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ACC Tournament: UNC 79, Virginia Tech 76

By Bret Strelow
bstrelow@salisburypost.com
ATLANTA ó With both arms extended toward blue-clad fans behind North Carolina’s bench, Tyler Hansbrough triumphantly sprinted toward the closest tunnel.
One problem: Every other player was walking across the court toward the spacious opening that actually leads to the Georgia Dome’s locker rooms.
Hansbrough reversed course and joined his teammates as they exited the floor following a 79-76 victory against Virginia Tech in an ACC Tournament quarterfinal Friday afternoon.
“Typical Spazbrough,” fellow senior Bobby Frasor said with a laugh. “He gets so caught up in the emotion and just starts running wherever his feet will take him.”
Late heroics from Hansbrough left the Hokies (18-14) heartbroken again.
He scored 28 points, including UNC’s final six, and forced a controversial jump ball with 5.2 seconds remaining.
For the second consecutive year, a Virginia Tech team trying to improve its NCAA tournament hopes fell short in a bid to upset the Tar Heels (28-3). Hansbrough high-stepped down the court and pumped his fists wildly after hitting a last-second shot to beat the Hokies last March.
The latest celebration cracked up housemate Preston Puckett and former teammate Wes Miller, who were positioned behind UNC’s bench. Hansbrough’s original route took him toward a steel garage door.
“I knew it was the wrong tunnel,” Hansbrough said, “but I came back out and saw some friends in the front row laughing about it. Everybody was pointing and laughing.”
The top-seeded Tar Heels, who were without injured point guard and ACC player of the year Ty Lawson, advanced to a semifinal matchup against fourth-seeded Florida State.
Frasor played a career-high 37 minutes after starting in Lawson’s place, and Hansbrough hit two free throws to give UNC a one-point lead with 1:13 remaining.
Virginia Tech’s A.D. Vassallo (26 points, 10 rebounds) made a layup 21 seconds later, and Hansbrough answered with an interior basket for a 77-76 edge with 33 seconds left.
J.T. Thompson caught a pass in the middle of the lane on the next possession and lowered his head as Hansbrough, Frasor and Ed Davis surrounded him.
Hansbrough reached in with his left arm in an attempt to tie up Thompson.
“I just grabbed the ball, plain and simple,” Hansbrough said.
Said Thompson, “I felt an arm reach around my back. I thought it was a foul.”
With the possession arrow favoring UNC, official Karl Hess blew his whistle and called a jump ball. Hansbrough beat a fist against his heart, then lunged at Danny Green for a chest bump.
“I didn’t expect him to come at me all out with a full-force chest bump, but it was OK,” said Green, who managed only five points. “It was one point in the game today where I could be happy and smile.”
Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg had a different reaction. He ripped off his sportcoat and slammed it in disgust.
“What I saw doesn’t count, so it makes no difference,” Greenberg said. “The only people that count are the guys wearing the striped shirts. What they saw is what happened.”
Hansbrough made two free throws with 4.6 seconds left, and UNC followed the inbounds pass with a quick foul because the Hokies weren’t in a one-and-one situation yet.
Hansbrough switched on a screen and contested Vassallo’s 3-point try from the left wing as time expired. The shot didn’t draw iron, and Hansbrough rushed over to console Vassallo.
“Our theme for the last 24 hours has been same story, different ending,” Greenberg said. “Unfortunately we got the same story and the same ending.”
After last year’s crushing loss to UNC, Greenberg said someone would have to be “certifiably insane” to not consider Virginia Tech one of the nation’s top 65 teams.
He didn’t take a strong stance Friday.
“I’m not going there,” Greenberg said. “You guys can have some other village idiot give you a good story.”

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