Jeff Eisenberg

  • Dez Wells' game-winning put-back caps Maryland's furious rally

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 5 hrs ago

    The only type of narrow loss Northwestern had managed to avoid during its first six Big Ten games was one in which the Wildcats let a late lead slip away.

    Now they can scratch that off the list too.

    Star-crossed Northwestern blew an 11-point lead in the final four minutes at Maryland on Sunday night, suffering a 68-67 loss in a game in which it didn't trail until the final 30 seconds. A go-ahead jumper by Tre Demps with 11 seconds left could have averted disaster for the Wildcats, but Northwestern couldn't get the stop it needed, surrendering an acrobatic fall-away put-back from Maryland's Dez Wells in the final seconds after Melo Trimble's 3-pointer rimmed out.

    Sunday's loss followed an all-too-familiar formula for Northwestern: Earn respect pushing a more talented opponent to the brink, yet find a way to lose in the final minutes. Four of the Wildcats' six Big Ten losses are by five or less points including two-point heartbreakers against Ohio State and Michigan last week. A fifth loss came by seven points in overtime at Michigan State.

    (Thanks for the video, Rob Dauster)

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  • NC State adds to its reputation for late-game heartbreak

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 6 hrs ago

    Squander an 18-point first-half lead in startlingly quick fashion? Check. Give away a four-point lead in the final minute of regulation? Check. Have a potential game-saving shot in the final seconds of overtime go halfway down but come back out? Check.

    NC State's 81-78 loss to eighth-ranked Notre Dame featured almost every punch to the gut a heartbreaking NC State loss should include. About the only thing that was missing Sunday night was a Karl Hess cameo, but you can be sure the polarizing former ACC referee was cackling in front of a TV somewhere. 

    The Wolfpack appeared to have their second signature win of the month sewn up with a four-point lead and possession of the ball with less than a minute to go in regulation, but they let it slip away in a hail of costly turnovers and defensive breakdowns. 

    Cody Martin missed a jumper with 38 seconds to go. Demetrius Jackson cut Notre Dame's deficit in half with a layup 16 seconds later. Then things began to unravel for NC State when Trevor Lacey tried an ill-advised three-quarters-court inbound pass that resulted in a turnover.

     

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  • Duke's second-half rally earns Coach K's 1,000th win

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 12 hrs ago

    They came to Madison Square Garden to witness a coronation.

    Former Duke players flew in to see Mike Krzyzewski become the first Division I men's coach to win 1,000 games. Dozens of reporters traveled from every corner of the country to pen odes to the greatest college basketball coach of his era. Some of the sport's most prominent coaches even took the time to tape fawning video messages that aired on FOX's broadcast throughout the game.

    Yes, everything was in place for a perfect celebration in Krzyzewski's honor except for one thing: For a while, it appeared St. John's wouldn't let the Duke coach make history at its expense.

    Fifth-ranked Duke escaped with a 77-68 road win on Sunday afternoon despite trailing St. John's by 10 points with just over eight minutes left in the game. Only after Krzyzewski made the unlikely decision to insert seldom-used backup center Marshall Plumlee alongside starter Jahlil Okafor did the Blue Devils finally clamp down on defense and begin showing signs of life. 

    "It was tough to get involved with 1,000. I was just trying to survive this game."

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  • Frank Kaminsky helps Wisconsin stay in control in the Big Ten

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    To avoid relinquishing first place in the Big Ten for the first time this season, Wisconsin had to survive a far tougher game at Michigan than many surely expected.

    Only a big overtime period from national player of the year candidate Frank Kaminsky enabled the Badgers to escape Ann Arbor with a 69-64 victory.

    Kaminsky gave Wisconsin the lead for good on the opening possession of overtime by getting into the middle of Michigan's three-two zone, attacking the rim and drawing a foul for a three-point play. The skilled 7-foot senior added five more points later in overtime and finished with a game-high 22 as Wisconsin salvaged a win despite blowing an 11-point second-half lead. 

    Wisconsin's victory elevates the Badgers to 18-2 overall and 6-1 in the Big Ten, a half game in front of second-place Indiana entering the Hoosiers' visit to Ohio State on Sunday. The only two games Wisconsin has lost this season are a December showdown with a Duke and a stunner at Rutgers in which the Badgers were without Kaminsky and lost starting point guard Traevon Jackson to injury. 

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  • Brilliant length-of-the-floor inbound play saves West Virginia

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    The difference between a good season and a special one is sometimes as simple as winning a few games that probably ought to have been losses.

    Eighteenth-ranked West Virginia got one of those Saturday against visiting TCU.

    The Mountaineers won 86-85 despite blowing an eight-point lead in the final nine minutes of regulation, trailing for almost the entire overtime and surrendering an apparent game-winning shot in the game's final seconds. It was TCU's Trey Zeigler who sank that shot, burying a short jumper in the paint to give his team a one-point lead with only two seconds remaining.

    What saved West Virginia was a brilliant length-of-the-floor inbound pass that led streaking freshman guard Jevon Carter toward the basket and enabled him to draw a foul on Kyan Anderson as he attempted a game-winning layup. Carter coolly sank both foul shots with only 0.9 seconds remaining, sealing a win that didn't seem likely to be so difficult when the game began.

    As West Virginia celebrated the victory at mid-court after the final buzzer, TCU coach Trent Johnson made a beeline for the referees and had to be held back by his assistants.

