Monday, March 05, 2007

UNC 86, Duke 72

Duke followed up their worst defensive game of the season with their second-worst, giving up a D Rating of 114. Against Carolina, Duke simply got abused in the paint. Hansbrough and Wright could score whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, and Ty Lawson had red carpet access to the lane - at times, it seemed like Duke's defenders were simply pulling aside the velvet rope for him.

Still, the Devils put up a valiant effort, with Paulus and Henderson really shining. Paulus has turned into a terrific scoring guard - he has the ability to pull up and hit jumpers at any time off the dribble, which is very tough to develop. It's also increasingly clear that he wants to take big shots, and confidence always improves shooting percentages (at least a little). Henderson really looks like he's figured his game out. At the start of the season, he could neither hit nor pick a good shot. Now, his shot selection has improved, and unsurprisingly, his shooting has too. Plus, he makes ridiculously spectacular plays look almost commonplace - such as the catch-it-in-midair block of Lawson's layup (didn't go in the books as a block b/c of Paulus' blocking foul) that was jaw-dropping.

It's a shame he won't be playing Thursday, and it's a real shame what happened at the end of the game. I'm sure no one reading this blog needs to be told about the meeting between Henderson's forearm/elbow and Hansbrough's nose with about 14 seconds left in the game. The fallout of this incident has been the blame game, with Carolina fans (such as this one - who apparently thinks the incident warranted personal attacks on me and all of Duke University) saying Henderson is a dirty thug, and Duke fans (such as this one - who apparently thinks that Hansbrough's mere presence on the court at that time meant that he had it coming) saying that Carolina deserves blame for leaving their star on the court against walk-ons with 14 seconds left. But trying to place blame in a situation like this is not a fruitful endeavor. From what I can tell of what happened, it was a freak accident - Hansbrough went up hard (he had to, as he was trying to go through 2 Duke defenders) to try to score, and Henderson went up hard to try to stop it. People take hard swipes to try to block shots all the time. Here, because of the earlier foul committed by Johnson, Hansbrough's hands had been pulled away and his face was unprotected. Henderson appeared to alter his arm to try to follow the ball as it was swiped away (he's not looking at Hansbrough at all when the contact occurs), and he went forearm to nose. Given how hard the contact was and what it looked like from the rear camera (although the front camera tells a completely different story), I can't begrudge the officials their decision to eject. If the ejection carries an automatic suspension, it's an unfortunate consequence, but so be it. I personally disagree with the decision to eject, and I think it's obvious at this point to all but the most jaded that it wasn't intentional.

Still, I'm glad this was the only consequence of the incident. Had Hansbrough acted on his anger, people would have been hurt, and a full-scale brawl could have erupted. It would have been a shame for a heat-of-the-moment reaction to a hard foul to cause serious consequences for both teams, and I'm glad that didn't happen. I'm glad Hansbrough's nose wasn't broken. I'm glad K made the decision to dribble out the clock at the end of the game - I thought it was a smart (and classy) move to simply bring this contest to an end. And I'm actually somewhat pleasantly surprised at the conduct of the Dean Dome fans. It was certainly a hostile environment, and there's no way to hear what words were said, but near as I could tell, no one threw anything or spit anything at Henderson and the team staff as he was escorted from the court. There are some places where I don't believe that would be the case.

Duke heads into the ACC a bruised team. Maryland and UNC just gave them back-to-back beatings where they looked seriously out-gunned. They'll open against NC State without their best scorer (of late). The team needs to recommit to defense during the week, and really needs to pull together. Paulus, Nelson, and McRoberts have a lot of work to do as captains, keeping their teammates focused and dedicated to the task ahead of them. Duke's road to Sunday will go through NC State, Virginia, and (very likely) one of the Techs. It's a winnable three-game stretch, and I like the Devils' odds to get there.

