UNC defeats Duke 74-69 to head to ACC Final

ANALYSIS How Cameron Johnson has carved out his own role on team

The only thing standing in their way is the defending national champion Tar Heels (25-9, 11-7 ACC), who know what it will take to beat UVa, the nation's consensus No. 1 team.

UNC coach Roy Williams went the hyperbolic route when asked about the matchup with Virginia.

"They probably could play a lot of ways, but I think this way fits this group of guys, and they have bought in and embraced it in a way that I'm thankful to have, and they've been a joy to coach".

"We've got to go in there and try to play the flawless game", Williams said. "And when we're playing defense and we're out there just running around and being active and competing-you know, it's hard to stop us".

While both teams are solidifying their respective cases for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, the two teams taking the floor Friday couldn't be more different.

Maye hit a jumper to give North Carolina what seemed like a safe 72-56 lead.

The win by the Tar Heels Friday puts them ahead against Duke for the season, having won two games to Duke's one. The last time an ACC Final was played that didn't involve the Blue Devils or the Tar Heels was in 1996, when Wake Forest beat Georgia Tech 75-74.

Offensively, the Tar Heels received a huge bounce-back game from junior forward Luke Maye. Against a sound Virginia squad, forcing turnovers won't be easy as the Cavaliers lead the country in fewest turnovers per game. Of course, after beating Duke 74-69 on Friday night, UNC may have already done enough to nail down as high as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. "I hadn't even heard it, but I said let's redeem ourselves by how we played defense tonight". He didn't drop double-digits against Duke, but he did just about everything else.

The Cavaliers crushed UNC, 61-49 on January 6 at John Paul Jones Arena. Maye was limited to just six points on 2-for-10 shooting against Virginia earlier this season as ACC Defensive Player of the Year Isaiah Wilkins clamped down on the Tar Heels' second-leading scorer. "Johnson, a 6'8" sharpshooter, played 23 minutes off the bench in the loss at Virginia, scoring five points on 1-of-3 shooting. The game was punctuated by a loud dunk from De'Andre Hunter over Joel Berry.

"We're not going to win a game against a team that caliber if we turned it over 18 times", Blue Devil head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "It was a big, old butt-kicking". The Tar Heels' spasms of brainlessness in this tournament have provoked him to sub out the entire starting five, and to try to rip his suit coat in half.

Great rebounding teams will always present a challenge to the Cavaliers.

Meeting for the second time in less than a week, the animosity surfaced on several occasions. Duke has yielded the second-fewest points among major conference teams since February 10 (Virginia, 54.2). Duke comes in looking to be a top seed, while North Carolina is trying to avenge a loss less than a week ago. Virginia, conversely has 20. The Cavaliers attempt to win the battle of efficiency in every game - creating the best possible shots for itself while limiting the quality of its opponents' looks - worked. One team is going to get another big-time win on Saturday night.

Put it all together, and you have two teams that are peaking just in time for their rubber match. Meanwhile, Pinson has had consecutive double-doubles here and six in his last 14 games. In the ACC semifinals, he had five assists.

Next up is the best team in the land.

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