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NCCU Senior Night 2022

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North Carolina Central University hosted South Carolina State University for Senior Night and Greek Night. Durham, NC. March 3, 2022.

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Gracious K – raw emotions

Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski was very gracious in complimenting UNC’s performance in their win on Saturday. Krzyzewski spoke of the preparedness of the UNC team, defense, Armando Bacot, and Carolina’s overall play throughout the game. Outside of the comments about his team’s performance and outcome being “unacceptable,” Krzyzewski was composed throughout the emotional postgame ceremony. Like Duke fans, he wanted to win this one. Badly! His hail to the crowd to be quiet while he made the impromptu “unacceptable” comments, followed by the touching acknowledgment of his family, then the gracious post-game press conference gave a glimpse of all of the characters known as Coach K. Unyielding competitor, loving family man, and world class public relations expert. Krzyzewski can make you dislike him for his comments one minute, then admire him for his passion for Duke and show of love and emotions for his wife and family a few minutes later.

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UNC over Duke in thrilling 94-81 win

For many years, ABC opened with the “Thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!” So goes the North Carolina-Duke basketball rivalry! One month ago, Duke embarrassed North Carolina with a 20-point win in Chapel Hill. Today UNC returned the favor and delivered a win that will forever live in the minds of Duke loyalists and be celebrated by those that pull for the Tarheels.

North Carolina showed the poise and grit that has been building over the season and intensified after the loss to Duke, going 7-1 and winning five in a row to close the regular season.

UNC showed improved play in every aspect of the game from its first meeting with Duke. Statistically, the game was mostly even, but North Carolina had a stronger second half and played with more poise with only five turnovers for the game. Brady Manek with 20 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and RJ Davis with 21 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assist, played every minute of the game. Armando Bacot played through first-half foul trouble to finish with 23 points on 10-11 shooting, 7 steals, and 2 blocked shots, likely locking up conference player of the year honors. Caleb Love delivered another strong second half and finished with 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists and went 12-12 from the free throw line. Leaky Black chipped in with 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists while delivering another strong defensive performance that should strengthen the conversation for his consideration for defensive player of the year honors.

AJ Griffin was held to 2-5 shooting and only scored 5 points, after torching UNC for 27 points in the first meeting. Paolo Banchero needed 26 shots to score 23 points, but only managed to score 8 points in the second half. Four turnovers neutralized Banchero’s 5 assists. Mark Williams finished with 16 points on 8-11 shooting and 13 rebounds while Jeremy Roach was 5-6 from the floor and 4-4 from the line for 15 points. Trevor Keels delivered 12 points and 3 rebounds.

UNC finishes the regular season at 23-8 (15-5) in conference play. Duke falls to 26-5 (16-4). Both teams have a double bye in the conference tournament and will play on Thursday with no chance of meeting again unless both make the conference final on Saturday.

Hubert Davis has tried to make this season about his players but has already secured a memorable place among coaches in the North Carolina-Duke rivalry. “Instant classic” is overused, but how else can we rate this game? The best rivalry in college sports continues to grow and will live in the minds of both teams forever. Until they meet again, UNC will remember the thrill of this victory. Duke will be haunted by the agony of the defeat.

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UNC exceeding expectations

Twenty-four hours later and recapping Monday’s game still brings smiles: UNC 88 – Syracuse 79 in overtime! That was interesting and entertaining! Surviving the junk (zone) defense that Syracuse plays and 36 points from Cole Swider acting as a tournament bid dream killer was big for the Tarheels. Some might want to throw out the stats and move on but remember the 21 assists on 29 made baskets. Moving the ball works! Remember the 44 rebounds. Hustle made it happen! Brady Manek led UNC with 22 points on 9-18 shooting in 43 minutes of action. Caleb Love contributed 21 points on a night when his shooting was off until he lit up the scoreboard near the end of the regular period, then helped put the game away in overtime with two 3-pointers and an and-1. RJ Davis added 17 points, shooting 5-11 from three, while Amando Bacot gave his usual double-double with 17 points and 18 rebounds. Add Leaky Black’s 8 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists and Puff Johnson’s defense and energy over 15 minutes of play and you have a happy but tired team that’s ready for a day off!