I'll have a season wrap-up, with the final conference tempo-free stats, up by tomorrow morning. For Wednesday morning, we'll be handing out awards - OMAC's and Deviants - and highlighting the best team performances in particular categories ACC-wide. Thursday morning is a tourney preview, with a look at in-conference schedule strength, a log5 prediction for the tournament, and some capsules on each first round game. Friday through Sunday is all ACC tourney coverage, all the time (well, not really all the time, but you get the idea).


Brad S said...

First, I'm a diehard UNC fan (i.e. I do not like Dook). Secondly, I like your blog a great deal. Finally, I agree the foul wasn't necessarily intentional. It was on the other hand quite reckless, and while harsh, a suspension is probably warranted simply due to the outcome (blood and a near brawl).

Finally, I agree that dribbling out the final 14 seconds was a nice move. On the other hand Coach K's post game comments were absurd, self-serving, and not particularly classy. Had Duke stopped fouling, Roy surely would have gotten his starters out. And Coach K should worry about coaching his own team, rather than instructing Roy how to coach his.

Paul Rugani said...

First, in response to my own post: apparently Hansbrough does have a broken nose, contrary to post-game reports. Still, it doesn't appear he will miss any playing time, and may not even play with a mask. So I modify my "I'm glad he didn't break his nose" to "I'm glad his injury isn't serious."

Second, I also wish Coach K hadn't said what he said at the PC. I think they were born out of frustration with the loss, and with the way the final minute played out. Carolina took 3 field goal attempts when no more than 6 seconds had run off the shot clock in the last minute. That doesn't include Hansbrough's putback attempt that resulted in The Foul, which would have come with about 1 second run off the shot clock. All of these quick attempts came with a double digit lead, and at least 2 came when Duke had walk-ons in the game. It's not very often you see a team with a commanding lead not try to just play out the clock in the final minute, and I think K was responding to that, as well as to Hansbrough's presence on the court.

Anonymous said...

Paul, Duke called time out with 50 seconds to go in the game, trailing by 12, I believe. Can you please explain to your readers what the purpose of that time-out was?

Paul, Duke fouled UNC several times in the last minute and was applying full court pressure. Can you please inform your readers what the purpose of the full court pressure and the intentional fouls in the last minute were?

Paul, is it true that a similar incident between Sean Dockery and Hansbrough took place in the game in Durham last year or is this just something that the UNC boards are inventing?

Anonymous said...

People are talking past each other with this notion of "intentional." I don't think anybody thinks that Henderson was trying to deliberately target Hansbrough's face.

What it was was "reckless." Perhaps it makes the driver of a car going 90 miles an hour who kills someone, feel better to tell himself that he didn't "intend" to kill anyone, but such actions are still blameworthy.

We can debate the blameworthiness of what was done here, but it certainly was not a prime example of an excellent athlete under control. Part of sports maturity is learning when it is appropriate to go full bore and when it is not. Scoring two extra points when already ahead might be childish behavior but losing control of one's emotions and going fullbore across the lane in a game that has already been decided shows a definite lack or perspective and judgement.

Paul Rugani said...

In response to Skeptical:

1) As I was not in the huddle, no I cannot.

2) Duke committed your traditional non-intentional intentional fouls four times: at 1:37 trailing by 11, at 1:27 trailing by 13, at 1:11 trailing by 14, and at :19 trailing by 11. I think the foul at :19 was one too many, but have no problem with the other three, or the full court pressure.

3) I honestly don't remember anything like that from last year, but I also can't remember that it definitely didn't happen. I'd have to see footage of what people are talking about to be able to comment on it. If the suggestion of this question is that Duke is intentionally targeting Hansbrough, I'd have to seriously disagree with you.

