Monday, March 05, 2007

Bloody Sunday

Sorry, I couldn't resist the headline but did you miss the gladiator finish to the Duke and North Carolina game? Tyler Hansbrough was on the receiving end of a forearm shiver by Duke's Gerald Henderson and started bleeding so profusely that he could have come right out of the final scene in the movie Carrie. Perhaps this marks the point at which the Duke and North Carolina rivalry turns from spirited to ugly. It may have been inevitable that once the clowns in Brtistol, Connecticut began hyping this rivalry as if the games were some apocalyptic showdown that the simmering loathing these two schools have for each other would escalate into blood sport.

Having seen the replay about 30 times now I'm not convinced that Henderson bloodied Hansbrough intentionally. Only Henderson knows for sure if he just let an elbow fly without concern if it connected with a Tarheel , but the reaction of the referees endorsed the worst possible interpretation of the incident before anyone had a chance to examine it. The ejection and suspension of Henderson was ridiculous and the way it was handled seems to indicate that the officials were too scared to make the right, and certainly unpopular decision, to call a foul, shoot the free throws and let the last 17 seconds get off the clock. Hopefully the ACC league office will review the decision and correct it before the ACC tournament.

Henderson has a floor game that is very similar to former Duke player Dahntay Jones (shown in photo), who was nicknamed "Tauntay" for his push up antics and dirty play. He once broke the jaw of Justin Gray when he set a crushing pick on the former Wake Forest star. Check out his jackass antics on You Tube here. Jones is the the one who does push ups after his dunk. Only time will tell if this was an isolated incident or if Henderson becomes known for the kind of cheap shot play that Jones was famous for during his time at Duke.

Another unpleasant fact in this controversy is that the Tarheels have a nasty habit of running the score up on opponents in the Dean Dome. Their fans seem to get bored with just winning the game and like to encourage their team to pour on the points when the opposing team is already beaten. Krzyzewski correctly questioned what Hansbrough, who isn't exactly a finesse player, was doing in the game with 20 seconds remaining and a double digit lead. Roy Williams offered some lame excuse about how he was going to substitute for "Psycho T", as Hansbrough is called by his teammates, but didn't get the player to the scorer's table in time. So why didn't he substitute for Hansbrough before he was fouled and shooting the free throws? It wouldn't be the first time that Williams made a dumb coaching move, in many ways he is the Marty Schottenhiemer of college basketball, but he got very lucky that Hansbrough didn't get his nose broken or worse. It appears he will be fine for the ACC and NCAA tournament.

In other news Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski admits, "Maryland, at this point, is better than us."
Everyone except the poll voters already knew that.


Anonymous said...

sorry, but you are clueless when it comes to Carolina. First of all, they do not run up the score. If you watch the games, we put the third stringers in all the time, just look at the stat sheets. You have to remember we go three deep at most positions. Our number 10-15 players could start for most teams. Our walk ons are very capable of scoring on nearly everyone.

And second, why not ask Coach K what he was doing with his starting five in there with less than a minute to go? Are you suggesting that with a ten point lead, a minute to play, and dook's starters on the floor Roy should suddenly put in the third team? If you check your history, you will see that the Heels were once eight down to dook with 17 seconds to play. And won the game. And this was in the 70's, before the three point shot.

This is Carolina-dook. They do not give up until the final buzzer.

By the way, Tyler's nose is broken and he will be in a mask for the ACC tourney. The only thing worse than Tyler underneath is a pissed off Tyler underneath.

Esquire said...

I understand looking at the video and thinking Henderson did it with malice. I don't happen to agree with that conclusion. Either way I think it was a dumb decision by Roy Williams to leave Hansbrough in the game.

You suggested it so let's examine those stat sheets for this season.

5 minutes to play UNC ahead by 40+ points w/Brandon Wright and Wayne Ellington still on the floor and scoring.

UNC Asheville
5 minutes left 30+ point UNC lead and Tyler Hansbrough still in the game.

Leading 77-39 with 4:30 left in the game Hansbrough still on the floor and scoring

Leading 88-56 with 4:40 left in the game and Hansbrough still on the floor.

There are more examples but I just got tired of looking for them. I can also claim to have seen such an exhibition in person at the Dean Dome. January 8, 2005 leading 100-63 over Maryland with under 5 minutes to play Roy Williams still had starters in the game. Not only that but North Carolina was still attempting 3-point shots with under a minute left and a 109-73 lead.

In that situation it is the coach of the winning team who is responsible for calling his players off. It is silly to expect Krzyzewski to take his players out when UNC is still running fast breaks with its starters. Wayne Ellington tried a tomahawk dunk off a fast break with 30 seconds left in the game. He could have easily brought the ball out and let the clock run down. Duke was no longer fouling to prolong the game. Why was he trying to dunk it when scoring would just lengthen the game?

Hansbrough was injured trying to score off his own rebound on a missed foul shot with 20 seconds left. Suppose he broke his ankle on that play instead, how would UNC fans react?

As to your arguments about "playing to the final buzzer", on the one hand you say that the game is never safe when UNC and Duke play. Yes, I'm well aware of last second comebacks. Every Maryland fan knows that you can blow a lead within a few seconds, remember 2001? On the other had you say I have to remember that UNC is three deep at every position and is so good they can't help but blow teams out. Those two premises are incompatible. If UNC has starter quality backups then why was it necessary for Hansbrough to be on the floor in the last minute? Shouldn't they be able to hold onto a double digit lead against an undermanned Duke team for 60 seconds?

Anonymous said...

Esquire I normally agree with your analysis, but the preponderance of evidence suggests that Duke players make a habit of cheap shots and flops over the years. Laettner (the stomp), Sean Dockery last year (
) and McElbows for the past two years. Lets be honest-these guys have been getting humbled the past few years and its coming out in these episodes of poor sportsmanship. Henderson had one thing on his mind-rage. He was laying out whoever he ran into and in this case it was Hansbrough. Its not justified no matter who was on the court. I am a Terp through and through and am not a UNC fan by ANY means but Coach K is letting his players turn him into the biggest hypocrite in NCAA men's hoops.

Esquire said...

I don't have a need to be agreed with all the time and I encourage any reader who had a different opinion to voice that opinion. I'm glad to read them.

Having said all that I agree with two points you made: that Duke has had dirty players in the past (see my comments on Jones) and that Henderson was coming into foul Hansbrough hard because he was frustrated and/or angry that Hansbrough was going to score again. Duke has struggled this year (by their standards) and it has seemed at times that their emotions have got the best of them. It was a hard foul, but was it flagrant? This is where we disagree. I didn't see it that way and all the photos and You Tube videos that have been posted on the internet have done nothing to convince me otherwise. This wasn't obvious like the Chris Paul groin punch of Juluis Hodge, who probably deserved it, a few years ago. Then it was clear that Paul was only trying to injure Hodge. The right call was made in that case. In this case I think the officials overreacted.