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Late run propels North Carolina to ACC title

Mar 9, 2008 - 6:38 AM DURHAM, North Carolina (Ticker) -- The Atlantic Coast Conference championship came down to the final three minutes, when North Carolina took control.

Danny Green had 18 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks off the bench and Tyler Hansbrough added 16 points and 15 rebounds as top-ranked North Carolina claimed the ACC title with a 76-68 victory over No. 5 Duke on Saturday.

Wayne Ellington scored 16 points for the Tar Heels (29-2, 14-2 ACC), who won their eighth consecutive game and the third straight time at Duke.

"It was two teams playing as hard as they could possibly play," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "It was a very rough and physical game. It was really two teams with a great deal of intensity and aggressiveness."

The Blue Devils (26-4, 13-3) had a two-point lead with under six minutes to play before Ellington later tied the contest at 68-68 with 3:01 remaining.

From there, the Tar Heels took over as Hansbrough gave North Carolina a 70-68 lead on a putback layup and Ty Lawson made a pair of free throws to push the bulge to four with 1:31 remaining.

Lawson then made a steal and Green tipped in the missed layup and, after another defensive stop, Green threw down a dunk that gave North Carolina a 76-68 edge with 30 seconds left, essentially putting the game away.

"We got some great play down the stretch," Williams said. "Danny Green was huge tonight."

Duke missed its final 11 shots from the field and was outscored 10-0 over the final 5:50 of the game as North Carolina won its second straight ACC regular-season crown.

"I was proud of our guys," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "You miss good shots and they make their good shots and you lose. You tip your hat to the opponent and you move on.

"We played our hearts out and Carolina played their hearts out, but they just hit their shots in those last 3 1/2 minutes."

North Carolina's defense kept Duke in check for much of the first half, holding the Blue Devils to just 31 percent (10-of-32) shooting and the Tar Heels led, 42-31, at the break. Duke's leading scorer DeMarcus Nelson was held without a point in the opening 20 minutes.

"I think we definitely used too much emotion - just raw emotion throughout the course of the game, especially myself," said the senior Nelson, who finished with six points. "When you're playing against a team like that, you have to have some poise. I think we might've played on raw emotion and it drained us."

However, the Blue Devils rallied in the second half, cutting the deficit to 48-44 just four minutes in.

The Tar Heels could not pull away and Duke finally caught North Carolina and took its first lead since the opening seconds of the game at 68-66 on a tip-in by Jon Scheyer with 5:51 left to play.

Greg Paulus led the way with 15 points and Scheyer finished with 14 for the Blue Devils, who shot 33 percent (25-of-76) from the field, including 10-of-29 from the arc.

"This is definitely not how we wanted to leave the gym tonight," Paulus said. "But it will keep us hungry and we'll get back to work and we'll play with a chip on our shoulder."