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Its Duke vs. North Carolina today in ACC title game
Smith leads assault on Hokies
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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Nolan Smith refused to let a toe injury stop him. Virginia Tech couldn’t do it, either.
Smith scored 27 points a day after jamming his toe, and No. 5 Duke claimed a spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game by beating the Hokies 77-63 in the semifinals Saturday.
“At this stage,” Smith said, “no injury is going to hold me back from playing.”
Kyle Singler added 13 points and 11 rebounds and Seth Curry had 10 points for the second-seeded Blue Devils (29-4).
The two-time defending league tournament champions and reigning national champs shot 47 percent and kept the Hokies at arm’s length throughout the second half to avenge a late-season loss and set up a third meeting with bitter rival North Carolina in the title game today.
“We were matched up for the regular-season championship, and it’s the two best teams again,” Smith said.
Malcolm Delaney, who’s second to Smith in the ACC scoring race, finished with 19 points on 4-of-14 shooting for the sixth-seeded Hokies (21-11). They were just 2 of 12 from 3-point range and couldn’t get closer than 10 in the final 14 minutes.
“Going into the game, I felt we had earned confidence,” Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. “We had beaten this team. But we needed to play well, not just play hard. I thought we played really hard. Unfortunately, we didn’t play as well tonight.”
Erick Green added 17 points, including a layup over Curry that pulled Virginia Tech to 41-35 with just under 18 minutes left. Singler followed with a jumper to start the 11-2 run that pushed Duke’s lead into double digiits to stay.
Without question, the main story line focused on Smith, the ACC player of the year. His status was in question until a few minutes before tipoff because he injured the second toe on his left foot late in Duke’s victory the night before against Maryland. X-rays showed no broken bones, and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Smith was walking “fairly well” at a short team meeting at about midnight.
“Once we knew that it was more of a jammed toe, we felt that he would be OK,” Krzyzewski said.
When he woke up Saturday, Smith said “it felt brand new.” After testing the toe during warmups, he took his familiar place in the starting lineup and almost immediately went to work.
He scored 16 points in the first half and finished 8 of 16 from the field in the highest-scoring ACC tournament game of his career. The senior captain keyed an early run that gave Duke some breathing room, then essentially put the game away with consecutive alley-oops to Mason Plumlee in the final eight minutes while once again resembling what Curry called “the Nolan that we all know.”
Singler matched a school record by playing in his 144th consecutive game while Curry, the son of former Virginia Tech sharpshooter Dell Curry, atoned for a five-foul, no-point night in Duke’s 64-60 loss in Blacksburg, Va.
Victor Davila finished with 11 points for Virginia Tech.
Back-to-back losses to bubble teams to close the regular season added to the Hokies’ desperation entering the league tournament, but they picked up two wins to reach the semifinals for the third time and perhaps played their way to their first NCAA berth since 2007.

Tar Heels escape in OT

GREENSBORO, N.C.  — Harrison Barnes ignored all the doubters, the questions about his game, even the bumpier-than-expected start to his career at North Carolina.
Those days felt long ago Saturday as the freshman put on a record-setting show that helped the sixth-ranked Tar Heels escape once again at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Barnes set a freshman tournament record with 40 points to help North Carolina rally past Clemson 92-87 in overtime in the semifinals, sending the Tar Heels back to the championship game for the first time in three years.
Barnes hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 4:13 left as part of a 9-0 spurt to open the extra period for top-seeded North Carolina (26-6), which continued its living-dangerously run in Greensboro with another big comeback. A day after rallying from 19 down in the final 10 minutes to beat Miami, the Tar Heels trailed the Tigers (21-11) by 14 in the first half and rallied from seven down in the final four minutes of regulation to force overtime.
“My goal was to be in the final,” Barnes said. “This is not how I imagined us doing it, but we find a way.”
The Tar Heels have won 19 of 21 games since losing to Texas on a last-second shot in December here. They’re now a win away from their 18th ACC tournament title, which would tie Duke for most all-time.