for this game

North Carolina captures ACC title

Mar 16, 2008 - 9:08 PM CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Clemson was trying to make history but it could not overcome North Carolina's tradition.

Wayne Ellington scored 24 points and Tyler Hansbrough added 18 on Sunday as the top-ranked Tar Heels held off the Tigers, 86-81, in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.

"I got into a pretty good rhythm from the first day (of the ACC tournament) and I think I just went from there," said Ellington, who was 10-of-13 from the field. "I am feeling very confident right now."

North Carolina (33-2) won its record 17th ACC tournament title and second in as many years. The Tar Heels, who likely secured a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, last won back-to-back ACC crowns in 1997 and 1998.

"We feel ecstatic about winning this," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "It was a great feeling and a very satisfying feeling for us."

"It's a good feeling, but we feel that it is not enough," added North Carolina guard Quentin Thomas. "We want to achieve one more goal, and that is a national championship."

Clemson (24-9), which upset seventh-ranked Duke in the semifinals on Saturday, was denied its first ACC title in school history. The Tigers had not even made the ACC final since 1962, when they lost to a Billy Packer-led Wake Forest team.

The Tigers also were a confident squad Sunday after their 78-74 win over Duke, but they were worn down by the Tar Heels' potent transition game. North Carolina repeatedly broke Clemson's press, resulting in numerous easy baskets.

"I like for us to attack even more," Williams said. "I do like that approach to basketball and we teach it every day."

Still, the Tar Heels could not put away the Tigers after opening a 72-59 lead with eight minutes remaining. K.C. Rivers kept the Tigers in the fast-paced contest with 28 points.

"We weren't picking them up well in transition, so it was hurting us down the stretch," Rivers said.

Clemson closed within 80-76 on Trevor Booker's layup with 3:13 remaining. North Carolina held on by scoring its final six points from the foul line.

"I'm very proud of the way our team played in this tournament," Clemson coach Oliver Purcell said. "I'm very disappointed we didn't get the job done. We missed some shots that we would normally make, both jump shots and some shots in the lane."

North Carolina won all three games against Clemson this season, with both regular-season contests decided in overtime.

"We beat a really, really good Clemson team," Williams added. "They are one of the best teams in the country. We were lucky the first two times we beat them. Today, I think we better than we did either one of the two two times."

After a back-and-forth first half that ended with North Carolina ahead, 39-38, Clemson took its last lead at 49-47 on Rivers' 3-pointer with 15:47 remaining.

The Tar Heels took control with a 12-2 spurt, opening a 59-49 advantage on Danny Green's layup with 12:52 left.

Later in the half, Rivers drilled back-to-back 3-pointers, pulling the Tigers within 72-67 with just under seven minutes to play.

"It was definitely frustrating," Rivers said. "We got it close and all of a sudden, they made another stretch run and we had to keep fighting hard at it on defense."

Led by Ellington, North Carolina outscored Clemson 34-15, in fastbreak points.

"Wayne is a great player, a great leader on the floor, a great shooter," Thomas. "Every time he lets the ball go, I don't think he's going to miss it.

"When you have someone like that on the perimeter and someone like Tyler on the inside, it's a double punch. It's hard to defend."

North Carolina shot 57 percent in the second half (17-of-30) to finish at 49 percent (34-of-69).