It was a big weekend in ACC men’s basketball with the headliner obviously being that overtime thriller in the Carrier Dome. While the entire sports weekend was overshadowed by Super Bowl XLVIII, it was a weekend in ACC hoops that we could really look back at come season’s end. Reviewing a big weekend of ACC basketball, here were the winners and losers:
Duke and Syracuse
Though Syracuse eventually got the better of the Blue Devils in overtime, 91-89, Saturday’s contest at the Carrier Dome was great for the ACC. In a game that went back and forth, there was no shortage of drama as Rasheed Sulaimon’s three-pointer at the buzzer forced overtime for Duke. When all was said and done however, it was Syracuse forward C.J. Fair’s career-high 28 points that delivered the host Orange in front of the largest on-campus crowd ever to watch a basketball game. For any who may have had doubts, Saturday’s contest of ranked teams should serve as proof that this expanded ACC will work out just fine.
After a 1-4 start in ACC play, North Carolina has won three straight games by a combined 46 points to get to an even .500 in conference play. Against a N.C. State team that had won three straight, the Tar Heels took control of the game early before running away with an 84-70 victory on Saturday. Leslie McDonald scored a team-high 20 points while forward James Michael McAdoo finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Don’t look now, but here come the Tar Heels.
After dropping consecutive ACC games by a combined 52 points, Clemson headed to Tallahassee on Saturday to face a Florida State team that had held the Tigers to a season-low 41 points in the first meeting. At the Donald L. Tucker Center, the Clemson defense returned the favor by holding FSU to 34 percent shooting and just one made three-pointer. Guard K.J. McDaniels had an afternoon to remember finishing with 26 points, 7 boards and 3 blocks in the 53-49 victory. With the win, Clemson also remained in sole possession of fifth place in the ACC at 5-3 in conference.
Despite a 7-1 conference record entering Sunday, Virgina still had its fair share of doubters. At 18th-ranked Pittsburgh on Sunday, the Cavaliers were able to grind out their most impressive road victory of the season. Guard Malcolm Brogdon finished with a game-high 16 points and his three-pointer with under a second to play delivered the Cavaliers to a 48-45 win. Thanks to Sunday’s fantastic finish, Virginia remains just a half game back of now top-ranked Syracuse for the conference lead in the ACC.
Florida State returned home on Saturday after playing four of its previous five games on the road. Coming off back-to-back losses, Florida State needed a win over a Clemson squad it beat earlier in the season by 15 points on the road. Instead, the Seminoles laid a huge egg shooting just 34 percent from the field. FSU also failed to record a single block and didn’t make a three-pointer until the game’s final minutes. After a 3-1 start to ACC play, FSU has now dropped four of its last five games to fall below .500 in conference.
A team squarely on the NCAA bubble, Wake Forest didn’t have a single bad loss to its name. That was, until Saturday. At home against a Georgia Tech team that was just 2-6 in league play and hovering just a game over .500 overall, Wake Forest was defeated 79-70. Despite a big day from Travis McKie, the Demon Deacons were woeful on defense. Georgia Tech shot 49 percent from the field and grabbed 10 offensive rebounds in the win. Forward Marcus Georges-Hunt also couldn’t be contained for the Yellow Jackets as he finished with 23 points before fouling out. With four of its next five games on the road, losing to Georgia Tech on Saturday was something that Wake Forest simply could not allow to happen.
After a loss by Duke on Saturday, Pittsburgh was at home on Sunday with a chance to move into a tie for second place in the ACC. Despite shooting just 32 percent for the game, Pitt was even with Virginia with just seconds remaining before Malcolm Brogdon knocked home the game-winning trey for the Cavaliers. After a 4-0 conference start in its first season as a member of the ACC, the Panthers have lost three of their last five games including the last two at home.