Chapel Hill, N.C. — Third-ranked North Carolina handled every push fourth-ranked Duke could manage, both in building a big lead and then hanging onto what was left of its edge in the final minutes.
When it was over, the Tar Heels were ready to cut down nets, too.
Freshman Coby White scored 21 points and UNC took down its biggest rival again, beating the short-handed Blue Devils 79-70 to earn a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship.
The win also gave the Tar Heels their first regular-season sweep of the Blue Devils in a decade, this one with Duke freshman star Zion Williamson sidelined yet again by the knee sprain suffered in the first meeting.
Afterward, as fans lingered for farewell speeches from upperclassmen playing their final home game, the Tar Heels started working on the net to celebrate.
“It’s OK if you need to go, it’s all right,” UNC coach Roy Williams told the crowd as arena staff brought ladders onto the court. “Because we’re going to have fun ourselves. We’re going to cut down that frickin’ net as ACC champions.”
Senior Kenny Williams scored a season-high 18 points for the Tar Heels (26-5, 16-2), who led by 15 with about 6½ minutes left but had to hold off a rally by the Blue Devils, who also lost starting big man Marques Bolden early in this one to his own knee injury.
The Tar Heels bumbled their way to the finish after building their big lead, letting the Blue Devils (26-5, 14-4) get within five late. Ultimately UNC held on to finish tied alongside second-ranked Virginia atop the final league standings.
Virginia secured the No. 1 seed for the league tournament by beating Louisville earlier Saturday. The Cavaliers owned the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Tar Heels by winning in Chapel Hill last month.
The Tar Heels had last swept the two-game set with Duke on Tyler Hansbrough’s Senior Day in 2009 for a team that went on to win the NCAA title. And it didn’t matter to them that Williamson – a candidate for national player of the year and a possible No. 1 overall NBA draft pick – barely saw the court in the first game and not at all in the second.
“No, because at the end of the day we both had to go out there and play the game,” said graduate student Cameron Johnson, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds. “In their case, they knew he wasn’t going to play. They’ve got guys who are highly touted guys, talented guys, it’s a basketball game, you’ve got to play it.”
Freshman RJ Barrett scored 26 points as the no-doubt lead weapon for Duke’s offense with Williamson out. But Duke shot just 23 percent after halftime, even as it got as close as 75-70 on Barrett’s 3-pointer with 2:19 left.
“We were down by 15 and we put ourselves in a position where we had a chance,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I’m proud of the fact that our guys put us in that position. … We’ll be OK if we keep doing that.”
There’s no doubt the Blue Devils are a different team without Williamson, the 6-foot-7, 285-pound walking highlight reel of jaw-dropping athleticism and high-flying dunks. Without him, Barrett and fellow freshman Cam Reddish (17 of his 23 points before halftime) had to carry the load offensively and had trouble keeping up when the Tar Heels made their move.
“It’s not the greatest feeling losing to them,” Duke freshman point guard Tre Jones said. “But just as a team, we’ve got to learn from this loss for sure.”
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(At) No. 2 Virginia 73, Louisville 68: Ty Jerome scored 24 points, including the go-ahead free throw with 5:34 remaining, and Virginia held off Louisville to wrap up the top seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
Kyle Guy added 13 points and Jay Huff also made huge contributions at both ends to help Virginia (28-2, 16-2) win its eighth in a row.
The Cavaliers will head to Charlotte, North Carolina, as the top seed and with a double-bye for the fourth time in the last six years. No. 3 North Carolina had a chance to tie for the top spot when it faced No. 4 Duke later Saturday, but the Cavaliers hold the tiebreaker by virtue of their 69-61 victory at UNC on Feb. 11.
Jordan Nwora scored 19 points for the Cardinals (19-12, 10-8).
(At) Auburn 84, No. 5 Tennessee 80: Jared Harper made four straight free throws over the final 31 seconds to help Auburn clinch the victory in the regular-season finale.
The Tigers (22-9, 11-7 Southeastern Conference) collected their fourth straight win and biggest of the season in a packed Auburn Arena.
The Volunteers (27-4, 15-3) could have clinched at least a share of the SEC regular-season title with a win, but now need No. 10 LSU to lose to Vanderbilt. They have never won back-to-back league crowns.
Samir Doughty collected a long rebound and made a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock. Harper hit two free throws with 31 seconds left for an 80-74 cushion, and Jordan Bone’s 3-point attempt at the other end didn’t fall.
