N.C. State eked out a win to at least temporarily take the heat off Sidney Lowe. Duke had a new scorer emerge, and Florida State made a case for itself as the second-best team in the ACC.
These were the headlines from an eventful weekend in the ACC:
1. Richard Howell needs to play more for N.C. State.
The sophomore forward scored a team-high 17 points in 27 minutes after entering the starting lineup for C.J. Leslie, who was ill.
Coach Sidney Lowe said 10 days ago that Howell was the top player in the Wolfpack’s plus-minus ratings. After Howell’s performance in Sunday’s 72-70 win over Miami, Lowe may have found himself a key to stringing together some wins.
The question is, how will Lowe fit talented freshman Leslie into the rotation if Howell plays more?
2. After going 4-for-4 from the field for 11 points on Wednesday against N.C. State, Duke sophomore forward Ryan Kelly was 6-for-6 from the field with 20 points Saturday at Wake Forest.
Kelly already was doing a lot of the little things right – defending, rebounding and spacing properly in Duke’s offense. Now that he’s hitting shots, Kelly is emerging as one of the Blue Devils’ most well-rounded players.
He concedes that he’s not going to go 6-for-6 every game, but he obviously is gaining confidence in his shot. If he emerges as a serious, consistent scoring threat, Duke’s chances of returning to the Final Four will improve significantly.
3. Florida State’s 67-51 defeat of Boston College kept the Seminoles tied atop the ACC with Duke – which lost 66-61 in Tallahassee, Fla., on Jan. 12.
Coach Leonard Hamilton’s team, as usual, is getting it done with defense, having won 55-53 at Miami earlier in the week. Florida State’s loss to SEC also-ran Auburn is absolutely inexplicable, but with point guard Derwin Kitchen playing a more active role on offense, this team is well on its way to securing an NCAA tournament bid.
4. Georgia Tech hasn’t turned it around, after all.
After blowout wins at home over North Carolina and Wake Forest, the Yellow Jackets fell 72-64 at Virginia, which had lost three in a row.
The Cavaliers shot 10-for-15 from 3-point range against a defense that had suffocated North Carolina and Wake Forest. Coach Paul Hewitt can’t afford many more losses like this.
5. Wake Forest may not go 0-16 in the ACC.
The Deacons fell to 0-5 in the conference with an 83-59 loss at home to Duke. But led by guard C.J. Harris, Wake Forest competed with a fire it hadn’t shown in weeks.
If coach Jeff Bzdelik’s team keeps playing as well as it did against Duke, it will defeat somebody in ACC play.