for this game

Terry lifts UNC to first ACC title in nine years

Mar 12, 2007 - 4:41 AM TAMPA, Florida (Ticker) -- While most of North Carolina's young stars get the press, senior Reyshawn Terry made sure an elusive title did not slip away.

Terry scored eight straight points at a crucial point in the second half as the eighth-ranked Tar Heels captured their first Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title since 1998 with an 89-80 victory over North Carolina State.

Improving to 39-11 all-time as a top seed in the league tourney, the Tar Heels (28-6) wrapped up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament when the NCAA Selection Committee released the bracket later Sunday.

"We are extremely excited about our season and about earning a No. 1 seed," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "As always, we're excited about being a part of the NCAA Tournament. We should have some confidence from winning the ACC tournament, but as I've always said, you build your momentum in the NCAA Tournament."

One of the last members of the 2005 national championship team, Terry was thrilled to end the Tar Heels' title drought.

"It's another achievement and accomplishment for me, my team, my coaching staff," he said. "For coach Williams, he hasn't won this since he's been here so it's another jewel to go in his jewelry box. Like Wes (Miller) said, 'Coach said we can enjoy it until midnight and then we've got to focus on the NCAA Tournament,' but it means a lot to this team and this organization."

One reason for North Carolina's high profile is the play of its youngsters - like recently named ACC Rookie of the Year Brandan Wright and last year's winner Tyler Hansbrough.

However, it was Terry - the lone senior starter for the Tar Heels - that personally stemmed a late rally by the Wolfpack, who were looking to topple a ranked team in the tournament for the third time in four games.

"We just played against, obviously, a very good basketball team," N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said. "They made some big shots down the stretch. They're tough inside, they're tough outside and obviously they play hard."

Trailing by as many 16 points with just less than 14 minutes remaining, North Carolina State (18-15) rallied to close within 70-69 on a jumper by Courtney Fells with 5:02 remaining.

"I think our defense was pretty good in that stretch," said N.C. State guard Engin Atsur about the rally. "We had that run and I think our bench did a great job stepping up, especially Dennis Horner, who gave us a big lift."

Terry, the fifth-leading scorer for UNC at 9.3 points coming in, hit a jumper eight seconds later. After a steal by freshman Ty Lawson on the other end, the 6-8 senior was bumped on a reserve layup and sank the ensuing free throw for a three-point play and a 75-69 edge.

Finally, Terry hit one of his two baskets from the arc with 3:31 left, capping a personal 8-3 spurt for a 78-72 lead with 3:31 left.

"He's been with me since I got (here) and I pushed him probably as hard at least as any player I've ever coached," Williams said about Terry. "He's just a phenomenal youngster that I'll keep giving chances to, and I just love him to death."

"Terry is a great player," Fells said. "We played great defense in that possession but he hit a key shot. It was a dagger for us but we just stuck with it and kept trying to fight and fight and hopefully got ourselves back in the game to win."

The Tar Heels later sealed the win at the free-throw line, finishing 23-of-24 at the stripe.

Terry scored 13 points and Wright and freshman Wayne Ellington added 16 each for UNC, which beat N.C. State for the second time in three meetings this season.

Wright, who shot 7-of-11 from the field, added to his impressive first year by being named the tournament's MVP.

"I was feeling good as a player," Wright said. "Coming out of the Duke game I thought I played well. I thought we had a lot of momentum coming into the tournament and I just felt like I had to really step up."

Brandon Costner scored 28 points for the Wolfpack, who missed out on the NCAA Tournament, settling for the NIT.

Fells scored 18 points and Ben McCauley added 12 for N.C. State, which lost despite shooting 55 percent (29-of-53) and holding a 16-4 advantage in second-chance points.