At the ends of games with comfortable, but not blowout, leads, I think teams are rightly held to a double standard (note: I hesitate to use the term double standard, because I have a hunch it will be thrown back in my face, but I give you my word that I hold Duke to the same double standard when they are on the winning end in these situations). The losing team shouldn't simply be asked to roll over and give up - they should be taught not to treat the game as over until it's really over, even if it goes a little past the point when most rational observers think they still have a chance to win. Teams press and foul all the time in the hope of a miraculous comeback. 99.9% of the time, no such comeback occurs (notable exceptions are Duke-Maryland - 10 points in 54 seconds - and UNC-Duke - 8 points in 17 seconds). Similarly, coaches use timeouts as coaching tools, or even to change course - for example, a coach might call a timeout at a certain time/score situation to call off the dogs (no more fouls, no more press in the half court, no more press at all).

Winning teams, on the other hand, almost always play the clock game. This is not to say that a team with a big lead should just try to hold the ball for 35 seconds and then hand it back to the opponent - that would be silly. It would also teach the winning team to treat the game as being over before it really is. Instead, the goal of the winning team should be to end the game in the most expedient way possible. That means taking care of the ball, running clock off, and then trying to score at the end of the shot clock, rather than the beginning. If you're up by 10 with 50 seconds to play, would you rather be up 12 with 45 seconds left, or up 10 with 20 seconds left? Personally, I'd take the latter every time, and I think most coaches would agree. Call me old-fashioned or uptight, but it drives me crazy when a team with a 10+ point cushion doesn't try to run off clock in the last minute.

For me, the bigger issue yesterday was how the team was playing, not who was on the court. Starters need to know how to execute in those situations, and it's totally appropriate to leave them in. But once you have the ball and are in a position to completely run out the clock, why would you try to do anything that might give the other team the ball back and prolong the game? The Heels did that at least once, if not twice or three times (I'm willing to give Dewey Burke his 3-point attempt, giving that it was senior night, and he doesn't get much playing time. I also don't remember the circumstances that put Hansbrough on the line the first time after he got the offensive rebound off Frasor's miss - was he fouled on the floor during the fight for the rebound, or was he trying to go back up?).

Brad S said...

Paul, you give Henderson too much credit. Remember he intended to commit the 5th "non-intentional" intentional foul at 14 seconds (he says exactly that in his quotes). Duke was determined to push the issue.

I realize that I am never going to be sympathetic to Duke's cause (well specifically Coach K who I dislike much more than any current Duke player). But he decided to push the issue, had he told his guys to simply run and gun to try and cover the deficit rather than foul, I truly believe none of this would have occurred.

We will see whether Henderson now becomes a team thug, ala Tamon Domzalwski, or whether that role is reserved for only Zoubek.

Brad S said...

Let me amend what I wrote slightly. It is perfectly fine and within the boundaries of fairplay for Duke to try and fould to get back in the game. However, the onus is on them to keep the fouling clean at that point. There is no obligation upon UNC to try and play keepaway while Duke is fouling. Personally I wish we would have done it, as I think it is likely to come up in the Tourney and UNC is unprepared for close ballgames. But once the fouling starts, UNC can play any way Roy wants, including trying to run up the score. The only obligation for the leading team is not to leave the starters in against the walkons if Duke agrees to stop fouling in a +10 game.

Unknown said...

I don't understand the distinction between "intentional" and "reckless" that folks are attemping to draw here. Conceding that perhaps this may be an attempt conform their opinions regarding Henderson's foul to traditional "mens rea" formulations, it's an utterly unhelpful way of looking at the situation.

We, as college basketball fans, regularly applaud players for doing things that are "reckless." A ball heads into the scorer's table, and a player goes flying head-first after it (perhaps mauling a reporter in the process?), and he's seen as gritty or having heart. It's not a lot different, for instance, when a player has an open layup on a fast break and the defending player, knowing he can't stop the play, goes up strong to foul the guy to at least prevent a 3-point play. This we applaud as tough, or smart basketball.

Whether we label these acts as "hard play" or as "reckless" ultimately has nothing to do with the conduct itself, but rather with our subjective impression as to the propriety of that conduct. Outside of our own minds, it's a distinction without a difference on the basketball court.

