Duke tops rival UNC for ACC title
Smith's 20 points, 10 assists lead Blue Devils past Tar Heels
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Nolan Smith had 20 points and 10 assists and No. 5 Duke ended No. 6 North Carolina's run of big comebacks at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, beating the Tar Heels 75-58 in Sunday's championship game.
Kyle Singler added 11 points for the Blue Devils (30-4), who led the entire way for a record 19th tournament title. In the first meeting between the fierce rivals in the finals in a decade, second-seeded Duke led by 18 points in the first half and never let the top-seeded Tar Heels (26-7) build any momentum for a third consecutive tournament escape.
North Carolina had rallied from 19 down in the final 10 minutes to beat Miami on a last-play layup in the quarterfinals, then rallied from 14 down to force overtime and beat Clemson in the semifinals. This time, however, the Tar Heels got no closer than nine after halftime as the veteran Blue Devils maintained firm control from the tip.
Smith was named tournament MVP after overcoming a jammed toe in the quarterfinals against Maryland, while Singler had a better showing after struggling mightily against the Tar Heels in the two regular-season meetings. But on Sunday, the supporting cast backed up Duke's senior stars in a way it had failed to do in last week's loss to the Tar Heels that gave North Carolina the ACC regular-season title outright.
Seth Curry had 11 points, including a crucial 3-pointer after the Tar Heels had pulled to within nine. Ryan Kelly added another 3 a few minutes later helped silence North Carolina's last-gasp push to get back in it and finished with nine points.
Duke shot 62 percent in the first half and 50 percent for the game. The Blue Devils shut down North Carolina's offense and held the Tar Heels to 34 percent shooting in a dominant performance that could put the reigning national champions in line for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Harrison Barnes struggled to get things going a day after scoring a tournament freshman record 40 points against Clemson, finishing with 16 points to lead the Tar Heels.