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Wright, North Carolina cruise into ACC title game

Mar 11, 2007 - 3:23 AM TAMPA, Florida (Ticker) -- Freshman Brandan Wright made Boston College pay for its sluggish start.

Wright scored 10 of his 20 points in the first half as eighth-ranked North Carolina used a strong start en route to a 71-56 victory over the Eagles in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

With their third straight win following a two-game losing streak, the Tar Heels (27-6) advanced into the ACC title game for the first time since 2001. They will await the winner of North Carolina State and Virginia Tech in Sunday's championship.

"We're excited about being here, we're excited about beating a very good Boston College team," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "I thought our defense was better today than it's been in a while."

Named the league's rookie of the year on Tuesday, Wright shot 5-of-7 from the field in the opening 20 minutes as North Carolina displayed a lot of intensity in grabbing a 38-23 advantage at the break.

"We have team goals and intensity is a big thing," Wright said. "We always talk about it as a team and we haven't won an ACC tournament championship in a while and the guys on the team really want that."

The 6-9 Wright picked up some of his points in the open court, as the Tar Heels appeared to run all over the Eagles. They finished with a 14-6 advantage in fast-break points.

"Brandan did a great job for us inside and also was able to run the floor," Williams said. "He can run a heck of a lot faster than he even realizes he can run and if I can get him to do it more consistently it would really be a lot of fun."

"It was clear that tempo was going to be real important for us," Boston College coach Al Skinner said. "The fact that we missed layups and missed free throws led to run-outs for them in the first half. That's the biggest difference in the ballgame, that we missed some opportunities and because of that it allowed them to push the ball up the floor and get some transition baskets."

While the 6-9 Wright was at the top of his game from the start, ACC Player of the Year Jared Dudley and Boston College were not, shooting just 24 percent (7-of-29) to fall into a hole from which they could not climb out.

Dudley had just four of his 20 points in the opening 20 minutes, going 1-of-8 from the field before the break.

The league leader in minutes played, Dudley appeared worn down to Williams.

"Jared had to play 45 minutes on back-to-back nights," Williams said. "That's difficult to do."

Dudley disagreed that fatigue played a major factor.

"I wouldn't say that," he said. "I would say that we just missed shots. I had good looks. I don't think fatigue has anything to do with missing layups. I felt like I was rushing my shots."

Whether fatigue mattered or not, those are not problems for the Tar Heels, who are among the deepest teams in the nation. Freshmen Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson had 10 points apiece for UNC, which finished with eight players scoring at least four points.

"By this time of the year you should have been exposed to everything and you're not nearly as freshman-like as you were at the start of the year," Williams said. "We've played 33 games so they are experienced and kids these days are more worldly than they were 15 or 20 years ago."

Playing his second straight game with a transparent mask after suffering a broken nose on a shot to the face from Duke's Gerald Henderson on Sunday, Tyler Hansbrough scored nine points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Tar Heels. Sean Marshall led the Eagles (20-11) with 23 points.

Tyrese Rice, who scored 32 points in the overtime win over Miami on Friday, managed two points on 1-of-9 shooting as he was bottled up by Lawson.

"I thought Ty (Lawson) may have had his best defensive game of the year because Tyrese is so hard to keep in front of him," Williams said.

    --- --- -----
    BOSTON COLLEGE 23 33 56
    NORTH CAROLINA (8) 38 33 71 FINAL

    Mar 10 3:32 PM


    Mar 10 2:29 PM