No. 8 North Carolina Wins First ACC Tournament Title Since 1998 with an 89-80 Victory Over NC State
March 11, 2007
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -North Carolina's depth proved to be too much for North Carolina State's determination.
Shrugging off eight years of frustration in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, the eighth-ranked Tar Heels beat their Tobacco Road rivals 89-80 Sunday for their first league title since 1998.
Brandan Wright and Wayne Ellington scored 16 apiece, Tyler Hansbrough went 11-for-11 from the foul line to finish with 15, and Reyshawn Terry and Ty Lawson added 13 each to give Roy Williams about the only thing that was missing from his resume as a head coach.
In winning their 16th ACC tournament title, tied with Duke for the most in conference, the Tar Heels (28-6) likely also nailed down a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
North Carolina State (18-15) reached the title game with an improbable run that included upsets of second-seeded Virginia, third-seeded Virginia Tech and defending champion Duke, which had won seven of the previous eight ACC titles.
But winning four games in four days was too much to ask of the 10th-seeded Wolfpack, especially against a team as deep and balanced as top-seeded North Carolina.
Williams used 11 players, substituting as many as five at a time, while building a 16-point lead. Brandon Costner, Gavin Grant and Courtney Fells led a 29-14 run that trimmed N.C. State's deficit to 70-69 but the Wolfpack ran out of gas in the last five minutes.
Terry scored eight straight for North Carolina, then the Tar Heels made nine of 10 free throws in the final 1:14 to stay ahead.
Costner led N.C. State with 28 points. Fells had 18 and Grant finished with 10.
The Wolfpack's surprising run, with coach Sidney Lowe wearing a snazzy red jacket for each game, was reminiscent of N.C. State's unlikely run to the ACC and NCAA titles in 1983. Lowe was a star on that team and became the first person to win an ACC title game as a player and also coach in the championship game.
Lowe had been 4-0 in games in which he wore his lucky sport coat and remained on the bench for the entire game.
He donned it for both meetings between the Wolfpack and Tar Heels during the regular season, winning 83-79 in Raleigh. He also wore it for the rematch North Carolina won 83-64 in Chapel Hill - a game N.C. State trailed by one when Lowe was taken to a hospital at halftime for treatment of flu-like symptoms.
The Tar Heels, whose stretch of eight consecutive years without a title was their longest since 1958-66, got timely contribution from all of its key players. Even reserve Wes Miller got in on the act with two big 3-pointers during a 15-4 run that carried Carolina to a 42-34 lead at the half.
Hansbrough, playing with a faceguard to protect his broken nose, scored nine straight points for North Carolina during one stretch of the second half, and Wright scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half.
Lawson, the Tar Heels' point guard, was the guy who held it all together. Terry showed veteran leadership by taking over at a critical time, ultimately delivering the biggest blow to N.C. State's hopes - a 3-pointer that put his team up 78-72 with three minutes to go.