CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The North Carolina Tar Heels didn't need a dramatic comeback this time around against Clemson.
Junior forward Tyler Hansbrough, sophomore guard Wayne Ellington and a healthier sophomore point guard Ty Lawson saw to that, combining for 58 points in an 86-81 win in the ACC tournament final Sunday afternoon at the Charlotte Bobcats Arena.
The top-seeded and top-ranked Tar Heels (32-2) rallied in the waning minutes and eventually eked out overtime wins in the two regular-season meetings against the Tigers. The game in Chapel Hill went double-overtime.
"We didn't want to get in that type of situation again," said Ellington, who scored a team-high 24 on 10 of 13 shooting.
Down 49-47 after junior guard K.C. Rivers hit one of his six 3-pointers (he had a game-high 28 points, eight rebounds and six steals), Ellington beat the Tigers' press for a fastbreak layup, drew a foul and hit the free throw.
"I was feeling good and when you're feeling good, you get a lot of confidence," said Ellington, who had a career-high 36 and then 28 in the earlier matchups with the Tigers. "I think it's the defense they play. They like to pick us up in the backcourt and they seem to forget about me."
Easy to do when you're worried about Lawson, who said his left ankle that he sprained last month and cost him six games, was feeling better. He had 12 points and eight assists.
Hansbrough, the hero of the semifinal win against Virginia Tech and the tournament MVP after his 18-point, 11-rebound finale, followed Ellington's 3-point play with a layup, a free throw and a dunk as the Tar Heels were off on a 12-2 run.
The No. 3-seeded Tigers (24-9), in the ACC finale for the second time in 55 years and the first time since 1962, climbed back from as many as 13 down to within four. But free-throw woes (14 of 26) curtailed the comeback bid.
"We still have that feeling of last year from losing in the (NCAA) Tournament," said Hansbrough, "and we still know we need to improve to get where we want to go."
Brian Landman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3347.