The semifinal Saturday of the ACC tournament provided entertaining games. A high-scoring, entertaining matchup between North Carolina and Clemson preceded a chippy, physical affair between the Duke Blue Devils and Virginia Tech Hokies. However, the favorites survived and will meet on Sunday for the ACC Tournament title and perhaps a top seed in the NCAA tournament.
North Carolina 92, Clemson 87 (OT): In a game where both teams shot well from the field and from 3-point range, the Tar Heels outlasted Clemson and earned another come from behind victory. Clemson was in charge of the game early leading by ten at halftime, behind the outstanding play of Demontez Stitt (a career-high 25 points). The Tar Heels, behind Harrison Barnes’ 40 points, chipped away and took the lead midway through the second half. Clemson regained the lead and the two teams battled through the rest of the half until they were tied at the end of regulation at 73. In overtime, North Carolina scored the first nine points and held on for the win. Barnes scored 13 of the Tar Heels 19 points in overtime. John Henson scored 18 points and Tyler Zeller added 14, as the Tar Heels used their advantage inside throughout the game.
Duke 77, Virginia Tech 63: The big question going into the game was whether or not Nolan Smith, the ACC Player of the Year, would suit up for this game after suffering a toe injury in Friday night’s win over Maryland. Not only did he play, he thrived-scoring a game-high 27 points as the Blue Devils avenged their an earlier loss to the Hokies. The game was very physical and threatened to get out of hand with a bunch of fouls called for inadvertent or intentional elbows from players on both sides. Bottom line, Duke’s defense limited the Hokies’ offense to 37% field-goal shooting, including a 2-16 from the 3-point line. The Blue Devils led by nine at the half, and maintained a decent margin throughout the second half as they were never threatened by the Hokies. Kyle Singer chipped in with 13 points and Seth Curry added 10 for Duke, while Malcolm Delaney scored 19 to lead the Hokies. With the loss, the Hokies wait to see if they have done enough to get a berth in the field of 68.
The championship game between North Carolina and Duke promises to be a very entertaining rubber match to see which team can impose their style on the other. I picked Carolina to win the tournament, and I stand by that pick. I like the Tar Heels to use their advantage inside and the playmaking of Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes to get the job done over the defending national champions. However, if the Tar Heels get off to another sluggish start and the Blue Devils get hot from outside, Duke could hold off the Heels for the title.