Duke Wins Fourth Straight ACC Tournament Title
March 10, 2003
By JENNA FRYER
GREENSBORO, N.C. - The second-ranked Blue Devils made history by becoming the first women's team to win four consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference tournament titles with a 77-59 victory over No. 11 North Carolina on Monday night.
But Icis Tillis, who scored all 21 of her points in the second half and added 10 rebounds to earn tournament MVP, knows the Blue Devils (31-1) have a lot more work to do this season.
"A dynasty will be complete when we win the national championship," Tillis said. "When I think of a dynasty, I think of national championships. I think we are right there, we just need one more piece of the puzzle."
Alana Beard had 16 points and a career-high 20 rebounds to help top-seeded Duke win its 43rd consecutive ACC game, run through the league undefeated for the second straight season and match the Duke men (1999-2002) as the only conference teams to win four straight titles.
To do so, the Blue Devils beat North Carolina (27-5) for the ninth straight time in a rematch of last season's final.
The numbers, the trophies and the titles mean little right now to the Blue Devils, whose only loss this season was Feb. 1 to No. 1 Connecticut.
"We don't really look at it in streaks and titles," Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. "Years from now we will look back and say we really accomplished something special. But right now we are getting ready for the NCAA tournament and our next opponent."
In front of a sold-out crowd of 11,126, the Tar Heels made it a game for the first 30 minutes by holding Beard and Tillis in check.
Beard missed nine of her first 12 attempts and Tillis went 0-for-6 as North Carolina built a 31-25 halftime lead.
But when the two warmed up in the second half, nothing could stop them, not even North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell's outburst.
Called for a technical for arguing a non-call, Hatchell stomped up and down on the baseline, then implored the Carolina fans to stand up and cheer.
Tillis, watching it all from under the basket, then walked to the wrong basket to shoot her free throws. Tuning her head away in laughter at the entire scene, she eventually made the two free throws for a 62-51 lead.
"The technical fired us up," said Tillis. "I think a technical can help the other team, as well, and I think we knew we had the game wrapped up then."
Tillis finished 7-of-17 from the floor and Beard was 5-for-17, splitting her 20 rebounds evenly on both ends of the court.
"I guess I was just a magnet for the ball," Beard said.
The North Carolina players blamed themselves for letting Beard run wild under the glass.
"She was a beast out there on the boards," said forward Jennifer Thomas. "She wanted the ball and no one boxed her out, so she just came out and upped her intensity."
Lindsey Harding added 17 points for Duke, going 9-for-9 at the free throw line, and Sheana Mosch, the winningest player in ACC history with 120 victories, scored 11.
Coretta Brown scored 18 points for North Carolina and Candace Sutton added 10.
Most everyone knew - even North Carolina - that it was just a matter of time before Beard and Tillis got hot.
"You've got to be able to control those two if you are going to win the game," Hatchell said. "In the second half, we didn't."
Beard started the second half with a driving layup, then Tillis grabbed an offensive rebound and pushed it through the hoop for her first basket and a tie at 31 with 17:22 to play.
She tipped a Tar Heel pass on the next possession and finished it with a layup and grabbed a steal after that for another layup. Her spinning jumper capped another set of consecutive baskets that gave Duke a 42-36 lead.
North Carolina quickly called timeout, with Hatchell screaming at her players to "play defense!" The lecture seemed to help - Brown and Kenya McBee hit back-to-back 3-pointers after the timeout that helped North Carolina cut it to 45-44.
That's when Duke's stars had seen enough: Tillis made a pair of 3-pointers and Beard scored on a jumper to put the Blue Devils back up 53-44 with 9:22 to play.
"I gave it all I had," said Hatchell, who lost her voice midway through the second half. "I just wish they could have matched my intensity level."