North Carolina made sure it didn’t get upset in its first ACC tournament game.
The eighth-ranked Tar Heels will try to advance to the championship game for the first time in six years when they play Boston College in the semifinals on Saturday in Tampa, Fla.
After a rash of upsets to begin the conference tournament, top-seeded North Carolina restored order with a 73-58 victory over Florida State in Friday’s first quarterfinal. After the teams played a close game for most of the first half, the Tar Heels scored four points in the final 10 seconds to take a 10-point halftime lead, then completed what ended up being an 18-2 run to take control of the game.
North Carolina (26-6) led by as many as 20 points and cruised into the semifinals. The Tar Heels, who shared the regular season title with Virginia, haven’t made an ACC tournament final since 2001 and haven’t won the crown since 1998, when they won the second of back-to-back titles.
“Everybody always acts like I poo-poo the ACC tournament because there is that thought process: You play people for nine weeks, why do have to play them all again in three days? It’s what it is,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said.
“Since we’re here, I want to win this sucker. There’s no question in my mind I’d like to win it. I would like the Carolina blue people to have more bragging rights than anybody else.”
The Tar Heels won easily despite limited production from All-ACC forward Tyler Hansbrough, who played with a protective face mask because of a broken nose he suffered after getting hit in the final seconds of Sunday’s win over Duke. Hansbrough had just six points on 3-for-7 shooting before fouling out late.
“I really felt for Tyler today, playing with that mask on. The doctors really wanted him to do it,” Williams said. “I was able to convince him to do it today. I don’t know if I’ll be able to convince him to do it tomorrow. It bothered him like it would bother everybody.”
North Carolina became the first higher seed to win a game in the tournament, after lower-seeded teams won all four games during Thursday’s opening round. The victory also helped the team’s push to receive a No. 1 seed in next week’s NCAA tournament.
The Tar Heels would be happy to reach Sunday’s championship first. They lost to Boston College in the semifinals last season and were upset by Georgia Tech in the same round in 2005, when they won the ACC regular-season title and went on to win the NCAA championship.
Boston College (20-10) made a late rally in regulation, then held off Miami 74-71 in overtime on Friday to set up a rematch with the Tar Heels.
The fourth-seeded Eagles trailed by eight points with 4 minutes to go, but Tyrese Rice’s 3-pointer tied the game up with 31.4 seconds and sent it to overtime. Rice finished with a career-high 32 points.
“I just felt like I needed to create a little bit more for my team, and it worked out,” Rice said.
ACC player of the year Jared Dudley scored just 12 points, but converted a three-point play in overtime that put the Eagles ahead for good at 72-71 with 1:51 remaining.
The Eagles beat the Tar Heels both times last season, including an 85-82 victory in last year’s semifinals before losing to Duke. North Carolina won 77-72 on the road on Feb. 17 in the teams’ only meeting this year.
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