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North Carolina earns share of ACC title

Mar 5, 2007 - 2:42 AM CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina (Ticker) -- North Carolina smelled blood - and spilled some to grab a share of a title.

Tyler Hansbrough had 26 points and a career-high 17 rebounds to lift the eighth-ranked Tar Heels to an 86-72 victory over No. 14 Duke in the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season finale for both teams.

Prior to leaving the court with a bloodied nose and face with 14 seconds left after being elbowed by Blue Devils freshman Gerald Henderson, Hansbrough helped North Carolina (25-6, 11-5 ACC) secure a share of the conference championship with Virginia and gain the No. 1 seed in the upcoming ACC tournament.

Henderson, who appeared to swing his forearm and caught his elbow flush on Hansbrough's nose, was called for a flagrant foul and was ejected, earning him a suspension for Duke's opening game of the conference tournament.

"It's not like a prize fight where you ask what the other guys looks like. He looks pretty bad," Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said of Hansbrough. "They say that (his nose) is not broken."

With Virginia losing on Saturday and Virginia Tech and Boston College falling earlier on Sunday, the door was open for Carolina to grab a piece of the ACC crown.

The Tar Heels pounced on the opportunity, scoring 12 of the game's first 14 points and, after withstanding a second-rally by the Blue Devils, using a 14-2 run to take control.

A 6-9 sophomore, Hansbrough had seven points in the decisive surge, including a dunk to cap the spurt that gave North Carolina a 64-50 lead with 6:47 to play. He finished 10-of-19 from the field.

"Tyler Hansbrough, I told him - I guess it's about as big a compliment as I would give him - that was a Sean May-like, 26 points, 17 rebounds in 30 minutes of action. He was impressive," Williams said.

Duke (22-9, 8-8) never got the lead under double digits thereafter.

The play on which Hansbrough got elbowed occurred, ironically, after he missed a pair of free throws. Hansbrough barreled in to get his own rebound and as he pump-faked, Henderson came down and rapped his elbow across the bridge of his nose, knocking Hansbrough to the floor.

Hansbrough jumped to his feet and had to be restrained by teammates as blood spilled across his nose and over his mouth. After the officials conferred, Henderson was dismissed, triggering an automatic one-game suspension.

As expected, both coaches had different views of the incident.

"The officials have to call what they do and I'm sorry that Tyler got hit," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "But also the intent was not to do that. I feel badly for Tyler and we apologize for that, but I know there was no intent to do that."

"I have not seen the replays - I told you my impression," Williams said. "I thought Tyler got hit."

The incident overshadowed a milestone for Williams, who won his 100th game at North Carolina as his squad averted its first three-game losing streak since February 2003.

"You hate the way it ended like it did ... with the stuff going on, but at the same time we were very, very pleased and we also realize that we're very happy and very lucky," Williams said. "We got a lot of help down the last week of the season. We didn't think we'd be a part of it at 11 and 5 but we're very thankful for that and now we've got to play."

Reyshawn Terry added 15 points for North Carolina, which shot 49 percent (31-of-63) and made 22-of-27 from the stripe.

Greg Paulus scored 21 points and Henderson had a season-high 16 for the Blue Devils, who finished the season with two straight losses.

"Well, they played a (heck) of a game," Krzyzewski said of the Tar Heels. "They're fast and deep. I thought our kids played their hearts out."