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Comets clobber Martinsville 23-0

The pitchers are throwing strikes and the defense has been strong. And the offense has been fairly potent.





Sports Today / March 11, 2009
When North Carolina plays defense like this, they are really dangerous.

National title dangerous.

And even with the post-season awards presented to Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansbrough this week, Danny Green may emerge as a critical Tar Heel performer to watch in the postseason.

Green stepped up in Marcus Ginyard’s absence to provide critical defense, leadership and intangible value for a team that clearly has sufficient talent to win the national title. He had a critical three-pointer late in Carolina’s win, and is the kind of college basketball ‘graybeard’ to lead the Heels deep into the NCAA tournament.

Green’s defense on Duke’s Gerald Henderson proved to be the difference in Carolina’s 79-71 regular season sweep of Duke Sunday. UNC (27-3, 13-3 ACC) returned to the top of both national polls as the ACC men’s hoops tournament starts today in Atlanta, right where the smart money had the Heels in the preseason.

Carolina throttled the Blue Devils in the second half Sunday night, holding Duke to 32 percent field goal shooting, including 30 percent from three-point range.

Henderson, who had emerged to play at a higher level than ever in Duke’s recent resurgence, was all but irrelevant. He had 14 points, just six after halftime, and finished 4-for-11 on the night.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said, “G can play better.

But we’re fine with G.

“Green is a good defender, because he’s a little bit taller and he’s very strong.

“Green’s a heck of a player, I think Green had a lot to do with it. And they’re going to look to stop Gerald. There’s not going to be as many lanes and stuff like that. They had a well-conceived defensive plan to go against him,” said Kyzyzewski.

Roy Williams, explaining UNC’s defensive approach, said Henderson “is such a threat driving the ball to the basket. I thought we did a better job in the second half than we did the first half.”

Williams also used different late-game defensive look to keep Duke in front of the UNC defense.

“Gerald, at times, has been as good as anybody in the whole league, but we did a little better job cutting down his penetration in the second half. But he missed some shots, too,” said Williams.

Duke (25-6, 11-5 ACC) also got clobbered on the boards (37-22). The continuing irrelevance of Brian Zoubek and a less than 100 percent Lance

Thomas (three rebounds, two points combined) looms as a major issue for the Blue Devils moving forward into the postseason.

Sometimes inconsistent Jon Scheyer performed at a very high level (7-7 shooting, including three-for-three beyond the arc, five assists, four steals and no turnovers in 39 minutes), but it wasn’t enough as Hansbrough, Green and Co. celebrated Senior Night in Chapel Hill.

Now, can and will Carolina maintain this kind of consistency deep into the postseason? Some NCAA opponents won’t bring the focus that the darker shade of blue brings out in UNC.

ACC PREVIEW: Carolina, for a variety of reasons, is our pick to win the ACC automatic bid and claim the league’s no. 1 NCAA tournament seed, after cutting the nets Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

Wake Forest, the no. 2 seed, has the athleticism and overall talent, but neither the experience nor the courtside judgment to earn the title. Clemson has had an impressive season and could make the Sweet 16, but the Tigers have yet to show the overall consistency to make the kind of statement that marks them as ACC champions. Florida State (perhaps) has an outside chance, but the ‘Noles do not appear to have the complete basketball savvy to earn this ACC crown.

Duke, which got 24 points from Scheyer and 23 from Kyle Singler Sunday, can never be discounted because of Krzyzewski. However, the Blue Devils, who did not have Nolan Smith Sunday, appear once again to be a step short of the complete product needed to get the job done this weekend.

LAWSON ACC POY: Lawson is the 2009 Atlantic Coast Conference Men1s Basketball Player of the Year, the first point guard to win the award since UNC1s Phil Ford in 1978, according to a release.

Lawson leads the ACC in assists (6.5) and assist-error ratio (3.32 to 1), is tied for first in steals (2.10), is second in three-point field goal percentage (.467), fourth in field goal percentage (.538) and 12th in scoring (15.9 ppg). He is third nationally in assist-error and eighth in assists per game. Lawson scored in double figures in 23 of the last 25 games and has eight 20-point games.

A finalist for the Bob Cousy Award as the top collegiate point guard, Lawson1s assist-error ratio is the third-best in ACC single-season history.

He has 196 assists and only 59 turnovers and has committed one or fewer turnovers 12 times and two or fewer in 21 of 30 games.

Lawson is averaging 15.9 points and shooting 53.8 percent from the floor, 46.7 percent from three-point range and 80.9 percent from the free throw line. He has the same number of steals (59) and turnovers.

Lawson showed admirable fortitude Sunday and played well, despite being hampered by his toe injury.

Williams said the Tar Heel point guard “has gotten tougher. Physically and mentally, he’s more focused than he’s ever been. Last year, I kept on him, don’t forget your shot …. he can really shoot the basketball and when he makes 3s, he’s really difficult to guard. His understanding of the game is something I’ve been really proud of..

“Defensively, he doesn’t realize how effective he can be, and doesn’t maintain consistency as much. So, that’s one thing I keep after him on, but those other things that I’ve talked about all are extremely important to him, and he’s developed each and every day into more and more of a leader,” said Williams.

BY THE NUMBERS: Carolina won its 27th ACC regular-season championship and the 17th outright title with a 79-71 win over Duke … This was Carolina’s ninth season with at least 13 ACC regular-season wins, including the third time in the last five years under head coach Roy Williams…Carolina will be the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament for the fourth time in the last five years and the 22nd time overall. UNC has won a record 17 ACC Tournament titles.

QUOTEBOOK: Hansbrough, discussing his decision to remain in Chapel Hill, said, “With my family, education was a big factor, and especially my grandfather, he’s very old-fashioned, he’d rather see me get an education probably than play in the NBA.

“People miss out on the friendships they build in college, they last a lifetime. I’ll remember all the fun that I’ve had off the court, too, going to parties, jumping off frat houses, doing stupid stuff…”

AND THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE: Leonard Hamilton is ACC coach of the year, FSU’s Toney Douglas is defensive player of the year, and Virginia’s Sylven Landesberg is top rookie.

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