North Carolina silences Duke to clinch ACC title outright

North Carolina silences Duke to clinch ACC title outright

North Carolina didn’t waste an opportunity to celebrate the program’s first outright ACC regular-season title in seven years on the home court of fierce rival Duke.

The seventh-ranked Tar Heels gathered by the midcourt sideline near the “Cameron Crazies” and waved goodbye in a taunting farewell, only to be answered by several people throwing water and empty plastic bottles at them in frustration.

No matter, figured the Tar Heels. Not after Saturday night’s 84-79 win that secured the top seed in the ACC tournament and a season sweep of the ninth-ranked Blue Devils that saw North Carolina trail for just 16 seconds between the two games.

“I definitely think it was uncalled for, but I mean, it’s a rivalry game so I kind of expected it,” North Carolina guard RJ Davis said with a smile. “We’re still going to enjoy it at the end of the day.”

Cormac Ryan scored a career-high 31 points, shooting 8-of-12 from the field and 6-of-8 on 3-pointers to help the Tar Heels (25-6, 17-3 ACC) turn away push after push from Duke — and Ryan made sure to let the fans hear it with some fired-up reactions.

He closed out the game with two clinching free throws with 4.7 seconds left.

“We knew what it meant. We knew what was at stake,” Ryan said. “And to walk out of this building is always nice.”

Harrison Ingram added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Tar Heels, who shot 50% for the game. North Carolina ran out to a 15-point lead with a dominant start then stayed in control all night.

North Carolina big man Armando Bacot, who had nine points and eight rebounds, said the key was following the instructions of assistant coach Jeff Lebo during a halftime message with the Tar Heels up 40-31.

“He told us there was going to be a point in the game when they came back, but we just had to stay poised and not do too much out of the regular,” Bacot said.

To that point, Duke (24-7, 15-5) got within a single point on Jeremy Roach‘s 3-pointer at the 16:59 mark. But the Blue Devils never completely erased the deficit and never led, leading to second-year coach Jon Scheyer apologizing to the front row of Crazies afterward.

“I’m sorry,” he told them. “We’re going to keep going. We’re going to get this right.”

Kyle Filipowski had 23 points to lead the Blue Devils, while retired Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski made a rare courtside appearance for the game.

“We didn’t play our best basketball overall,” Filipowski said, adding: “We’re still one of the best teams in the country. Our season’s not defined by UNC.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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