No. 2 North Carolina Defeats No. 7 Duke, 79-71
March 8, 2009
CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina (AP) - yler Hansbrough walked off the court after his final home game at North Carolina celebrating another Atlantic Coast Conference championship and another win against the Tar Heels' fiercest rival.
And once again, Ty Lawson had a lot to do with that.
Hansbrough scored 17 points and Lawson nearly had with a triple-double to help the No. 2 Tar Heels beat No. 7 Duke 79-71 Sunday, winning the league's regular-season title and earning the top seed in next week's ACC tournament.
Lawson finished with 13 points and several key plays late despite playing with a toe injury for the Tar Heels (27-3, 13-3 ACC), who have won 13 of 14 since an surprising 0-2 start in league play. North Carolina shot 53 percent and led most of the second half for its sixth win in seven meetings with Duke (25-6, 11-5).
Once it was over, Hansbrough got emotional as he addressed the crowd during the Senior Day postgame festivities and thanked his teammates for "the best four years of my life." It was the send-off he had hoped for when he put off the NBA to come back to school for one more run at a national championship.
"It's a hard game to play," Hansbrough said. "You're thinking about everything. You're thinking about your after-game speech. You're thinking, 'Oh man, this is my last game in the Dean Dome,' and you start to think your college career is coming to an end. Then you're still trying to focus on the game and get the win."
Fortunately, Hansbrough had plenty of help from Lawson, the speedy junior who finished with eight rebounds and nine assists in 36 minutes despite playing with a jammed right big toe that he injured in Friday's practice. Lawson - who scored 21 of 25 points in the second half of last month's 101-87 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium - needed a shot for pain before the game, but still looked almost unguardable down the stretch.
"It's just tough for me to move on it or pivot off it right now," said Lawson, who had an icebag wrapped around his foot afterward. "It felt numb. I felt like I was running on four toes. I was able to do everything I could, but now I'm coming down off it and it's real painful right now."
North Carolina swept the Blue Devils for only the second time in the past 13 years. The Tar Heels also won the ACC outright for the third time in five seasons.
It was a familiar scenario for North Carolina, which beat the Blue Devils by eight to clinch the league crown in last year's regular-season finale.
Jon Scheyer scored 24 points to lead the Blue Devils, while Kyle Singler added 23. But they never could overtake the Tar Heels once they fell behind in the second half, falling short in their bid to clinch at least a share of the league's regular-season crown for the first time since 2006.
"I think we competed better (than last month's meeting)," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We're a better basketball team than we were a month ago, but they're really good. They're, if not the top team, they've got to be one of the top two or three. I'm good with where my team is at."
Lawson took control as the Tar Heels clung to a 70-68 lead with 3½ minutes left. First he drove into the paint and kicked out to Danny Green for a 3-pointer, then drove past Scheyer for a layup and drew the foul for a three-point play that made it 76-69 with 1:03 left.
Then, after Bobby Frasor tied up Gerald Henderson to get the ball back, Lawson hit two foul shots to make it 78-69 with 51.7 seconds left.
Hansbrough finished 5-for-11 from the field but hit two 3-pointers to go with eight rebounds in 33 minutes. He exited the game after fouling out with 13.8 seconds left, waving his arms to acknowledge the crowd before shaking hands with coach Roy Williams as he made his way back to the bench.
Afterward, Williams was asked whether he thought Lawson should be the ACC's Player of the Year.
"He has been so big in close games," Williams said. "And I'll say this too. I've never coached anybody that's had to face as much on the court as (Hansbrough) has faced, and he has been awfully impressive. To do the things he has done with two and three guys going at him, as physical as he has played ... I don't know who is player of the year, but you go past those two and I find it hard to believe."
Wayne Ellington added 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting, while Deon Thompson had 14 for North Carolina. The Tar Heels also took a 37-22 edge on the boards.
Duke led 39-38 at halftime behind 15 points from Singler, who repeatedly found himself open on the perimeter as the Blue Devils penetrated and kicked out for open looks. But they didn't fare much better defensively than the Tar Heels, with both teams shooting 56 percent in the opening 20 minutes.
In the second half, however, only the Tar Heels were able to continue that kind of efficiency. The Blue Devils shot just 32 percent in the second half, though much of that came as they missed plenty of the open looks that they knocked down in earlier in the game. Singler shot just 2-for-10 after halftime.
North Carolina took the lead for good on Green's 3-pointer with 17:45 to play and led by anywhere from four to seven points for much of the half until Lawson put it away
"We could never get over that six-point hump that we had throughout pretty much the whole game," Singler said. "We were just never able to get back the lead. We had good shots."
The game drew its share of Tar Heel celebrities amid the rowdy capacity crowd. Michael Jordan - the managing partner of the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats - arrived with head coach Larry Brown and current players Raymond Felton and Sean May. In addition, former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards attended with his wife, Elizabeth.