CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP)—Ty Lawson sat with an icebag wrapped around his right foot, his injured big toe aching after playing almost every minute of North Carolina’s latest game with its fiercest rival.
Still, even a hobbled Lawson was good enough to help the second-ranked Tar Heels beat Duke yet again.
Tyler Hansbrough scored 17 points in his final home game while Lawson nearly had a triple-double to help the Tar Heels beat the 7th-ranked Blue Devils 79-71 Sunday, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference’s regular-season title and earning the top seed in next week’s league tournament.
Lawson had 13 points, eight rebounds and nine assists while turning in another strong late-game performance for the Tar Heels (27-3, 13-3 ACC), who shot 53 percent and led most of the second half against the Blue Devils (25-6, 11-5). North Carolina has won all five meetings when Lawson is in the lineup, with Duke’s only win in the past three seasons coming when Lawson sat out of last year’s first meeting with a sprained ankle.
This time, he was nursing an injury he suffered during Friday’s practice and needed a shot for pain before the game.
“Ty stepped up and showed some toughness by even playing,” Hansbrough said. “He came through in the clutch for us when we needed him. He wasn’t 100 percent, but when the time came for him to step up and make big plays, he did.”
Lawson took control as the Tar Heels clung to a 70-68 lead with 3 1/2 minutes left. First he drove into the paint and kicked out to Danny Green for a 3-pointer, then drove past Scheyer for a layup and drew the foul for a three-point play that made it 76-69 with 1:03 left.
“It’s just tough for me to move on it or pivot off it right now,” Lawson said of his toe. “It felt numb. I felt like I was running on four toes. I was able to do everything I could, but now I’m coming down off it and it’s real painful right now.”
Jon Scheyer scored 24 points to lead the Blue Devils, while Kyle Singler added 23. But they fell short in their bid to clinch at least a share of the league’s regular-season crown for the first time since 2006.
“I think we competed better (than last month’s meeting),” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We’re a better basketball team than we were a month ago, but they’re really good. They’re, if not the top team, they’ve got to be one of the top two or three. I’m good with where my team is at.”
No. 8 Michigan St. 62, No. 19 Purdue 51
At East Lansing, Mich., Kalin Lucas scored 21 points to help Spartans win their fifth straight heading into the Big Ten tournament.
The Spartans (25-5, 15-3), who already had clinched the outright conference title, scored nine straight points early in the second half to break open a tight game, and pushed the lead to as many as 14 in the second half.
JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore each scored 12 points for Purdue (22-9, 11-7), which dropped to the third seed in the conference tournament behind Michigan State and Illinois.
No. 10 Wake Forest 96, No. 18 Clemson 88
At Winston Salem, N.C., James Johnson scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half to help the Demon Deacons to their fourth straight win and a No. 2 seed in the ACC tournament.
Johnson hit his first eight shots and finished 10-for-14 from the field, while Wake (24-5, 11-5) shot 60 percent overall.
Al-Farouq Aminu also scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Wake Forest, which rallied from a 10-point first-half deficit to extend its home winning streak over Clemson to 17 games.
Demontez Stitt scored a career-high 21 points and K.C. Rivers also scored 21 for the Tigers (23-7, 9-7), who lost for the third time in four games.
No. 14 Gonzaga 94, Santa Clara 59
At Las Vegas, Austin Daye scored a career-high 28 points, Micah Downs hit four 3-pointers, and Gonzaga rolled into another West Coast Conference tournament final.
Downs scored 18 points and Jeremy Pargo had 16 for the top-seeded Zags (25-5), whose 17-1 run late in the first half opened a 22-point lead that took the suspense out of their seventh straight win over the Broncos (16-17).
Matt Bouldin added 11 points and seven assists for the Zags, who held WCC Player of the Year John Bryant to 13 points and 10 rebounds for Santa Clara.
No. 24 Florida State 63, Virginia Tech 53
At Tallahassee, Fla., Toney Douglas scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half, helping give the Seminoles their first opening-round bye in the ACC tournament.
Douglas, the top scorer in conference play at more than 23 points per game, scored a dozen points in just over four minutes after the Hokies pulled within 45-42.
Florida State (23-8, 10-6) led 32-25 after a ragged first half in which the two teams combined for 23 turnovers and the Hokies shot just 24 percent.
A.D. Vassallo scored 14 points to lead Virginia Tech (17-13, 7-9).