Tennessee’s Grant Williams got the rebound and drew a Flagrant 1 foul from Anfernee McLemore. Williams made two free throws with 23 seconds left and the Vols got another possession. Williams launched a quick basket off the inbounds play.
But Harper hit two more free throws with 20 seconds left for an 82-78 lead.
Bone then missed a 3-point try and teammate Jordan Bowden couldn’t control the rebound, which went out of bounds.
Doughty hit two more foul shots for the Tigers. They celebrated moments later, with Bryce Brown climbing on the press row table in front of the student section after his final home game.
Chuma Okeke led Auburn with 22 points, one shy of his career high. Harper had 16 points and eight assists, with his only two 3-pointers coming back to back in the final minutes. Brown also had 16 points and made four 3s.
Williams finished with 25 points and nine rebounds for the Vols. Bone had 17 and Bowden 16. Admiral Schofield scored 13 before fouling out.
(At) No. 6 Kentucky 66, Florida 57: Tyler Herro scored 16 points and led a big second-half run that helped Kentucky overcome Florida.
The Wildcats (26-5, 15-3 Southeastern Conference) went back and forth with the Gators (17-14, 9-9) early in the second half and trailed 40-39 with 13:46 remaining. Herro had six points during a 15-2 spree, hitting a couple of shots in the lane and adding two free throws, to give Kentucky a 54-42 advantage. The Wildcats capped the seven-minute burst by scoring 10 straight points.
PJ Washington added 15 points for Kentucky. Kevarrius Hayes had 19 points for Florida.
No. 8 Texas Tech 80, (at) Iowa State 73: Jarrett Culver scored a career-high 31 points, Davide Moretti added 20 and No. 8 Texas Tech clinched its first Big 12 regular-season title.
Matt Mooney added 13 points for the Red Raiders (26-5, 14-4 Big 12), winners of nine straight heading into the postseason. Their last league crown came in the defunct Southwestern Conference in 1996.
Lindell Wigginton and Marial Shayok each scored 17 points for the Cyclones (20-11, 9-9), who have lost six of eight.
With the game tied at 65 with 3:37 left, Brandone Francis beat the shot clock with a contested 3 to give Tech the lead. Culver then hit a mid-range jumper after a turnover, and two Tariq Owens free throws put the Red Raiders ahead 72-65 with 2:05 to go.
Culver’s layup with 59 seconds left made it 74-69, and he hit two free throws to put Tech up 76-71 30 seconds later. Culver finished shot 12 of 19 and 4 of 8 from 3-point range.
(At) No. 10 LSU 80, Vanderbilt 59: Tremont Waters had 14 points and eight assists and LSU won the Southeastern Conference regular-season title with a victory over Vanderbilt in the Tigers’ first game without suspended head coach Will Wade.
Darius Days scored a season-high 15 points and Marshall Graves had a season-high 12 – all on 3-pointers – for LSU (26-5, 16-2).
The game came a day after Wade’s indefinite suspension in the wake of published excerpts of a wire-tapped phone call between the coach and a man convicted last year in federal court of funneling illegal payments to the families of college basketball recruits.
Vanderbilt (9-22, 0-18) became the first team to go winless in the SEC since former league member Georgia Tech in 1954, and the first ever to do so with an 18-game conference schedule.
(At) No. 13 Kansas 78, Baylor 70: Dedric Lawson scored 23 points, including 11 of 12 from the free-throw line, to help Kansas stay undefeated at home. The performance came hours after Lawson was announced on the ballot for the Wooden Award.
Yet on senior night in Allen Fieldhouse, a trio of Kansas freshmen impressed. Devon Dotson, David McCormack and Quentin Grimes had 15, 12 and nine points, respectively. Kansas (23-8, 12-6 Big 12) fielded no seniors for the first time since 2007. The Jayhawks lone senior Lagerald Vick left the team earlier this season for personal reasons.
Jared Butler led the way for Baylor (19-12, 10-8 Big 12), scoring a career-high 31 points in 36 minutes. It was a big game for the freshman, who was averaging 9.6 points.
No. 14 Florida State 65, (at) Wake Forest 57: No. 14 Florida State reeled off 18 straight points in the second half to rally past Wake Forest.
The Seminoles, who won for the 12th time in 13 games, trailed for all but a few seconds of the first 30 minutes before their surge.
Trent Forrest scored 11 points and Christ Kournadje grabbed 10 rebounds for the Seminoles (25-6, 13-5 ACC), who finished fourth in the conference.
