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ACC: Duke makes easy work of Tar Heels

Blue Devils avenge a week-old loss 75-63.

By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 16, 2003

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Here's all you need to know about the Duke-North Carolina showdown in the ACC semifinals Saturday afternoon: The Blue Devils hit just two field goals in the final 12 minutes and still whipped their most-heated rivals 75-63. A victory today will give them an unprecedented fifth consecutive league tournament title.

"I think it's good to win in your own neighborhood," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said of the importance he places on the ACC rings. "Then if you're fortunate enough to win nationally, that's just a plus. I like my neighborhood."

The No. 3-seeded Blue Devils (23-6) meet No. 4 North Carolina State (18-11) in a rematch of last year's ACC tournament finale. Duke won that by 30 and looked like a champion-in-waiting in the first half against UNC.

Ahead 14-10, freshman guard J.J. Redick hit back-to-back 3-pointers to jump-start the offense. Sophomore guard Daniel Ewing continued his hot shooting, 5-for-7 in the first half (3-of-5 from 3-point range), and senior center Casey Sanders, the former Tampa Prep standout, added seven points, four rebounds and two blocks to help No. 12-ranked Duke take complete control 54-33 at the break.

"We had one of the best halves we've had all season," Krzyzewski said.

The No. 7-seeded Tar Heels (17-15), who needed a win to remain a topic of conversation for the NCAA Tournament selection committee, fell behind by as much as 23 in the second half. "They were more energized than we were," said UNC coach Matt Doherty, who walked to midcourt to shake hands with Krzyzewski with about six seconds left. "When the ball goes through the hoop, you get energized. It wasn't going through the hoop for us and that sucked some of the energy out of us."

Even the unexpected return of freshman center Sean May after a two-month absence failed to supply a boost.

May broke his left foot during the Iona game on Dec. 27 and his father, former Indiana All-American Scott May, wanted his son to sit out the rest of the season to heal. Sean ached to play now.

"I said, 'Dad. You're going to see the game on TV and I'm going to call you after the game and if you really don't think I'm playing that well and I don't need to be out there, I can see sitting out after that. But just blindly saying no, I can't live with that. If my team goes on to win this, I want to be part of that,' " he said.

At 11 a.m. Saturday, Scott May acquiesced. His son played 10 minutes, hit 2 of 5 shots, had three rebounds and two blocks and said his left foot felt fine. He expects to play in the postseason.

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