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Tar Heels top Duke, win ACC regular season crown

Mar 6, 2011 - 4:53 AM Chapel Hill, NC (Sports Network) - Freshman Harrison Barnes sparkled on senior night with 18 points and 13th-ranked North Carolina won the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title with an 81-67 victory over No. 4 Duke in another edition of college basketball's most heated rivalry.

Tyler Zeller totaled 14 points for the Tar Heels (24-6, 14-2 ACC), who rode a 51-point first half and gained the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament by winning their final seven games of the season. It was also sweet revenge for UNC, which hasn't lost since a 79-73 decision at Duke on February 9.

Kendall Marshall had 15 points and 11 assists, while John Henson scored 10 to go with 12 rebounds to help the Heels finish 15-0 at home.

"Our potential is through the roof," Marshall said. "We've matured mentally going through the losses that this team has had; not so much games, but as far as players since last year. It shows our true characters."

Nolan Smith had 30 points and Seth Curry added 20, but the Blue Devils (27-4, 13-3) lost for the second time in three contests. Duke was dethroned as the No. 1 team last Saturday with a 64-60 defeat at Virginia Tech. Now, the defending national champions have to settle for a No. 2 seed for the ACC Tournament.

A capacity crowd at the Smith Center roared its approval as the final seconds chewed away, watching the Tar Heels cap an amazing second half of the regular season. UNC has won 17 of its last 19 overall since falling to Texas on December 18 and is 20-3 since starting the season 4-3 in November.

Duke, which shot 35.5 percent from the field, had won its previous 30 games played in the state of North Carolina. Kyle Singler had a horrid night, going 3-of-14 from the field and scoring eight points.

"I don't think confidence is an issue, we have confidence," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Just because you miss some shots does not mean you're not confident. And I am confident in Kyle. He hasn't shot very well over the past month but I am still very confident in him. He's a senior on our team and he has won 120 games; he's a national champion."

Marshall's three-point play capped nine in a row for the Tar Heels, giving them a 34-23 lead with 6:02 left in the opening half. The advantage reached as high as 14 before Smith's jumper pulled Duke within 51-39 at the break. UNC shot 57.9 percent over the first 20 minutes.

Earlier this season, the Blue Devils rallied from a 16-point first half deficit to beat the Tar Heels. This time, Roy Williams wouldn't allow his team to give up an early advantage.

"I did mention it one time at half," Williams said. "They're going to come out and try to show more intensity and focus like they did in Durham, and we cannot allow that to happen. They came out and scored the first seven points of the second half and then [Barnes] scores on a drive and we get a couple of free throws and catch our breath. After that, every time they'd make a basket we'd make a basket, and we answered every charge they had."

Singler's jumper had Duke within 51-46 two minutes into the second half, but Barnes stemmed the tide by knocking down a jumper and a pair of free throws. Soon after, Barnes drained a three for a 60-48 difference.

Curry's three-ball had Duke within six with under 11 minutes left, but UNC had the answer with Justin Knox and Zeller hitting jumpers. Duke couldn't get closer than nine down the stretch.

Game Notes

Either Carolina or Duke has won or shared each of the last eight ACC regular season titles...Duke has won the previous three meetings. UNC leads the all- time series, 131-100...This was the 799th career game for Williams, and the UNC coach stands at 638-161 all-time...This was the first-ever regular season, primetime CBS college basketball broadcast.