Brandon Childress scored 13 to lead the Demon Deacons (11-19, 4-14), who squandered a double-digit lead at home against a ranked team for the second straight game. Chaundee Brown scored all 11 of his points in the first half for the Deacons, who shot only 26 percent from the field.
Georgetown 86, No. 16 Marquette 84: James Akinjo scored 25 points, Mac McClung added 23 and Georgetown beat Marquette, the Golden Eagles’ fourth straight loss to close the regular season.
Jamorko Pickett and Jessie Govan each added 10 points for the Hoyas (18-13, 9-9 Big East)
Markus Howard led Marquette (23-8, 12-6) with 28 points, and Joey Hauser added 16. The Golden Eagles missed a chance to tie Villanova for the conference title.
(At) No. 17 Nevada 81, San Diego State 53: Caleb Martin scored 25 points and twin brother Cody added 14 to lead No. 17 Nevada to an 81-53 rout of San Diego State on Saturday night that clinched a share of the Mountain West title with Utah State.
The Martin twins combined to shoot 12 of 19 and Nevada (28-3, 15-3 Mountain West) finished at 53.1 percent as a team. Jordan Caroline has 16 points and Trey Porter had 13.
San Diego State had as many personal fouls as rebounds (25) – with one offensive rebound.
Nevada grabbed 42 boards and beat the Aztecs 26-12 in the paint. Nevada made 20 free throws to San Diego State’s seven.
The Wolf Pack jumped out to a 16-5 lead in the first five minutes in front of 11,243, but San Diego State answered with a 10-0 run in the final two minutes of the first half and entered the break trailing 42-37.
Nevada dominated the second half, outscoring San Diego State 39-16 and never trailing, en route to a perfect regular-season home record (15-0).
Jeremy Hemsley led San Diego State (19-12, 11-7) with 16 points. Matt Mitchell and Devin Watson each scored 14 for the Aztecs, who shot 34.6 percent as a team.
(At) No. 18 Kansas State 68, Oklahoma 53: Kamau Stokes scored 19 points and Kansas State eat Oklahoma for a share of the Big 12 regular-season title.
Barry Brown added 15 points, Dean Wade had 11 and the Wildcats (24-7, 14-4) finished atop the conference for the second time in 42 years. Kansas State shared the title with Texas Tech.
Kristian Doolittle scored 14 points for the Sooners (19-12, 7-11).
No. 22 Wofford 99, VMI 72: Nathan Hoover led a balanced scoring attack with 17 points, and Wofford (27-4) extended its school-record winning streak to 18 games with a victory over VMI in the quarterfinals of the Southern Conference Tournament in Asheville, N.C.
Chevez Goodwin was one of six Wofford players in double digits in scoring, finishing with 14 points and five rebounds.
Fletcher Magee, the Southern Conference Player of the Year, was limited to 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting. He made two 3-pointers, moving to within 13 of breaking the NCAA Division I record of 504 career 3s held by Travis Bader of Oakland.
(At) Seton Hall 79, No. 23 Villanova 75: Myles Powell scored 20 points, Myles Cale added 19 and Seton Hall might have punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
The upset was the second major one this week for Seton Hall (18-12, 9-9), coming on the heels of a win over No. 16 Marquette on Wednesday.
Villanova (22-9, 13-4) will share the conference regular-season title with Marquette, if the Golden Eagles beat Georgetown later Saturday. The Wildcats, who have won or shared the last six crowns, will win it outright if the Hoyas post an upset.
Jared Rhoden had a career-high 15 points, Sandro Mamukelashvili had 12 and a career-best 18 rebounds. Michael Nzei added 10 in his final home game.
Collin Gillespie had 20 points and Phil Booth came on late to add 16 for Villanova. Eric Paschall had 14, Saddiq Bey added 13 and Jermaine Samuels 10. The Wildcats didn’t get a point from their bench.
(At) Temple 67, No. 25 Central Florida 62: Shizz Alston Jr. scored 21 points, Justyn Hamilton tied a career high with 13 and Temple beat Central Florida in Owls coach Fran Dunphy’s final home game before he steps down at the end of the season.
Quinton Rose broke a 52-all tie with a highlight-reel slam over Dayon Griffin with 4:12 remaining. Rose scored nine of his 11 points in the second half for the Owls (23-8, 13-5 American Athletic Conference).
Aubrey Dawkins led UCF (23-7, 13-5) with a career-high 36 points.