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Monday, January 9, 2012
ACC notes: BC starting the future

By Robbi Pickeral

Some quick notes from around the Atlantic Coast Conference:

With 12 newcomers on its roster, Boston College is bound to start two. Or three. Or four.

But for the last two games -- including Saturday’s loss at North Carolina -- the Eagles have started five.

Scary, eh?

“I’m looking at nine freshmen every day, so I’m probably less petrified [at starting five of them] than others that are looking at it,’’ Eagles coach Steve Donahue said during Monday’s ACC conference call. “I don’t know if anybody has really earned playing time at starting spots when you have this kind of situation.”

BC had been starting Matt Humphrey, a junior college transfer who sat out last season as per NCAA rules. But he had struggled to hit shots. “And I just thought, let’s see if we can relax him a little bit, maybe come off the bench and have a different approach, and I think it’s helped him in that sense,’’ Donahue said.

“So I just try to judge it individually. And some of those guys, they’re our future, as well, and I wanted to see how they would react in that environment.”

COOK GETS THE START: Why did Duke freshman point guard Quinn Cook make his first start of the season at Georgia Tech on Saturday?

It was time.

“He was playing fairly well before Christmas, but after Christmas it just seemed like his body and mind were ready to make this step,’’ Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Remember that Cook, because of a knee injury, missed out on getting a head start with his teammates when Duke held 10 practices in July and August to prepare for a four-game exhibition tour of China and Dubai. Thus, the 6-foot ballhandler from Bowie, Md., started the season slowly, playing only single-digit minutes against Michigan State, Tennessee, Michigan and Kansas.

When the Blue Devils began re-jiggering their lineup in order to pick up their pace last month, Cook’s minutes picked up, too. He formed a dynamic point guard duo with sophomore Tyler Thornton, who is known more for his defense than offense.

Saturday, Duke made two lineup changes after losing at Temple earlier in the week. Ryan Kelly, a former starter, came off the bench to score a career-high 21 points.

Meanwhile, Cook played 27 minutes in his first start, finishing with 10 points and five assists. Thornton played 13 minutes. And it sounds like both guards will be counted on to keep contributing, no matter who begins the game.

“Nothing against Tyler [Thornton], Tyler can start, too,’’ Krzyzewski said. “It’s not about starting for our team, it’s about finding enough players who can maintain a high level of play for 40 minutes.”

And Cook, Krzyzewski decided, was ready to do so.

FSU LOOKING FOR A JUMP-START: Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton thought his team had taken a step forward when it beat Auburn 85-56, “and then I thought we took a step back against a well-prepared Clemson team.”

Make that a leap back.

The Noles lost by 20 points to a team that wasn’t exactly lighting it up offensively, and Hamilton has to be growing frustrated with his team’s lack of consistency -- especially on defense, which FSU has taken so much pride in over recent seasons

“We know exactly what we’re supposed to do,’’ said Hamilton, whose team has lost three of its last four games. “We just need to execute the things in our defensive philosophy, and be consistent with a lot of energy. On the offensive end, when we go back and watch the film, it’s obvious it’s the same thing on the offensive end: we’re not consistent with all the little things we have in our scheme.”

BALANCED STARTERS: All five of N.C. State's starters are averaging double figures, and coach Mike Gottfried credits the system he runs: UCLA’s high-post offense.

"John Wooden's style of play is a proven system that has won a number of national championships," Gottfried said. "I think our guys have bought into it."

While C.J. Leslie leads the Wolfpack with 13.5 ppg, fellow starter Scott Wood is averaging 12.9, Lorenzo Brown is chipping in 12.4, and C.J. Williams and Richard Howell are both contributing 12.1.

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.