for this game

Duke handles UNC to capture 19th ACC crown

Mar 14, 2011 - 12:49 AM Greensboro, NC (Sports Network) - Nolan Smith posted 20 points and dished out 10 assists as No. 5 Duke raced out to a big early lead and held off No. 6 North Carolina, 75-58, in an ACC final matchup between these two storied programs.

Kyle Singler and Seth Curry each contributed 11 points for the Blue Devils (30-4), who claimed their third straight conference title and 19th in school history.

Miles Plumlee added nine points and seven rebounds for Duke, which reached the 30-win mark for the third straight season.

"The ACC has made me a better coach," gushed Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. "I feel that when you are a part of something that's bigger than you and you're in a tournament representing that conference, you should try to be at your best. We don't talk about the NCAA tournament. We just say we want to win this tournament."

Defending-champion Duke, as the top seed in the West Region, opens up NCAA Tournament play on Friday against MEAC champion Hampton.

Harrison Barnes tallied 16 points and John Henson scored 10 with a game-best 18 rebounds for the Tar Heels (26-7), who have not won a playoff crown since 2008 and have not beaten Duke in an ACC final since 1998.

North Carolina drew a two-seed in the East Region and also begins its quest for a title on Friday against Long Island University.

The outcome was never really in doubt from the opening minutes, as Duke scored the first eight points of the game, thanks to six from the Plumlees.

Up 10-6 less than five minutes in, the Blue Devils blitzed the Tar Heels with a 15-2 burst. Andre Dawkins kicked it off with a triple, Mason Plumlee's slam was followed by a Henson layup, Dawkins again connected from long distance to make it a 14-point margin, then Smith capped the surge with a three-point play for a 25-8 game with 9 1/2 minutes left until intermission.

North Carolina was only able to crawl back within 42-28 at the break after a quick 6-2 run to end the opening 20 minutes.

Henson and Barnes hit consecutive shots to get the Tar Heels to 44-32, but Singler regained Duke's momentum with a three-pointer on the next possession, and a Curry trey opened up a 54-38 advantage with less than six minutes played in the second half.

UNC had one more brief stretch after the midway point, getting within 61-49 with 8:33 remaining on a jumper from Kendall Marshall before cutting its gap to 66-56 with 5 1/2 to go after Marshall's two free throws.

Sean Kelly cut the rally short with a shot from long distance, then Smith connected for four points around a Mason Plumlee dunk to make it 75-56 with less than a minute left.

"I said it after we played them over there: They're two marvelous players, and you don't see seniors hang around that much and play," UNC head coach Roy Williams said about Smith and Singler. "What they did was fantastic."

Game Notes

North Carolina remains second to Duke in all-time ACC championships with 17...The Tar Heels haven't won since topping Clemson in 2008...Dawkins finished with all nine of his points coming on three triples in the first half...The Tar Heels won the battle of the glass by a 44-36 margin, but committed 16 turnovers to 12 for the Blue Devils...UNC's Tyler Zeller and Duke's Ryan Kelly each had three blocks.