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Satisfying title for Duke

Duke senior Nolan Smith, the ACC tournament MVP, sails to the basket in the first half for two of his 20 points. Smith, who jammed his toe in the quarterfinal against Maryland, added 10 assists.

Associated Press

Duke senior Nolan Smith, the ACC tournament MVP, sails to the basket in the first half for two of his 20 points. Smith, who jammed his toe in the quarterfinal against Maryland, added 10 assists.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler headed back to a celebrating Duke bench and found their Hall of Fame coach waiting for them. Smith jumped into Mike Krzyzewski's arms for a big hug, followed immediately by Singler.

The seniors who led the fifth-ranked Blue Devils to last year's national championship have another Atlantic Coast Conference title to savor.

Beating their fiercest rival made it sweeter.

Smith had 20 points and the Blue Devils ended No. 6 North Carolina's run of big rallies at the ACC tournament, beating the Tar Heels 75-58 in Sunday's final.

Singler added 11 points for the Blue Devils (30-4), who led the entire way for a record 19th tournament title. They won their third straight tournament and 10th in 13 years, the latest sign of just how seriously they have approached this event.

"I love the ACC. The ACC has made me a better coach," Krzyzewski said. "I just feel that when you are a part of something that's bigger than you and you're in a tournament representing that conference, you should try to be at your best. That's my attitude with it.

"We don't talk about the NCAA Tournament or anything like that. We just say we want to win this tournament. You could see how happy we are."

That much was evident when Smith and Singler checked out for the last time with 52.4 seconds left to a standing ovation from Duke fans. North Carolina coach Roy Williams joined the applause from his sideline.

"I said it after we played them over there: they're two marvelous players, and you don't see seniors hang around that much and play," Williams said. "What they did was fantastic."

A week earlier, North Carolina (26-7) handled Duke with relative ease in a winner-take-all game for the outright regular-season title. This time, in the first finals meeting between the rivals in a decade, second-seeded Duke led by 18 in the first half and never let the Tar Heels get close.

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, the Tar Heels got no closer than nine after halftime.

Smith was named tournament MVP after overcoming a jammed toe in the quarterfinals against Maryland and finishing with 10 assists, and Singler played better after struggling mightily in the two regular-season meetings. Seth Curry had 11 points, including a 3-pointer after the Tar Heels had pulled to within nine.

Ryan Kelly, Plumlee and Miles Plumlee combined for 24 points on 11-of-16 shooting against North Carolina's powerful front line; they had nine points on 4-of-15 shooting in last week's loss.

"It was the ultimate team effort," Smith said. "Everybody made big plays."

No. 5 Duke 75

No. 6 UNC 58

Satisfying title for Duke 03/13/11 [Last modified: Sunday, March 13, 2011 11:02pm]
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