Depth is serving N. Carolina well

Illness hits team, but Tar Heels still win impressively

ACC men's notebook

January 31, 2007|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun reporter

A stomach virus hit at least five North Carolina men's basketball players, but it hasn't stopped the young Tar Heels from remaining one of the top teams in the country.

Brandan Wright and Marcus Ginyard missed Saturday's 92-64 win at No. 20 Arizona - a game that seemed to separate No. 3 North Carolina from the rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference, despite the close race the league standings might indicate. It was Lute Olson's worst home loss in 24 seasons as Arizona's coach, and Carolina did it without Wright, the team's second-leading scorer and rebounder.

The Tar Heels, though, go 12 deep.

"I don't think anybody's better than Carolina right now in the country," Maryland coach Gary Williams said.

North Carolina (19-2, 5-1 ACC) has won four straight heading into tonight's 7 p.m. ESPN-televised game against visiting Miami. Still, Carolina is just one of five ACC teams with no more than two league losses. UNC has the No. 2 scoring offense in the country (87.8 points per game) and the best rebounding margin (10.1). The Tar Heels are also No. 3 in the country with 19.3 assists per game.

UNC coach Roy Williams said he couldn't compare this season's squad to the national championship team of 2005.

"This team is very gifted, but, boy, that team was gifted and had great experience also," he said. "I've always felt the easiest way to be great is to have experienced talent. This team has nowhere near the experience that team does, but we are gifted."

As for what the Tar Heels' win over Arizona meant to the rest of the ACC, a conference that felt it was slighted last year on Selection Sunday?

Not much, according to Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt.

"People nationally look at our league as being basically Duke and Carolina - everybody else are also-rans," Hewitt said. "We know that's not the truth.

"Often our league is short-changed because those guys are so good, they're so well-coached and they recruit so well that if we beat them, we hear they're down, like I've been hearing all year about Duke - which is very laughable," he said. "And then if they beat us, then they're like, well, the league isn't very good."

Sliding Tigers

Maryland started it. Now Clemson is trying to stop it.

The Tigers began this season with a 17-game winning streak - an accomplishment that has since been overtaken by the most recent trend, losing four of their past five games. It's a downward spiral that began at Maryland on Jan. 13, when the Terps upended what was then the last unbeaten Division I team.

Now, Clemson is 4-4 in the ACC heading into a 1 p.m. game Saturday at Georgia Tech. Coach Oliver Purnell called his team's back-to-back losses to Duke and Virginia a "couple of body blows."

"I think our players will be able to understand the league we play in and understand that if you don't play your best basketball, you're going to get bopped," he said. "And if we do play our best basketball, we're going to bop some people."

Setback for McClure

Duke sophomore forward David McClure is doubtful for tomorrow's 9 p.m. game at Virginia after he hyperextended his left knee during a collision late against Boston College on Sunday.

Results from a magnetic resonance imaging showed no structural damage to his knee, which was surgically repaired in 2005 to correct a more serious injury, according to the athletic department. McClure, who missed the 2005-06 season because of the surgery, is averaging 5.3 points and 5.2 rebounds this season. He is shooting 56 percent from the field and averaging 21.9 minutes off the bench.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he anticipates McClure will make the trip to Charlottesville, "no matter what."

"It doesn't look like serious damage," Krzyzewski said. "I'm not sure if he'll be ready to play this week, but we don't think it will be long term. It's good news it wasn't something permanent.

"We don't try to hide anything or whatever," Krzyzewski said. "If the kid's going to play, we'll let you know, and if he's not, we'll let you know that, too, well in advance."

Atsur's return

After missing 12 of 13 games with a hamstring injury, North Carolina State senior point guard Engin Atsur returned to the lineup last Wednesday in a loss to Virginia, but was playing at "probably 50 percent," coach Sidney Lowe said.

"The mere fact that he was out there and he wanted to play and be out there with his teammates, that says a lot about him," Lowe said. "A 50 percent Engin is better sometimes than a 100 percent of some other players. I was glad to have him out there and be able to at least control things, get the ball down the floor and get us into our offense."

Lowe said he hopes Atsur is healthier for today's 9 p.m. game at Virginia Tech.

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

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