Around the ACC: Week 9

After finishing second in the ACC's preseason poll, Virginia took a tumble this week after consecutive, road defeats. The Blue Zone takes a look at how the rest of the conference fared:

No. 5 North Carolina (15-2, 4-0): The fifth-ranked Tar Heels delivered another strong performance this weekend, beating Syracuse 84-73 at the Carrier Dome Saturday. Led by forward Isaiah Hicks—who scored a season-high 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds coming off the bench—North Carolina went on a late second-half run and spoiled Jim Boeheim’s return to the Orange's bench. Head coach Roy Williams’ team is the highest ranked team in the ACC and will seek its ninth consecutive win Saturday, when they host N.C. State

No. 20 Pittsburgh (14-1, 3-0): The Panthers have had an easy schedule so far this season, notching three consecutive conference wins against unranked teams and 10 straight wins since their lone defeat at the beginning of December. Despite the narrow margins of its two wins this week—89-84 against Georgia Tech Wednesday and 86-82 against Notre Dame three days later—Pittsburgh is gaining momentum and confidence behind forwards Michael Young and Jamel Artis, who have combined to average 33.5 points per game this season. Young and Artis will face a stiff test Thursday when their squad hits the road to take on Louisville.

No. 9 Duke (14-2, 3-0): It was expected that graduate student center Marshall Plumlee would step into a leadership position in the backline during senior Amile Jefferson’s absence but what was not expected was the impact he has had on the offensive end of the court. The Warsaw, Ind., native totaled 39 points this week, with a career-high 21 points in Duke’s 82-58 rout against Virginia Tech Saturday. Three days earlier, the big man finished with a highlight-reel of dunks and layups that helped Duke topple Wake Forest 91-75. Plumlee and the rest of Blue Devils will look to continue their winning ways, when they visit Clemson at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C. Wednesday.

No. 8 Miami (13-1, 2-0): After beating Syracuse in their ACC home-opener, the No. 12 Hurricanes had a full week to prepare their second conference game. The rest paid off and senior guard Sheldon McClellan’s 21 points led the way in the team's 72-59 win against Florida State Saturday. Guards Davon Reed and Ja’Quan Newton combined for 25 points and six assists and Miami held the Seminoles to just 35 percent shooting. The Hurricanes—who have won eight straight contests—will start the most challenging stretch of their conference schedule Tuesday against Virginia when they play the first of three consecutive road games.

Clemson (10-6, 3-1): Four Tigers scored in double-digits in their 66-62 upset win against Louisville Sunday. Forward Jaron Blossomgame—who averages 15.4 points per contest this season—almost notched a double-double against the Cardinals, scoring a game-high 17 points and grabbing nine rebounds in Clemson’s third consecutive win. The Tigers will have a chance to show they're for real in the coming weeks as Wednesday's game against Duke marks the beginning of four straight contests against ranked opponents.

No. 21 Louisville (13-3, 2-1): After starting ACC play by beating Wake Forest 65-57, the Cardinals won their second conference game Thursday when they defeated N.C. State 77-72 in Raleigh, N.C. Guard Quentin Snider stole the spotlight with his career-high 21 points coming off the bench on 7-of-11 shooting. But the sophomore could not repeat his standout scoring numbers Sunday, as he posted just nine points in his team’s defeat at the hands of Clemson. Louisville will take on its first ranked ACC foe of the season Thursday when they face No. 20 Pittsburgh.

Virginia Tech (10-6, 2-1): The Hokies were throttled on the road by Duke Saturday due to a cold-shooting performance from deep and a poor first-half performance. But early in the week, the team got arguably the best win during Buzz Williams' tenure as coach as they defeated then-No. 4 Virginia 70-68. Led by forward Zach LeDay—who averages 14.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game—the Hokies will have a chance to get back on track when they take on Wake Forest Wednesday, before facing Georgia Tech three days later.

