squads did it in 1995 and 1996.
"Maybe they were hungrier than we were," said Wake Forest guard Taron Downey, who scored 18 points. "But that's not an excuse. Either way, we'd much rather be playing tomorrow than watching them on TV."
But the Wolfpack (18-11) will be playing, instead -- back in the championship game for the second straight year and third time in coach Herb Sendek's seven seasons.
North Carolina State, which lost by 30 points to Duke in last year's final, will play Duke.
Howard was saddled with foul problems most of the game and had his second poor shooting night of the tournament. He had 21 points and 12 rebounds but scored just seven in the second half. He finished 6-of-21 from the floor and missed four of his five 3-point attempts.
"I just didn't hit some open shots that I had," Howard said. "That's it."
The Wolfpack, meanwhile, were on target from long range the entire second half. N.C. State made seven of eight 3-pointers in the second half and 10 of 19 overall.
Hodge made four from beyond the arc, as did Marcus Melvin (23 points). Josh Powell added 16 points for North Carolina State.
The game took a critical turn for Wake Forest with 33 seconds left in the first half when Howard, chasing the rebound off of his own miss, fell on top of Powell to draw his third foul.
Wake already had center Eric Williams on the bench for 15 minutes of the first half with three fouls, but coach Skip Prosser gambled by putting Howard back in the game right before he picked up that foul.
"I got greedy," Prosser said. "Would I do it again? Probably. We don't want to be the richest guy in the graveyard."
Howard seemed skittish to go inside at the start of the second half, attempting four long shots that were off the mark.
North Carolina State, meanwhile, was just warming up.
After closing the first half with consecutive 3-pointers from Melvin and Hodge to cut Wake Forest's lead to 37-33, they came out firing again.
The Wolfpack hit their first four shots -- 3-pointers by Melvin, Scooter Sherrill and Hodge, and a jumper from Clifford Crawford -- to take a 44-39 lead.
"To our good fortune, our guys were really ready to play," Sendek said. "At this time of the year, your best players have to be at their best and today we got terrific performances from a number of guys."
Things turned disastrous for Wake when Howard picked up his fourth foul with 10:31 to play when he reached in as Hodge sank a 3-pointer.
Although he waved off Prosser and tried to stay in the game, Howard went to the bench, and Hodge went to the free throw line.
Duke 75, North Carolina 63
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -- Somehow No. 12 Duke has turned a ragged end to the regular season into another ACC title opportunity.
The Blue Devils moved into position for a fifth straight Atlantic Coast Conference championship, getting 19 points from Daniel Ewing in a 75-63 victory over North Carolina in the tournament semifinals Saturday.
The Blue Devils (23-6) shot 61 percent in the first half to go up by 21 at the break after a three-point loss to the Tar Heels six days ago in Chapel Hill.
"We really want it," Duke captain Chris Duhon said. "We didn't win the regular-season title and we just think we're a better team that we showed for most of the year.
"Things are starting to get better for us and we feel better. We're realizing how good we can really be. Tomorrow is another step in us becoming an outstanding team."
Duke had lost two of three coming into the ACC postseason and was not picked as one of the favorites to walk away with the hardware this weekend. That's changed now with Wake Forest and Maryland bumped from the field.
"I don't think a lot of people expected us to be here, but we're going to keep doing the things we've been doing and hopefully we can get another win," Ewing said.
Ewing, coming off a career-high 32 points against Virginia in the quarterfinals, got 13 in the first half as the Blue Devils dominated from the start to win their 14th straight ACC tourney game.
No program has won more than three straight ACC titles in the league's first 49 years other than Duke, which last lost in the 1998 championship game to North Carolina.
Third-seeded Duke will play N.C. State in the championship Sunday in a rematch of last year, won by the Blue Devils 91-61. The fourth-seeded Wolfpack defeated No. 1 seed Wake Forest 87-83 earlier Saturday.
"I've told the guys to just get focused because everybody is going to be hungry in the title game," said senior Casey Sanders, who hasn't lost an ACC tourney game in his Duke career. "You can get tired as the tournament goes on so we have to buckle down."
Sean May returned to the North Carolina lineup for the first time since breaking his foot Dec. 27, but nothing could spark the Tar Heels (17-15).
"We didn't come out with the energy that we came out with the other night and they took advantage of that," Jawad Williams said. "It's very disappointing. I guess that's part of being a young team, you invest so much and you don't come out with the same energy that you should have to win another big game."
Duke snapped North Carolina's semifinal winning streak at 13 straight, dating to 1984, giving Mike Krzyzewski a shot at his eighth ACC crown.
"It's good to win in your own neighborhood, I like my neighborhood," Krzyzewski said of the ACC's strength. "If you have a chance to win a championship in this neighborhood then you're an elite program."
There were no major problems between the two archrivals on the heels of an altercation last Sunday that drew league reprimands for UNC coach Matt Doherty, Duke assistant Chris Collins and Andre Buckner, a reserve for the Blue Devils.
Although Duke assistant Johnny Dawkins refused to shake Doherty's hand before the game, he did after it ended.
North Carolina fell behind by double digits less than nine minutes in as Duke turned up its defensive pressure and was able to hit outside shots.
"They are a great shooting team," Doherty said. "When they shoot the ball like they did in the first half they are tough to beat."
The Blue Devils also got an early lift from Sanders, who was a prep star in Florida but has never fulfilled his potential at Duke. The senior had seven points, four rebounds and two blocked shots in the first half while drawing two charges.
The Tar Heels trailed 36-26 before Ewing hit a 3-pointer and a driving shot in the lane in a span of 32 seconds. He added another beyond the arc 2:20 later as Duke made 8-of-11 long-range shots in the period to go up 54-33 at the break.
North Carolina never threatened in the second half and lost its fourth straight tournament matchup with Duke.
Ewing has gone a combined 18-for-28 in the tourney, including 8-of-12 from 3-point range.
"I wouldn't say he's the final piece, but he's one of the main pieces that we were looking for," Duhon said of his fellow guard. "And it was just a simple thing for him to be assertive and not take a back seat to anybody. He's been doing it and I know he's going to be there tomorrow."
May didn't waste much time getting back into the offensive flow. He entered the game 51/2 minutes in to a standing ovation from the North Carolina section. Less than a minute later, the 6-foot-8 center had a pair of layups in a span of 41 seconds.
However, May wasn't the answer for a North Carolina team that was 7-3 with him and 10-11 without the freshman before Saturday.
Williams, who had 25 points in Friday's 84-72 upset win over No. 14 Maryland in the quarterfinals, didn't start for the Tar Heels after breaking a team rule, but missed just the opening 2:05.
Raymond Felton led the Tar Heels with 18 points, while Williams