GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP)—Mike Krzyzewski sat at the podium with four of his seniors, basking in the glow of another Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship.
This was Duke’s seventh title in eight years and 16th overall, breaking a tie with North Carolina for the most in the 52-year history of the event. J.J. Redick, Shelden Williams, Sean Dockery and Lee Melchionni were part of the past three.
“I’d like to do that time machine thing and do it all over again with this group, because they’ve been terrific,” Krzyzyewski said with an eye toward his players.
For the rest of the ACC, it must feel as if he already did.
Redick had consecutive 3-pointers down the stretch to give Duke the lead for good, Williams and freshman Greg Paulus added clutch free throws in the final seconds and the third-ranked Blue Devils held off No. 11 Boston College 78-76 Sunday in the championship game.
Louis Hinnant’s heave from about 50 feet right before the buzzer bounced off the backboard, denying the Eagles the title in their inaugural ACC tournament.
“I think there’s questions about our team and there’s questions about me,” said Redick, who struggled with his shooting during Duke’s two-game losing streak to end the regular season. “We had lost a couple of games in a row, but we used last week to get refreshed. For our team, I think we answered any doubts this weekend.”
Of course, this is familiar territory for the Blue Devils (30-3). They are 25-2 in this event since 1998, and they are 30-15 in the ACC tournament in the Greensboro Coliseum. Three victories in three days should be enough to give them a return trip to the arena for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed.
“It was truly a team win, and to win both the regular season and then the tournament is quite an accomplishment for this senior class,” Krzyzewski said. “I’m very happy for them. Now we’ve got to put it behind us.”
This one was far from easy, and not simply because Duke came in with that losing streak. BC knocked off North Carolina in the semifinals and rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half against the Blue Devils.
“We played hard,” BC forward Craig Smith said. “I think we showed a lot of toughness and I would like to think we showed America that, ‘Hey, don’t count us out.”’
The Eagles (26-7) led 71-68 before Redick, the tournament MVP, took over. The second-leading scorer in Division I made one 3 to tie it before Smith converted two free throws on the other end. Redick then used a pick from Williams to get free and launched another jumper from a few steps behind the 3-point line.
As it swished through, he was knocked to the floor by Smith, but it didn’t matter. The Blue Devils were back in front.
“I think we did a fairly good job,” Smith said. “Obviously, we just gave him a little bit of space. When you give a great player like that a little bit of space, he can knock the shot down.”
Williams’ two free throws later increased the margin to four, and Hinnant brought BC within one again with a leaning 3-pointer. Paulus converted one at the line to make it a two-point game, leaving only Hinnant’s heave between Duke and another championship.
It didn’t go in, and the Blue Devils rushed the court to celebrate. Smith and Hinnant, meanwhile, fell to the floor and remained on their backs for several seconds.
“We’re pretty upset right now,” Hinnant said. “I don’t think we’re taking any moral victories or anything like that. We came down here to win this tournament and I guess we fell short of our goal.”
Redick scored 26 points while Williams added 18 for Duke. Hinnant led the Eagles with 20 points and Smith finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
For the first time in three tournament games, the Blue Devils led at halftime, thanks mostly to Redick’s 10 points. Yet when BC went ahead early in the second half, Krzyzewski pulled his star scorer along with DeMarcus Nelson. Once Redick got to the bench, he got an earful from assistant coach Chris Collins.
“I just told him it was his last ACC game, and I didn’t feel he had the fire that makes him the best player in the country,” Collins said. “I think he got a little angry at me, probably, but maybe it was a good thing.”
It was a common exchange between a coach and a player, one that was quickly overshadowed by an incident on the court. Paulus dived to the floor to force a turnover, and as he jumped up to celebrate, he accidentally hit Hinnant, who returned the shove.
This brought both the teams together in a scrum with pushing and shoving but no punches, even though Duke’s Lee Melchionni and BC’s Jared Dudley came the closest before they were separated.
“One, I think it showed that the game was really important, but secondly, how that was handled was maybe the best thing that happened today,” Krzyzewski said. “It was so darn good. This has been the classiest league in the country since its inception.”
Technical fouls were called on Paulus and Hinnant, and during the dead ball, Redick checked back in. He needed only a few minutes to show Collins he got the message.
“He’s like my brother, so we can be honest with each other at any moment,” Redick said. “He fired me up, got me going, jump started me. I have to give him a lot of credit.”
With the Blue Devils in front 48-47, Redick ended three straight possessions with 3s to give them a 10-point lead, forcing a timeout by Eagles coach Al Skinner. Redick ran to the bench and excitedly exchanged chest bumps with Collins, the perfect bookend to their emotional conference earlier.
“You live and die with your guys, and we’ve worked a lot together,” Collins said. “To see him respond and then hit those shots and lead us to another championship was very special to watch.”
BC scored the next nine points to get back in it, the final three coming on a long jumper from Hinnant to set up the frantic finish.
“Both teams played hard, and I think it was pretty entertaining,” Skinner said. “Unfortunately, they were the last one standing.”