Duke's undefeated march through the Atlantic Coast Conference was unprecedented. The way the No. 1 Blue Devils did it was even more staggering.
Duke added yet another 20-point ACC rout to its resume by defeating No. 15 North Carolina 96-73 in the conference championship game Sunday.
The win was the 27th straight for the Blue Devils (32-1) and completed an unbeaten run through the ACC regular season and postseason at 19-0. Four other league teams have run the table, but those occurred during 12- and 14-game ACC regular-season schedules.
"No one can ever do this better," coach Mike Krzyzewski said following the third largest victory margin by a team in the ACC finals. "Someone can do it as well, unless we add more teams to the league, which I hope they don't do."
Duke won its three ACC tourney games by a record victory margin of 25 points, topping the 1964 Duke team that won it by an average margin of 23.
"Nineteen-and-0, even if they were one-point wins is impressive," Krzyzewski said. "Our kids have just played hard all year long. I don't think they have placed any pressure on themselves. It seems like they've always had fun playing."
"I don't remember a team dominating the league the way they have," added North Carolina coach Bill Guthridge, who has more than three decades of ACC coaching experience. "They've just taken everybody apart."
William Avery had 29 points and Elton Brand 24 for Duke, who denied the Tar Heels (24-9) a chance at a third consecutive ACC title.
"We were as little bit fresher and Will and Elton were just a step above everyone else," said Krzyzewski, whose team shot 57 percent. "Elton, throughout the tournament, established the inside and William established the outside."
North Carolina had enjoyed good luck against Duke in previous ACC title games, going 6-2 against the Blue Devils. But Sunday's game was another matter.
"I don't look at this as breaking through, I look at this as a singular team," Krzyzewski said.
| Jason Capel and the entire UNC team struggled with the ball all day. (AP)|
The Blue Devils shot 60 percent in the opening half with injured 3-point ace Trajan Langdon on the bench to go up by 16 in the opening 20 minutes.
The strong start by Duke came against a Tar Heels team seeking to avenge a 20-point rout by Duke eight days ago in the Smith Center.
Duke's lead reached as many as 24 with a 10-0 run to start the second half as Brand scored on a shot in the lane and a dunk, and Avery sank a 24-foot 3-pointer.
But he Tar Heels had one more rally in them before falling to one of the more talented teams in ACC history. A 14-0 run by North Carolina got them back in the game, closing within nine with 10:28 left.
Duke, however, sensed a piece of ACC history and went for the kill.
A 12-4 run sealed it as Avery had a layup and a 3-pointer, while Brand scored on a pair of free throws and another basket from in close.
"They've got a lot of horses and we just couldn't keep up with them," said North Carolina guard Max Owens, who led the Tar Heels with 22 points.
It was the first time since Duke did it 11 years ago that a team swept the Tar Heels three games in a season.
"We want to keep winning," said Brand, who was 9-for-11 from the field with 13 rebounds and was honored as tournament MVP. "People may say a loss would help us going into the (NCAA) tournament, but I feel the opposite. We wanted to win this tournament and play our best. The pressure really didn't get to us."
The Blue Devils started fast from 3-point range, nailing three from beyond the arc in the first 2:42 - a move that would open up the middle for Shane Battier and Brand.
A steal and fastbreak layup by Avery midway through the half gave the Blue Devils a 27-14 lead before the Tar Heels responded with an 11-1 run to close within three.
But Duke responded with a 12-2 run and Duke pushed the lead to 40-27 four minutes before halftime.
"This was one of William Avery's best games," Krzyzewski said. "He did it when there was a lot on the line and his backcourt mate wasn't there. I got a note from his mother at the end of the first half that said, `Leave my son in."
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