This North Carolina team has accomplished a lot during what seems like an up and down season with inconsistent play. Pile on criticism by fans and media that questioned everything from who was hired as coach, to defensive effort and understanding what it means to wear Carolina Blue, and you have a team with a reputation that may not represent how well they have actually performed. True, we cannot ignore the losses. Every loss was bad! I watched all eight! Like many fans, I was also frustrated at some point during every win and just as annoyed by media coverage and the more than deserved airtime given to the likes of Jerry Palm and his attempts at humor in describing the ACC as “Duke and the 14 dwarfs.”

UNC has managed to win 22 games, scored 78.1 points per game, made 255 three-point baskets, averaged 76.6% while making more free throws than its opponents have attempted, outrebounded opponents by 8 per game, and had more assists, more steals, and more blocks than opponents. Plus, this team has never lost more than two games in a row and have had win streaks of 3-5-2-2-4-2 and 4 games. Yes, this team has some concerns, but maybe we gave up before giving them time to develop. Perhaps it’s time to be more patient. Trust the process and watch this team as they continue to exceed expectations.

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NET no measure of excitement – Florida State tops Virginia

Florida State battled back from eight points down with 5:38 to play for a 64-63 win at Virginia. Armaan Franklin made one of two free throws to put Virginia ahead by two points with 14 seconds left. Matthew Cleveland rebounded Franklin’s missed free throw, then scored 7 seconds later to tie the game at 61. Franklin felt some redemption after getting the inbound pass, dribbling down court, and scoring to put Virginia up by two with less than one second showing on the clock when the ball cleared the net. After a quick review of the time, officials added .6 seconds, giving Florida State one second to make a miracle play. Harriston Prieto inbounded the ball by moving down the baseline to his left and floating a pass over halfcourt to Cleveland who turned as he caught the ball and put up a 3-pointer for the win! The ACC may be down in the NET rankings and only have one team ranked in the top 25 of most national polls, but conference play has been as entertaining as any in the country!

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Ten takes on UNC win

1 – UNC 84 – NC State 74. They did what they had to do and move to 21-8 overall 13-5 in conference play.

2 – Armando Bacot was super with 28 points and 18 rebounds. Just work to avoid the touch fouls and stay in the game.

3 – Brady Manek continues to give solid play. Improved defense and rebounding are very noticeable.

4 – Puff Johnson had a career game with 16 points and 5 rebounds while filling in for the Leaky Black who left the game before halftime with a knee sprain and did not play in the second half.

5 – RJ Davis had a quiet, controlled offensive game while playing great defense.

6 – Caleb Love added 16 points and played a good defensive game but continues to turn the ball over at a high rate and continues to make questionable decisions on the offensive end.

7 – Winning by 10 is great. Not scoring in the last 2:07 and allowing NC State to score the last 9 points of the game is concerning.

8 – Key to next game for UNC: Be happy with this win, stay on the game plan, be smarter with fouls and decision making. Don’t look ahead. Remember that the next game is not important until after you win this game.

9 – Avoiding history – NC State needs to win one of their last two games to avoid being the first team in school history to lose 20 conference games.

10 – Any team can win it. As of this post, two games separate the top four teams in the conference with one week to go in the regular season.

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Maryland wins thrilling finish over Indiana

#10 ranked Indiana University’s Women’s Basketball team topped #14 University of Maryland for the first time ever when the teams met earlier this season in Bloomington. That 70-63 overtime win helped then #6 Indiana secure its place near the top of the Big 10. Both teams entered Friday’s game with a losing streak with Maryland winning 8 in a row before its loss at #9 Michigan on Sunday, and Indiana on a 2-game losing streak. Even though they only outscored Indiana in the first quarter of the game, Maryland seemed to be in command and responded with a score or defensive heroics every time Indiana moved closer. But Maryland’s 7th turnover in the 4th quarter added more drama when they failed to advance the ball out of the backcourt before the clock expired, giving Indiana the chance to get closer. Though she had missed all of her previous shots, graduate point guard Nicole Cardano-Hillary stepped back to hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to pull Indiana within one at 65-64 with 35 seconds to go. Then, Maryland graduate point guard Katie Benzan drove and scored on a floater with 11.8 seconds left. Maryland stepped up with defense to close the game as sophomore power forward Angel Reese pressured Cardano-Hillary into a missed shot on a 3-point attempt as time expired. Maryland’s win secured a top 4 conference finish, guaranteeing a double bye for the conference tournament. Indiana finishes 5th and will start tournament play a day earlier.