The question that matters regarding last night's incident isn't whether Henderson was playing hard/recklessly, or whether Hansbrough should have been in the game. The question is whether Henderson meant to club Hansbrough in the face. All but the most partial observers agree that he did not.

What would our impression of this event have been if the foul had occurred at the end of the first half of a tight game, rather than at the end of one that had gotten away? I suggest most folks, including the referees, would have viewed the situation quite differently because our assessment of that act has a lot more to do with the context surrounding it than it does with any objective examination of the act itself.

Unlike Paul, I disagree with the league's decision to suspend Henderson for the next game. It's a symbolic action that I suspect would not be metted out had Hansbrough not ended up bloody. (On the bright side, the suspension at least avoids the alternative, namely being subjected to another two-three weeks of whining about a "Duke conspiracy" from the other 11 teams in the league).

I am glad, however, that the officials ejected Henderson from the game - not because his actions merited it, but because I'd have feared for his own safety in that environment had they not.

Brad S said...

So had he in fact struck Hansbrough dead on the spot, it would not be an intentional/flagrant foul because he did not set out to do so? Intentional doesn't mean he set out to harm Hansbrough, only that it was reasonable to expect the unfortunate outcome given his play. It wasn't a deliberate injury, but it was a dangerous play that he should have realized could easily result in injury.

Your last paragraph *is* a cheap shot and ridiculous on its face. The Dean Dome has seen similar dirty play without fan (or even player) incidence.

Unknown said...

Who said anything about the Dean Dome? I'm talking about the [understandable] look on Hansbrough's face when he got up and the understandable feelings among his teammates, none of whom had the benefit of instant replay but all of whom saw Henderson's arm whack Hansbrough's face.

Otherwise, I again don't understand the distinction you're attempting to draw. You substitute the word "dangerous" for the word "reckless" at one point, and otherwise conflate intent to hit Hansbrough on the face with intent to cause injury.

I certainly don't think Henderson intended to cause injury, but also don't think he intended to hit him in the face. If he had intended to hit him on the face, regardless of whether he intended to break his nose, this would certainly justify a flagrant foul and a suspension.

To turn your "dead on the spot" hypothetical around - suppose Henderson had been driving and Hansbrough had taken a charge, only Hansbrough hit the floor, he went head first causing permanent brain damage. Does the tragic outcome of the event require that we denote the act as intentional or flagrant?

Basketball is a dangerous and a very physical game (for proof of that, see the countless scratches and claw-marks Scheyer bore after getting the "JJ Redick" treatment while trying to get open the entire game). And when there's a more serious injury and we realize how dangerous it is out there, it gets even more emotional than it was. This is not a reason to villify Gerald Henderson (or to champion him, as some shameless Duke fans have are now doing), nor does it justify a one-game suspension.

Brad S said...

No, that would not be flagrant/intentional imo. Who would reasonably expect that outcome from that play? It would be the definition of a fluke accident. On the other hand, if he decided to lead with his elbow, and, accidently, clocked a player in the windpipe causing him to lead the game. He would, imo, deserve the ejection.

I suppose we will never see eye to eye. :( At any rate, I look forward to Paul's analysis of the ACC tourney.

Anonymous said...

As someone who can attest to having his nose broken by none other than Paul himself =), I can't imagine playing a full college basketball game (with all the contact that entails). At least he gets until Friday to rest (that extra day will be a big deal).

I hate all the crap that people from out of the wood-work on both sides have spewed as a result of this, which ultimately takes away from the best two weeks of the year. Period.

Personally, I would not argue with "excessive," but there is no way you can call this "intentional." For anyone who has watched Henderson play this year, on every break, every wild rebound, he is flying through the air attempting to block the attempt (as seen by is eye-popping block on Greg's foul... skying and basically caught the shot... incredible). On this attempt he was doing the same... he got hit, Hansbrough got fouled on the way up and they collided in the chaos.

