The conference season continues to blossom as we get closer and closer to the conference tournament which stands just three weeks away. There was not a ton of basketball played this week throughout the ACC, but the games that took place emitted many interesting storylines. Here’s the recap of the week that was across the conference.
Notre Dame Stays Hot, Beats Clemson in a Shootout
Fresh off of a win over then-ranked #2 North Carolina last Saturday night, Notre Dame went on the road to battle Clemson, who has played (at times) some of the best defense in the entire ACC. However, it was evident from the jump that the Irish were not going to let Clemson’s defense that was ranked 22nd nationally, slow down their offense, which is first in the country in efficiency.
All five Notre Dame starters finished in double figures, with senior forward Zach Auguste leading the way with 19 points and eight rebounds. Clemson junior wing Jaron Blossomgame did his best to keep the Tigers in it (30 points, 6 rebounds), but at the end it still wasn’t enough to earn the home victory. The Irish moved to 17-7 (8-4 ACC) with their 89-83 victory over Clemson (14-10, 7-5 ACC).
Up Next for Notre Dame: Vs. #13 Louisville, Saturday 4 PM ET.
Up Next for Clemson: Vs. Georgia Tech, Saturday 2 PM ET.
Duke Earns First Win Over Ranked Opponent, Outlasts #13 Louisville
Ever since losing senior forward Amile Jefferson about a month and a half ago, Duke has struggled mightily at times in rebounding and interior defense. These two aspects of the half court game are a big reason why Duke is unranked and has battled with a multitude of issues throughout the bulk of their conference schedule. Monday night against #13 Louisville, with the Cardinals entering a road game with nothing left to play for except pride after their postseason ban, seemed like the perfect opportunity for Duke to earn a signature win to inch them closer to an NCAA Tournament bid.
The Blue Devils (18-6, 7-4 ACC) suffocated the Louisville offense from beyond the arc, where the Cardinals shot 29% for the game (5-17). Duke also played Louisville even on the boards (Duke 33 Louisville 32), and got an outstanding effort on both ends of the floor from freshman wing Brandon Ingram, who finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds in the 72-65 victory over the Cardinals (19-5, 8-3). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Duke is a very different team when Ingram puts his best foot forward on the glass and gives a more than pedestrian effort in that category.
In the win, Grayson Allen also contributed 19 points and a flagrant foul on a tripping call that will live in infamy for the Blue Devils, as writers across the country anointed him as the next universally hated Duke player after the game. All in all, an impressive win in a year where Duke has struggled much more than we have been accustomed to seeing. They will be a dangerous team come March if Jefferson returns to the fold and these young guys continue to develop and show up in big games at Cameron Indoor down the stretch.
Up Next for Duke: Vs. #7 UVa, Saturday 4:30 PM ET
Up Next for Louisville: At Notre Dame, Saturday 4 PM ET
#9 North Carolina Survives Scare From Pitiful Boston College
I can truthfully say that I have not seen a basketball team from a major conference play as poorly as Boston College has this season. As a whole, the team has been an absolute joke overall, but at least they have played with effort.
It’s not all their fault. I mean let’s face it, they are playing a team full of freshmen night in and night out in one of the best basketball conferences in the nation. Growing pains are to be expected, but the hope was that they would at least snag one conference victory, so why not make it against a top 10 team?
The Eagles (7-17, 0-11 ACC) came oh so close to their first conference victory of the season, but ultimately fell to #9 North Carolina Tar Heels (20-4, 9-2 ACC), 68-65 in Chesnut Hill. BC guard Eli Carter exploded with 26 points and 4 assists, largely leading the offensive effort for the Eagles, which has struggled at times this season to stay consistent enough to compete. North Carolina was held to an uncharacteristic 5-16 effort from three, and committed 13 turnovers in the contest.
Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson were both benched at the start of the game for the Tar Heels after their less-than-stellar efforts against Notre Dame, with Jackson responding the strongest in the victory over BC, as he finished with a team-high 20 points and nine rebounds off the bench. Jackson was huge down the stretch, guiding the ‘Heels in their late game-winning run with head coach Roy Williams watching from the locker room after battling vertigo earlier in the contest on the bench. Crisis averted for the Tar Heels, as they avoided their third straight loss and showed some semblance of righting the ship in crunch-time.
Up Next for Boston College: Vs. Syracuse, Sunday 1 PM ET
Up Next for North Carolina: Vs. Pittsburgh, Sunday 1 PM ET
#12 Miami Edges Pittsburgh Thanks to Late Basket From Angel Rodriguez
Miami continues to find ways to win, and their home game against a feisty Pittsburgh squad on Monday night was no different. The Hurricanes (19-4, 8-3 ACC) outlasted the Panthers (17-6, 6-5 ACC), 65-63 on a late tip-in from senior guard Angel Rodriguez.
Miami trailed by as many as eight points in the first half, but battled back in the second frame with an extremely gritty defensive effort. The Panthers were held to a 3-13 effort from three point land, but shot a respectable 44% from the floor overall. Ryan Luther and Michael Young both finished with 12 points each for Pittsburgh in the loss, as no other player scored more than eight.
For Miami, Angel Rodriguez was a force down the stretch, and seemingly gave the Panthers problems all night long, ending the game with a game-high 17 points and eight assists. The Hurricanes are slowly emerging as my favorite to win the ACC, as they have now won six out of their last seven games and have been the most consistent team in the conference on both ends of the floor in the last three weeks.
Up Next for Miami: At Florida State, Sunday 6:30 PM ET
Up Next for Pittsburgh: Vs. Wake Forest, Tuesday 7 PM ET