State Now: A bottom-line game, praise of Donahue, a plea to the ACC

joe.giglio@newsobserver.comJanuary 6, 2013 

— Three Points from N.C. State's 78-73 win at Boston College on Saturday:

1) All wins are not created equal ... but they all count the same in the conference standings.

Mark Gottfried made the point before Saturday's ACC opener, all 18 conference count the same, no matter how much more we (media/fans/players/coaches) want to put on the Duke or Carolina games.

N.C. State was not great, by any definition, on Saturday, but the Wolfpack was good enough to win. More importantly, it was a game it could have lost but did not.

There are no pictures in the standings, just numbers and Saturday was a bottom-line kind of game.

It actually reminded me a lot N.C. State's trip to BC under Sidney Lowe in 2011. In that game, a senior guard (Biko Paris) hit a pair of late 3-pointers (at the expense of State's freshmen guards, Ryan Harrow and Lorenzo Brown) to give the Eagles a nine-point win.

On Saturday, it was Scott Wood (a senior guard) with a pair of late 3s at the expense of a freshman guard (Joe Rahon) to give the Pack a five-point win.

N.C. State tried to let the Eagles back in with two ill-advised fouls in the final 30 seconds but Patrick Heckmann couldn't convert on all three of his free throws after being fouled by Rodney Purvis with 18.9 seconds left.

"There's a laundry list of where we felt like we hurt ourselves," Gottfried said. "We were our own worst enemy."

But the result, in this particular instance, is more important than the process.

2) Take notes, Wake Forest

My respect for Boston College coach Steve Donahue is well-documented. He won at Cornell (when no one else ever did) and his first BC team went 9-7 in the ACC.

After Donahue's first season, which he won with an inherited group of talent from Al Skinner, he completely reset the program. Since Skinner's last two recruiting classes had a net result of zero scholarship players, that wasn't a particularly difficult path for Donahue to choose, although he did part with two legitimate ACC players in Rakim Sanders (Fairfield) and Evan Ravenel (Ohio State).

But that's how you rebuild. After the first year, you make your choices and you cut bait. Then you go out and get your own players. In sophomore forwards Ryan Anderson and Dennis Clifford and freshmen guards Joe Rahon and Olivier Hanlan, Donahue has the foundation for an NCAA tournament team.

Compare that to Wake Forest, whose coach is also in Year 3 but continues to turn over his roster and is now seemingly waiting for a star recruit from the class of 2014 to save the program.

It's OK to want to win with your own players but you can't keep making the same mistakes and expect different results.

I had not seen Rahon or Hanlan until Saturday and they are both physically and mentally prepared to play in the ACC.

"I really like the two freshmen guards," Gottfried said. "Those two guys make them different."

Rahon finished with 18 points on Saturday and Hanlan, who was a real recruiting find, had 10 points, three assists and two steals. 3) Flow, please It's only one ACC game and already I'm wistful for the Pac-12 officiating crew that worked the N.C. State-Stanford game in Raleigh on Dec. 18.

I don't have anything specifically against Bernard Clinton, Les Jones or Tim Nestor, who worked Saturday's game, other than they called too many fouls.

At some point, the ACC needs to evaluate how it wants its officials to manage a game, especially when there's a noticeable difference between how their games are called.

A loose whistle doesn't mean you can't control the game, it just means you're letting the players decide the game — and not from the foul line.

There were a total of 72 free throws in Saturday's game, which is remarkable since it's 16 more than any other N.C. State game this season (56 in the St. Bonaventure game, also worked by an ACC crew) but also because only six of the free throws (by Scott Wood in the final minute) were as a result of a team intentionally putting the other team on the foul line.

Again, I don't think Clinton-Jones-Nestor were for or against either team, and I didn't have a problem with any specific call, rather the volume.

That was a good ACC basketball game on Saturday but it would have been better with more flow to the game.

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