Anyone who says Henderson is "dirty" as a result of this, has an axe to grind. Last year against VT, Deron Washington I believe was ejected for kicking a Duke player ( I can't remember who) after they both fell to the floor. It was in the heat of the moment... even after the play was dead (unlike this case), but he apologized, took responsibility and everyone moved on. I do not think Washington is dirty because of it. Passion runs high in basketball.

I would hope this doesn't loom over the tournament this week, but I unfortunately don't think the media will let it drop.

Congrats to UNC on the win. I'm very glad Hansbrough's injury wasn't serious. We'll hopefully see them again this week.

Anonymous said...

Douglas, your example is not a proper articulation of the doctrine of recklessness at law. There is a weighing of the benefit of the action versus the costs. Speeding to the hospital with a burn victim is not deemed to be the same action as speeding to show off.

Recklessness has always been considered intent at law, under the doctrine of general intent, which means each of us is duty-bound to consider our actions and prevent useless actions from harming others. Jay Bilas stated this well when questioned about it. He obviously is of an intellect far superior than Coach K, who seems not to understand the concept.

Diving for a ball generally has a specific purpose and is allowed, although I can certainly envision types of diving in basketball that would result in flagrant fouls as well.

Henderson's action might have been defensible had it occurred even a minute earlier. Here the potential costs of his action were vastly greater than any benefits--Duke had no chance to win.

I am certain that Henderson would not have gone after one of Duke's players in a similar fashion in practice. Beyond all this, it speaks poorly of either his judgment or his abilities. I watched Grant Hill and Michael Jordan for years and never saw such a failure to control emotion and to control the actions of their bodies.

One thing is definitely certain: Gerald, you are no Grant Hill and all those who compare you to him should be ashamed.

Anonymous said...

I think that it is very sad, when a young person like Paul is able to present a much more coherent explanation of what was and what might not have been proper at the end of this game, than can Coach K, who is deemed by many to be both articulate and eloquent.

Duke took a black eye in the Lacrosse frame-up because it was not able to manage the public relations aspect; it is taking one here because Duke's coach is similarly failing to speak cogently and coherently. For example, he stated today that the real unfortunate person in all this is Gerald. That is idiocacy to say in public.

I hope he is never called to testify on behalf of one of his players in court, because those types of statements will get latched onto by both judges and prosecutors.

The unfortunate one in all this was the injured person. Henderson continues in perfect health. When will Duke learn to defend itself competently in the field of public opinion?

Anonymous said...

In response to...

It's not a lot different, for instance, when a player has an open layup on a fast break and the defending player, knowing he can't stop the play, goes up strong to foul the guy to at least prevent a 3-point play. This we applaud as tough, or smart basketball.

And we shouldn't, because it leads to excessive fouls like the one(s) we saw Sunday. That whole "no easy ones" attitude was developed by the infamous Bad Boy Pistons, and that has in turn led us to this and further, like the Isiah Thomas-instigated NBA brawl not too long ago.

If the guy has you beat, you get ready to inbound it - you don't hack him. That was never the spirit of basketball and it shouldn't be now.

Paul Rugani said...

You always have to bring up the whole "I broke your nose" thing, don't you? =).

Oh, and I'm about 95% positive Washington kicked Melchionni.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of either team, and I do my best to be both rational and empathetic, for what little that's worth.

My $0.02 is that Henderson's block attempt was made with highly improper technique, and the consequences of such an aggressive downswinging action are foreseeable over a large enough sample size. There's just no cause for attempting to block a shot by swinging your arm down as hard as you can. That's going to be called a foul every single time and rightly so. When you swing like that and connect with someone's face, well then you should be prepared to live with the consequences. Henderson surely didn't intend to hurt, but he just as surely intended to hit the crap out of the ball. It's a stupid way to play. He's young and presumably will have that behavior coached out of him (either by his coaches or by the refs).

