ATLANTA (AP) Shane Battier climbed the ladder and sliced a couple of strands away from the rim, leaving just enough dangling nylon for Mike Krzyzewski to finish the job.
Clearly, Duke has mastered the net-cutting ceremony at the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
The third-ranked Blue Devils routed No. 5 North Carolina yesterday in the final, leaving little doubt about which school rules one of college basketball”s great rivalries.
Duke (29-4) headed on to the NCAA Tournament, as the top seed in the East Regional, after becoming the first school in more than three decades to win the ACC three straight years.
“It feels kind of normal,” said sophomore guard Jason Williams, who didn”t play the final 13 minutes because of a sprained left ankle. “We have so much passion. We want it so bad.”
For the second time in a week, Duke earned a double-digit victory over North Carolina (25-6). But this one was much more convincing than the 95-81 victory at Chapel Hill on the final Sunday of the regular season.
The Blue Devils took control with a 19-1 run in the first half and led 50-30 at halftime. North Carolina never got any closer and looked totally lifeless at the end, run completely ragged by Duke”s ironmen.
“They got exhausted. We could see it in their eyes,” freshman guard Chris Duhon said. “We kept pushing and pushing and they finally reached the breaking point. We saw them getting tired and instead of letting them back in the game, we went for the jugular.”
Mike Dunleavy scored 24 points and Battier, the tournament MVP, added 20 for the Blue Devils, who won three games in three days without center Carlos Boozer, sidelined with a broken bone in his right foot.
“To come here when people doubted us, doubting whether we had the legs to do it three days in a row, to win MVP, it”s really storybook,” said Battier, the winningest player in ACC history.
Krzyzewski, meanwhile, won his 600th career game.
“Our team was amazing,” he said. “I know they were tired, but they played with great heart and beat an outstanding team.”
Despite the loss, the Tar Heels were hoping for a top seed when the pairings were announced later Sunday, perhaps in the South Regional with a chance for a return trip to the Georgia Dome in a couple of weeks.
Unfortunately for them, they were given the No. 2 seed in the South instead with Michigan State taking the top seed.
North Carolina was held to its fewest points since a 45-44 win over N.C. State on Feb. 12, 1997 a span of 151 games.
The Tar Heels shot 29 percent (19-for-65) and had only one player, Joseph Forte with 14 points, in double figures.
“This is harder than a two-point loss,” Forte said. “We basically got blown out of the building.”
Duke hit only 38 percent of its shots but seemed to arrive first at every loose ball. The most telling stat: the shorter Blue Devils outrebounded North Carolina 54-47, including getting 20 at the offensive end.