Frosh Williams caps rally for outright ACC title

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina trailed by nine points

with 3 minutes left, the kind of margin that might have been

insurmountable for the Tar Heels in recent years.

"Last year, we would have probably given up," center Sean May

said.

For this year's team, it wasn't an option.

Dynamic freshman Marvin Williams converted a three-point play

with 17 seconds left to cap an 11-0 game-closing run and give the

second-ranked Tar Heels a 75-73 victory over No. 6 Duke on Sunday.

North Carolina (26-3, 14-2), playing without the ill Rashad

McCants for the fourth straight game, won its first ACC regular

season championship since 1993, the same year of its most recent

national title.

"It's been a long journey," said senior Jackie Manuel, one of

three players left from an 8-20 team three years ago. "To be

honest, I didn't really know if we could do it. You really

appreciate the highs when you've been at the bottom and seen the

worst."

May had 26 points and 24 rebounds to record his eighth straight

double-double for North Carolina, and his final rebound was the

most important. After J.J. Redick missed a long 3-pointer that

would have won it for the Blue Devils, teammate Daniel Ewing had a

final chance from just inside the arc.

But his shot was short, and May leaped high for the carom. He

cradled the ball in his hand while the clock ran out, then hurled

it into the stands. Hundreds of the 22,125 fans -- the largest crowd

ever at the Dean E. Smith Center -- rushed the court to celebrate

the Tar Heels' third victory over their Tobacco Road rival in the

past 16 meetings.

"I've never experienced anything like that, and it's something

I'll never forget for the rest of my life," May said. "For me, it

feels good, because I've never beaten them. Finally, to get an

opportunity, it feels good."

Shelden Williams had 25 points and six blocks for Duke (22-5,

11-5), which played without guard Sean Dockery for the third

straight game. Redick scored all 17 of his points in the first

half.

"We have to close the chapter to this book, the regular season,

and our guys were in every ballgame," Duke coach Mike Kryzewski

said. "I'm proud of them."

Even without Redick scoring at his usual pace, the Blue Devils

seemingly had control late in the second half. They broke from a

tie at 64 with a 9-0 run capped by a 3 by Lee Melchionni with 3:07

left. That was his fifth 3 of the second half and it gave Duke a

73-64 lead.

"I love the competitiveness of our team when we were down nine

inside 3 minutes," Roy Williams said. "I told them that if they

were to make a total commitment to every possession on the

defensive end and every possession on the offensive end, we would

still have a chance still at the end."

Jawad Williams stopped the Tar Heels' drought with a tip-in and

Marvin Williams added two free throws to make it 73-68. On the

other end, DeMarcus Nelson missed the front end of a 1-and-1, and

May powered inside for a three-point play to cut the margin to two.

"We played hard and pushed hard for the majority of the second

half," Shelden Williams said. "All of a sudden, we got a little

cushion and laid off some, and had a few turnovers. Carolina was

able to convert on those and got the momentum."

Later, North Carolina point guard Raymond Felton had a chance to

tie it, but his runner from the lane rattled around the rim before

bouncing out. Then Ewing, the lone senior on the court for the Blue

Devils, lost the ball near midcourt, and Felton grabbed it and

quickly called a timeout with 27 seconds left.

"That was probably the play of the game," May said.

The situation was eerily similar to the one the Tar Heels faced

earlier this season in a 71-70 loss at Duke, when they couldn't get

off a shot in the final seconds. This time, Felton drove to the

basket and was fouled by Nelson. He swished the first free throw to

make it 73-72.

His second bounced high off the rim, and after a brief scramble

for the ball, Marvin Williams grabbed it and quickly shot over Duke

walk-on Patrick Johnson. The shot banked in as he was fouled, and

his free throw capped the furious rally.

"You've got to have the mentality to bear down," Melchionni

said. "We shot one free throw in the last 3 minutes with a

nine-point lead, and that's unacceptable. You can't do that and win

a game."