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Hansbrough lifts North Carolina to ACC final

Mar 15, 2008 - 9:06 PM CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Tyler Hansbrough made sure that North Carolina reached its conference-record 29th Atlantic Coast Coast title game.

Hansbrough rebounded a miss by Ty Lawson and buried a short baseline jumper with less than one second remaining to lift the top-ranked Tar Heels to a hard-fought 68-66 victory over Virginia Tech in the ACC semifinals on Saturday.

Hansbrough, the conference's Player of the Year, finished with 26 points on 9-of-18 shooting. He also made all eight of his free throws and pulled down nine rebounds.

"I was supposed to set a screen for Wayne (Ellington) and I was supposed to penetrate," said Hansbrough of his game-winning shot. "One of our options was to look back at Wayne. I remember Ty (Lawson) going in to the lane area, and I knew he was going to put the ball up.

"I just ran over to where Ty was going to shoot, and luckily, the ball had a good roll out to me. I just caught it and let it fly, and I'm pretty glad it went in."

North Carolina (31-2) will face either Duke or Clemson in Sunday's championship game.

The Tar Heels trailed for most of the contest, but took their first lead since midway through the first half with 88 seconds left. With the Tar Heels trailing 64-61 with just over two minutes left, Wayne Ellington knocked down a 3-pointer to even the score.

Ellington was then fouled by Deron Washington, his fifth, with 1:28 remaining while attempting a long 3-pointer. Ellington missed the first free throw but made the next two to give the Tar Heels a 66-64 lead.

"I think in the last five minutes of the game, we decided that we were going to buckle down and make some stops," Ellington said. "We needed them, and we showed our toughness."

The Hokies (19-13) responded with two free throws by A.D. Vassallo with just over a minute remaining to knot the score.

After a North Carolina turnover, J.T. Thompson missed a jumper and Hansbrough rebounded the miss, setting the stage for his final heroics.

"I told (Virginia Tech coach) Seth (Greenberg) after the game - and I really meant it - that I thought they really outplayed us," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "We were very fortunate and made a couple of plays at the end."

Virginia Tech, which was trounced the Tar Heels by 39 points in the previous meeting between the teams, used a 10-4 run early in the second half to build a 48-42 lead. Dorenzo Hudson capped the run with a 3-pointer at the 15:33 mark.

Vassallo scored 17 points for the Hokies, who shot 40 percent (23-of-58) from the field. Virginia Tech shot just 26 percent in a 92-53 loss in Chapel Hill on February 16.

Malcolm Delaney added 15 points and Washington contributed 14 for the Hokies, who will find out Sunday if they are part of the NCAA Tournament field for a second straight year.

"I couldn't be more proud of our basketball team," Greenberg said. "The game played out basically the way we wanted it to play out. We wanted to get the game in the 60s, and we got it in the 60s. Obviously, you have to give Ellington, Hansbrough and Coach Williams credit. We basically controlled the game for 39 minutes and 59 seconds."

Ellington netted 15 points and Marcus Ginyard 10 for the Tar Heels, who also shot 40 percent (24-of-60).