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Ridiculous notions about race

Some things are harder to figure out. The ridiculous notion that Carron J. Phillips makes in his Deadspin article on Tuesday (2-22-2022) is not.

1 – Phillips rightly points out that Juwan Howard also got into a “fiery” exchange with former Maryland coach Mark Turgeon in last year’s Big Ten Tournament but is being disingenuous in relating Howard’s punishment for his latest behavior to Black men in leadership positions not getting as much leeway as their white counterparts. Most men in leadership positions do not punch competitors on national television. This action does not fit the same narrative of a person of color not having as much room for error in their job performance.

2 – Creighton, Wichita State, and Gonzaga have nothing to do with this incident. There is no way this should be looped in with Greg McDermott’s racist behavior, Gregg Marshall’s senseless actions, or Mark Few driving under the influence, but feel free to debate why only one of the three is out of a job!

3 – While black assistant coaches were fined, jailed, suspended and fired during recent FBI investigations into college basketball, Rick Pitino and Sean Miller did lose their jobs, and Will Wade should have been dismissed as well. This too is unrelated to a coach throwing a punch at another team’s assistant.

4 – To say punishments are absurd, but not accurately explain the context of what lead to the punishments leaves out the real story. We should expect more from our leaders. No matter their race or ethnic background. We can’t say a suspension is just in one sentence, then play the race card to end the paragraph.

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CIAA Tournament – 76 years

The CIAA kicks of its 76th basketball tournament in Baltimore this week. The CIAA Basketball Tournament has an interesting beginning and unique history. It was first held in 1946, eight years before the first ACC Tournament, and has been an economic engine powered by alumni and a family reunion type atmosphere from the beginning. Though the tournament has moved between Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina over the years, it has always been well-attended, and provides an enviable example of corporate sponsorship.

All games are being played at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, MD, and can be seen live on ESPN+.

CIAA Tournament Schedule

First Round

Men

Game 1: (8) Virginia State vs. (9) Claflin University, 6:40 p.m. Tuesday

Game 2: (7) Elizabeth City State vs. (10) Bowie State, 8:50 p.m. Tuesday

Game 3: (6) Shaw University vs. (11) St. Augustine’s University, 10 a.m. Wednesday

Game 4: (5) Livingstone College vs. (12) Johnson C. Smith University, 12:10 p.m. Wednesday

Women

Game 1: (5) Fayetteville State vs. (12) Livingstone College, 10 a.m. Tuesday

Game 2: (7) Virginia Union vs. (10) Claflin University, 12:10 p.m. Tuesday

Game 3: (8) Winston-Salem State vs. (9) St. Augustine’s University, 2:20 p.m. Tuesday

Game 4: (11) Virginia State vs. (6) Shaw University, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday

Second Round

Men

Game 5: (1) Fayetteville State University vs. Virginia State/Claflin, 6:40 p.m. Wednesday

Game 6: (2) Virginia Union University vs. ECSU/Bowie State, 8:50 p.m. Wednesday

Game 7: (3) Winston-Salem State University vs. Shaw/St. Augustine’s, 8 p.m. Thursday

Game 8: (4) Lincoln (Pa.) vs. Livingstone/Johnson C. Smith, 6 p.m. Thursday

Women

Game 5: (2) Elizabeth City State University vs. Claflin/Virginia Union, 2:30 p.m., Wednesday

Game 6: (1) Lincoln University vs. Winston Salem State/St. Augustine’s, 4:30 p.m. Wednesday

Game 7: (4) Johnson C. Smith University vs. Fayetteville State/Livingstone, noon Thursday

Game 8: (3) Bowie State vs. Shaw/Virginia State, 2 p.m. Thursday

Semifinals

Men

Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 6 p.m. Friday

Game 10: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 winner, 8 p.m. Friday

Women

Game 9: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 winner, 12 p.m. Friday

Game 10: Game 5 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 2 p.m. Friday

Championship

Women: 1 p.m. Saturday

Men: 4 p.m. Saturday