Georgia Tech (11-5, 1-2): Forwards Quinton Stephens and Nick Jacobs, along with guard Adam Smith, each scored 16 points to propel the Yellow Jackets to a 68-64 upset against the Cavaliers. The Yellow Jackets' first conference victory was preceded by an 89-84 defeat on the road against Pittsburgh Wednesday, despite Smith’s eight 3-pointers and career-high 30 points. Smith and his teammates will try to capture their second conference win Wednesday when they visit Notre Dame.

No. 13 Virginia (12-3, 1-2): The 13th-ranked Cavaliers dropped their second straight contest on the road against an unranked conference rival Saturday against Georgia Tech. After a narrow upset loss against in-state foe Virginia Tech early in the week, Virginia found itself on the wrong side of the scoreboard again due to a sloppy first half, in which the Yellow Jackets jumped out to a 35-24 lead. Despite guard Malcolm Brogdon’s game-high 19 points, the Cavaliers shot only 4-of-18 from downtown and moved to 0-3 in road games. Things will get no easier for the Virginia as they host No. 8 Miami Tuesday, before traveling to Tallahassee to face Florida State this weekend.

Notre Dame (10-5, 1-2): Notre Dame had no trouble against Boston College Thursday after going on a 21-4 run in the first half to come away with an 82-54 victory. The five Fighting Irish starters scored in double-digits, with guard Demetrius Jackson hitting four triples. Jackson notched a game-high 26 points against Pittsburgh, with nine coming in the last five minutes of the contest, but the Fighting Irish came away empty-handed, as the Panthers remained unbeaten in conference play. Notre Dame plays Georgia Tech Wednesday before visiting the Blue Devils Saturday.

Wake Forest (10-5, 1-2): Despite the 16-point final deficit, Wake Forest gave the Blue Devils a run for their money Wednesday. The senior duo of Devin Thomas and Codi Miller-McIntyre combined for 41 points and 19 rebounds and foul trouble for Duke gave the Demon Deacons a late chance to mount a comeback. Thomas’ third straight double-double propelled the team to its first conference victory Sunday—a 77-74 win against N.C. State. Thomas has the opportunity to continue shining this week, as Wake Forest visits Virginia Tech Wednesday and hosts Syracuse three days later.

Boston College (7-8, 0-2): Boston College has had a rough start to conference play and were easily defeated by the Fighting Irish in their second conference game of the year. In the lopsided loss, center Dennis Clifford and guard Eli Carter notched 13 points apiece, but the team struggled to defend Notre Dame all game. The Eagles duo has two more chances to bring home the team's first conference win of the season this week as Boston College visits Syracuse Wednesday and Pittsburgh three days later.

Florida State (10-5, 0-3): Things are not looking good for Florida State in the early portion of conference play, as the team remains winless in the ACC. Guard Malik Beasley scored a team-high 13 points and corralled nine rebounds Saturday in the Seminoles loss to Miami. Florida State posted a season-low 59 points against Miami and knocked down only two of their 19 shots from long-range. Beasley—who has averaged 16.7 points per contest in his first season wearing the Florida State uniform—will try to turn the things around for his squad this week in games against N.C. State and Virginia.

N.C. State (10-6, 0-3): For the first time since 2006-07, head coach Mark Gottfried's Wolfpack are 0-3 in the ACC. In the 77-72 loss against the Cardinals Thursday, N.C. State managed to trim a 13-point deficit to just three with 16 seconds to play, but missed the opportunity to come any closer. Guard Anthony Barber’s game-high 26 points against the Demon Deacons were not enough Saturday as Wake Forest posted a 10-2 run early in the second half that proved to be insurmountable. Gottfried’s team and Florida State will battle Wednesday with the winner coming away with its first tally in the win column during conference play.

Syracuse (10-7, 0-4): If the Orange hope to make the tournament this season, things will have to change quickly. Due to NCAA violations, Boeheim was suspended for nine games until this weekend but his return did not alter the dynamics of a team that has a lot of improving to do on both ends of the court. Senior guard Trevor Cooney scored a season-high 27 points against the Tar Heels but also missed a potential game-winning basket earlier in the week against Clemson. Syracuse will look to avoid an 0-5 start with a win at home against Boston College Tuesday. 

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