ACC Women: Duke 81, North Carolina 66
GREENSBORO ó Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie keeps her team hungry in an unconventional way: by winning more championships.
Her eighth-ranked Blue Devils claimed their second straight Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title Sunday, pulling away late to defeat No. 19 North Carolina 81-66 behind 21 points from tournament MVP Jasmine Thomas.
ěA lot of people think these types of things get teams complacent. I think totally the opposite,î McCallie said. ěWhen teams like this start cutting down nets and having fun and seeing balloons and enjoying their teammates, I think they want it more. I think it really builds the hunger.î
Freshman Haley Peters added 14 points and Karima Christmas had 13 for the top-seeded Blue Devils (29-3), who held the rival Tar Heels (25-8) scoreless for a critical span of 61/2 minutes down the stretch.
Jessica Breland scored 27 points for North Carolina, and her free throw put the Tar Heels up 54-53 with 9:28 left. Duke then reeled off 15 straight points as part of a 20-2 run to take command and beat its top Tobacco Road rival for the second time in eight days.
Allison Vernerey finished with 10 points for Duke, the first team to repeat as ACC tournament champion since North Carolina won the event four straight years beginning in 2005. The Blue Devils, who won the tournament for the seventh time, enter their 17th straight NCAA tournament on a six-game winning streak.
ěWhat we did this weekend was just another step,î center Krystal Thomas said. ěNow we have more steps to come with the NCAA tournament.î
McCallie led Duke to its fourth ACC title game in four seasons at the school, with Jasmine Thomas her point guard all four years. This time, the Blue Devils ran away with it down the stretch against a North Carolina team that appeared gassed.
The sixth-seeded Tar Heels, who were trying to become the first ACC team to win four tournament games in four days, were outrebounded 38-27 and allowed Duke to shoot 46 percent. UNC didnít allow any of its other three tournament opponents to shoot better than 36 percent.
ěItís hard to play four days in a row like that, but we put ourselves in that position,î coach Sylvia Hatchell said. ěIf we were maybe a little fresher, we might have been able to pull it out.î