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  • Kansas wins at Texas to tighten its grip on the Big 12

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    Three of Kansas' first six Big 12 games this season were on the road against some of the top teams in the nation's deepest conference.

    The Jayhawks finished that stretch atop the league anyway, which does not bode well for the rest of the Big 12's chances of preventing them from capturing an 11th straight conference title. 

    Kansas pulled away from 17th-ranked Texas for a 75-62 victory in Austin on Saturday afternoon to improve to 5-1 in Big 12 play. With Iowa State losing at Texas Tech, the 11th-ranked Jayhawks will enter next week alone in first place, a game up in the loss column on Kansas State, Iowa State and West Virginia.

    Considering Kansas has lost only five home games in the past eight years and is already done with road games at Iowa State, Texas and Baylor this season, the Jayhawks have to feel good about their chances of hoisting another league title trophy in March. The toughest road games they have left in Big 12 play are at West Virginia on Feb. 16, at Kansas State on Feb. 23 and at Oklahoma on March 7.

    It was a fitting moment because these days even on the road, Kansas is feeling right at home.

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  • DePaul briefly got so confident it passed up open layups for threes

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    Having won at Seton Hall on Thursday night to move into a first-place tie atop the Big East and snap a seven-year losing streak against ranked opponents, DePaul entered Saturday's road game at Xavier overflowing with confidence.  

    In fact, the resurgent Blue Demons are so brash these days they're passing up wide-open layups for 3-pointers.

    It was guard Aaron Simpson who pulled that unlikely move late in the first half on Saturday, catching a pass all alone in transition, dribbling directly to the left wing and burying a 3-pointer before the Xavier defense could recover. That shot gave DePaul a 10-point lead and seemed to signal that the Blue Demons might be capable of pulling off a second surprising road win in three days.

    In retrospect, perhaps that was a bit premature. Xavier rallied for an 89-76 victory when DePaul's 63 percent first-half shooting from the field and 11 of 19 first-half shooting from behind the arc did not carry over after the break.

    Xavier earned a much-needed win to get back to .500 in league play. DePaul falls to 11-10 overall and 5-3 in the Big East, a far cry from NCAA tournament contention yet still a huge improvement over previous years.

  • Duke's Marshall Plumlee will join the U.S. Army after graduation

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    Marshall Plumlee intends to trade one iconic uniform for another when he's done at Duke.

    The 7-foot center formally committed to join the U.S. Army after graduation by completing his contracting ceremony on Friday morning at Cameron Indoor Stadium. He will become an army officer after he finishes his ROTC requirements in spring 2016.

    The Duke Chronicle reported Thursday that the inspiration for Plumlee's interest in joining the military was the Oct. 2012 trip to Fort Bragg that Mike Krzyzewski organized for the Blue Devils. The former West Point cadet, player and coach had his team go through a day of physical training before holding an open practice in front of a few hundred soldiers.

    Duke players spent a night in the barracks before waking up at dawn, marching to physical training and tackling an obstacle course that left each of them caked in dirt and mud. Plumlee, ironically, could not participate since he was on crutches and wore a walking boot on his left foot, but the experience apparently rubbed off on him anyway.  

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  • Impatient Duke fans once wanted Mike Krzyzewski fired

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    Three years into his tenure at Duke, the man now known as his era's most successful coach didn't appear to be on the road to shattering records or hoisting championship trophies.

    In fact, a vocal segment of the Blue Devils fan base wanted Mike Krzyzewski out.

    One of Duke's Tobacco Road rivals had just completed a stunning championship run under beloved coach Jim Valvano. The other was at the apex of its power under legendary coach Dean Smith. The Blue Devils on the other hand had just concluded back-to-back 17-loss seasons under Krzyzewski culminating with a 43-point shellacking in the 1983 ACC quarterfinals against Virginia.

    "Durham was not a pleasant place to be in 1983," said former Duke forward Jay Bilas, a freshman on the 1982-83 team. "There was a lot of discontentment around the program, and it was vocal. Heck, there was a petition circling around calling for Mike to be fired. I saw it. One of the Iron Dukes showed it to me, which I thought was kind of a classless move. But there were a lot of people who were really unhappy."

    Later in the meal, Dwyer suggested an uncommitted prospect that Duke could still pursue.

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  • Bobby Portis' improbable tip-in at the buzzer saves Arkansas

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 3 days ago

    Bobby Portis found a perfect way to atone for an unfathomably bad decision at the end of regulation Thursday night against Alabama.

    The Arkansas forward beat the Crimson Tide in overtime with a tip-in at the buzzer.

    With the score tied at 91 and just a few seconds left in overtime, Arkansas guard Ky Madden dribbled through heavy traffic and hoisted a heavily contested runner that missed the rim by two feet. That would have forced a second overtime except Alabama's Shannon Hale got caught watching the ball and failed to block out Portis, enabling the 6-foot-11 sophomore to swoop in to give the Razorbacks a 93-91 victory.

    Portis' game-winning shot ensured Arkansas would avoid a three-game losing streak and a second straight home loss. The Razorbacks (14-4, 3-2) were coming off back-to-back losses to Tennessee and Ole Miss, raising questions over whether they're consistent enough to lay claim to the title of the SEC's biggest challenger to top-ranked Kentucky. 

    It didn't happen because Michael Qualls scored eight of his game-high 30 points in overtime and Portis asserted himself at just the right time.

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