Player of the Week
Tyus Battle, Syracuse
The 6-foot-6 guard shined in an overtime win against Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Battle recorded a season-high 32 points, along with four assists and four rebounds. Syracuse trailed 12-0 to start the game, but after Duke’s Tre Jones went down with an injury, it turned into the Tyus Battle show. With early foul trouble from Syracuse’s Frank Howard, Battle took over as the lead point guard and brought his team within in one point at halftime. The elite guard missed a potential game-winner at the end of regulation, but his efforts continued into the following five minutes, hitting a jumper that gave the Orange a one-point edge with four minutes left—a lead that Syracuse never let slip. Battle handed Duke its first home loss as the AP no. 1 team since 2006.
Following his tremendous performance at Duke, Tyus Battle excelled in his next game against Pittsburgh with 22 points on 9-of-17 field goal attempts, three rebounds, two assists, two blocks and one steal. Once again, Battle played extended minutes as ‘Cuse’s point guard, and was much more efficient from three-point range (3-of-7), after connecting on just three of his previous 17 attempts from downtown. Despite an upset to Georgia Tech two weeks ago, Battle’s team took a turn for the better, as they sit comfortably tied for
first place in the ACC.
Jordan Nwora, Louisville
Facing the Boston College Eagles, the 6-foot-8 forward capped off his career night with 32 points and 10 rebounds. Nwora complemented his fifth double-double of the season with four assists, one block, and one steal. Behind timely plays for the Cardinals, Nwora has carried his team to an unexpected great start to ACC play. Following his career-high, the Buffalo, New York native tallied a 25-point performance in a dominating win at Georgia Tech. Nwora has scored 74 points while shooting 64% in the Cardinals’ past three games—all games that have resulted in the win column.
The two highly regarded teammates combined for 57 of Duke’s 72 total points in the win versus Virginia. Barrett led the Blue Devils in scoring with 30 points, connecting on 58% of his field goal attempts, while Williamson followed close behind with a 27-point performance. In the second half, Williamson and Barrett were responsible for all but one of their team’s made baskets and accounted for all of Duke’s field goals in the remaining 15 minutes.
Florida State Seminoles
Two weeks ago, Leonard Hamilton’s team was 12-1 headed into conference games and looked to be a legit contender this season. Since then, the Seminoles have dropped four of their last five games, including losses to Pittsburgh and Boston College, and sit at the bottom tier of the ACC with a shocking 1-4 record.
The Miami Hurricanes are currently playing with seven scholarship players, and are without freshman forward Deng Gak and junior forward Dewan Hernandez for the season. Miami’s Chris Lykes, Zach Johnson, and D.J. Vasiljevic have all dealt with numerous injuries this season, too. The Hurricanes have been competitive in their losses, but simply are worn out by the end of games due to playing extended minutes. Miami is 1-4 in the ACC with its only win at home against Wake Forest.
Top Five Upsets of the Week
Syracuse 95, Duke 91
Duke’s Cam Reddish was out with flu-like symptoms and Tre Jones suffered an early-game shoulder injury that prevented him from returning. Even with two starters out, Duke still had two lottery picks on the court and was a heavy favorite to win the game. The Orange’s suffocating defense and sharp three-point shooting was the storyline of the second half and overtime. Thanks to significant contributions from Tyus Battle, Elijah Hughes, and Frank Howard, Syracuse pulled out a marquee road win that will play in their favor come Selection Sunday. The Orange took advantage of a depleted Duke team, forcing the Blue Devils to shoot a horrendous 21% on 43 three-point attempts.
Pittsburgh 75, Florida State 62
Pittsburgh basketball fans finally have a head coach and team that is worth being excited about. This team is well ahead of schedule with a promising future ahead. The Panthers have two conference victories—already two more than last season. Although Pittsburgh has yet to win a conference road game, the team is a competitive force playing at home. Led by freshman Trey McGowens’ 30 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and five steals, the Panthers confidently secured their first top 25 win of the season against the Seminoles.
Wake Forest 71, NC State 67
NC State nearly crawled its way out of a 22-point deficit, but needed just a few more plays in final minutes to avoid the upset. Due to a back injury that occured in State’s previous game against Pittsburgh, point guard Markell Johnson was not healthy enough to compete at Wake Forest. Even without Johnson, who leads his team in assists per game with 4.1, the Wolfpack have more playmakers than the Demon Deacons. Wake Forest simply played harder than the Wolfpack, and have a special talent in freshman Jaylen Hoard who recorded his fifth double-double of the season in his team’s first ACC win. Even with Wake Forest playing its best game of the season, NC State should not drop games to a team that holds an 8-9 record.
Duke 72, Virginia 70
After an unlikely loss at home to Syracuse, Duke bounced back and figured out a way to crack the then-unbeaten Cavaliers. The Blue Devils were still without star point guard Tre Jones–arguably the best on-the-ball defender in the country. The epic battle between the two top ACC powers was highlighted by 14 ties and 15 lead changes, but the Cavaliers had no answer for Duke’s duo in RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson. It was the first time all season that Virginia’s defense looked vulnerable, allowing the two forwards to get to the rim whenever they pleased. Mark your calendars for a rematch in Charlottesville on February 9th.
The ACC Standings
Not quite sure if this can be considered an “upset,” but it would have been extremely hard to predict what is now a six-way tie for first place in the conference. After the Blue Devils’ win over the the Cavaliers this weekend, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Louisville, Duke, Virginia, and Syracuse all own a 4-1 record in the ACC with each loss coming from one of those top six teams, except Louisville whose conference loss is to Pittsburgh.