As for K, well, what I liked about his PC comments were that they reveal him for who he is: someone who will say or do just about anything that he perceives will give him an advantage, however small or inconsequential. By blaming Roy for having Hansbrough in the game, he deflected the story at least slightly. The notion that a university that aspires to be considered among the HYP+Stanford crowd treats this coach as something more than merely a highly effective coach has always left me scratching my head. I mean, he's a phenomenal coach, no doubt, and I'd love to have him coach my team, but isn't there a Fuqua/Coach K Center for Leadership & Ethics?

I apologize if the preceding paragraph is inappropriate for this forum. I'm new here.

Anonymous said...

Somebody sent me a play by play of the Duke-Wake game this year that Duke won by 22 and they had the starters in and were shooting 3 pointers--Duke took a time-out with less than 2 minutes in the game, up by 20, left all its starters in and then had a McRoberts dunk and a Paulus 3-pointer in the last seconds:

3:28 35-53 Josh McRoberts made Free Throw.
3:16 Ishmael Smith missed Two Point Layup. 35-53
3:16 35-53 Josh McRoberts Defensive Rebound.
2:59 35-55 Josh McRoberts made Two Point Dunk Shot.
2:53 Wake Forest Full Timeout. 35-55
2:44 Ishmael Smith made Two Point Layup. 37-55
2:10 37-57 David McClure made Two Point Jumper.
1:55 37-57 Foul on David McClure
1:55 37-57 Duke Full Timeout.
1:55 Ishmael Smith made Free Throw. 38-57
1:55 Ishmael Smith missed Free Throw. 38-57
1:55 38-57 Duke Defensive Rebound.
1:24 L.D. Williams missed Three Point Jumper. 38-57
1:24 38-57 Gerald Henderson Defensive Rebound.
0:49 38-59 Josh McRoberts made Two Point Dunk Shot.
0:34 Ishmael Smith missed Three Point Jumper. 38-59
0:34 38-59 Josh McRoberts Defensive Rebound.
0:08 38-62 Greg Paulus made Three Point Jumper.
0:05 Ishmael Smith missed Two Point Layup. 38-62
0:05 Ishmael Smith Offensive Rebound. 38-62
0:04 Ishmael Smith made Two Point Layup. 40-62

Anonymous said...

Paul -- You seem like a reasonable and open-minded fan. I admire that, though I don't completely agree, your comments were still reasonable. So let's review another item, if you will.

The setting is the waning moments of a hard-fought UNC-Duke game.
Duke is losing to their rival and their players are frustrated.
Tyler Hansbrough has had a great game. He has the ball and is getting ready to shoot. A Duke player goes in for a hard foul and delivers a shot to Tyler's face.

No, I'm not talking about Henderson. This was the Cameron game last year. It was Sean Dockery. If, like many in NC you were watching Raycom, you might have missed it because they didn't show a replay. Apparently, ESPN showed it many times, and even Vitale was speachless (if you can imagine that).

I wish I had the video. At least, here are two prints that I've found. This link shows a picture of Dockery's foul after his attempted block. Looked intentional to me, but was just called a shooting foul.

This next link shows a picture taken after the whistle blew and the ref was running toward the table indicating the previous foul. That's when Dockery put his hand directly on Hansbrough's face and pushed him, surpised and off-balance, to the ground!

You might debate how hard a foul Henderson was trying to deliver. But one could not see that second foul and reasonably question Dockery's intention.

Too bad the refs missed it. When asked about it, Roy and Tyler rose above it, just like this time.

As far as I know Coach K never acknowledged it. Can't imagine that he didn't at least see the tape. None of that fits with his comment about how he would suspend a player, if the league didn't. It's fine if a coach wants to protect his player and team image. But please, spare us the sanctimony!

He wants to maintain that "this is not how we play." Sadly, the facts do not support that -- from Laetner, to Dockery, to Henderson.