0-2 home start a 1st in its 92 years, color Carolina even bluer

Poor shooting, turnovers lowlights of upset losses to Hampton, Davidson

ACC notebook

November 23, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

And you thought Maryland's season-opening loss to then-unranked Arizona was disappointing.

Consider the plight of the North Carolina Tar Heels, who had left a huge stain on Tobacco Road before the season was a week old.

Losing to Hampton at the Dean Smith Center a week ago was bad enough. But at least Carolina fans could reflect on how Hampton and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference had made a name for themselves last March by knocking off second-seeded Iowa State in the NCAA tournament.

But after losing, 58-54, to visiting Davidson, a North Carolina school that seemingly had cream puff written all over it, the Tar Heels are chewing on the realization of starting a season 0-2 for the first time in 19 years. And until Davidson knocked them off, the Tar Heels had never in their 92 years started a year by losing their first two games at home.

Imagine the atmosphere in Chapel Hill. Imagine the rumblings coming from Carolina fans and alumni. Imagine what's going through the mind of second-year coach Matt Doherty.

"You can control a couple of things as a coach," Doherty said. "One is playing hard. The other is shot selection. Defensively, we did not play that hard [against Hampton], and that's disappointing. We're obviously not a great team right now. We've got some growing to do, and we're going to do it."

Signs of trouble were brewing before the season. Center Brendan Haywood and shooting guard Joe Forte went to the NBA, then point guard Ronald Curry and power forward Julius Peppers were lost to the football team. Curry and Peppers have been noncommittal about suiting up for one final basketball season. Peppers, a pass-rushing defensive end, could be a top-five NFL draft pick.

The point guard situation is in flux, with sophomores Brian Morrison and Adam Boone and freshman Melvin Scott (Southern High) vying for time. Much of the leadership must come from seniors Jason Capel and Kris Lang, who combined to shoot 7-for-28 against Davidson.

The Tar Heels have faced lots of zone defenses and shot terribly, hitting 30 percent and committing 20 turnovers against Davidson.

Who would have thought that when Indiana visits the Smith Center on Wednesday, the Tar Heels would be trying to avoid an 0-3 hole?

Perspective

Coach Paul Hewitt knew his Yellow Jackets would struggle this year, at least at the start. Georgia Tech has five freshman, four sophomores and just one senior, point guard Tony Akins.

The Yellow Jackets showed their youth in their 79-74 loss to Penn on Monday at the Las Vegas Invitational.

But Georgia Tech has been dealing with a harsh slice of real life since early preseason. That's when they discovered that Michael Isenhour, a senior backup center, has leukemia.

Hewitt said Isenhour has been progressing well.

"The doctors are pretty pleased. Michael is coming along well so far. Chemotherapy has gone well. But we're looking at a two-year process," Hewitt said. "Initially, it hit the kids hard. Mike is Tony Akins' best friend. All of the players made it to the hospital and saw Mike in great spirits."

Tell it like it is

Wake Forest senior forward Darius Songaila has new coach Skip Prosser pegged about right.

When asked to describe the difference between former Demon Deacons coach Dave Odom -- now at South Carolina -- and Prosser, Songaila said: "Coach Prosser is more straight up with you. He tells you straight out if he doesn't like the way you're playing."

Prosser was that way at Loyola College, and he remained that way at Xavier before joining the ACC last spring.

The Demon Deacons have enough talent to finish near the top of the ACC this year, especially if they embrace and execute Prosser's running, pressing style.

"Our team is learning a lot about one another and a whole new coaching staff. Every day is an adventure," Prosser said. "They're trying to learn a different system and a different terminology. It's not my system. It's stuff I've stolen from a lot of other people. We're not where we need to be. ... If you think we've caught on to it, stop by our gym."

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