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Off the cuff: Marcus Paige seems to be a little touchy - in a good way - about all the naysayers who have been critical of the Tar Heels this season. "After we lost to Duke, there were a lot of questions about whether the backcourt was hurting us. I think we've answered that."

The backcourt of Paige and Berry both made the All-Tournament team with Berry being named MVP. Brice Johnson joined Virginia's Anthony Gil and Malcolm Brogden on the first team.

If Johnson stays out of foul trouble and Paige and Berry keep playing the way they have over the last several games, the Tar Heels will be a tough out in the NCAA Tournament and could be one of the Final Four teams in three weeks in Houston.

It was the last game to be called by long-time TV announcer Tim Brandt. He said in his 40 years of wearing the TV headphones, it didn't get any better than this UNC-Virginia championship game.

It's hard to believe Brandt has been at it for 40 years. Seems he was just a young announcer. He always did a solid job calling the games. He just says it's time to move on. At the end of the broadcast, he said "My time is up. I thank for you for yours."


Tar Heels 61, Virginia 57
Carolina wins ACC Tourney... finally

North Carolina had been to the ACC Tournament finals four out of the last five years but lost. This year, with the score tied at 44-all with nine minutes to play in the finals, the Tar Heels seemed bent on winning it this time. (3/11)

The Tar Heels used a stifling defense and outscored the deliberate Virginia Cavaliers 11-2 over the next seven minutes to take a nine-point lead before settling for a 61-57 championship victory.

During the deciding run, the Cavaliers missed 11 straight shots. Ironically, UNC's Justin Jackson, who had not had a good game, came up with two big buckets during the stretch. First, he rebounded a missed shot and quickly put the ball in the hoop to put the Heels up 48-44. Then he stole the ball and went the length of the court for a dunk giving the Heels their biggest lead of the game to that point at 53-46 with 4:49 to go.

The Heels got the lead to nine with 1:50 to go before surviving three late triples by Virginia. Joel Berry, the tournament's MVP, hit a pair of free throws in the last second to wrap it up. He led all scorers with 19 points.

Carolina held Virginia to 36.5 percent shooting and held down ACC regular season MVP Malcolm Brogden, who hit just six of 22 shots, going two of nine from beyond the arc.

"Our defense has been terrific the last couple of weeks," said Marcus Paige, who scored 13 and played Brogden most of the time. "I wanted to make everything tough and contested. I did a pretty good job of using my quickness. Other than one time he got me with a pump fake, I think I was there for everything else he did."

It was the 18th tournament title but the first since the Heels got back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008.

"Coach Smith said a long time ago you build your momentum once you get into the tournament," UNC coach Roy Williams. "He talked about each tournament individually. We played pretty well five of the last six years we've been in this tournament but haven't been able to finish it off. I'm hoping this will even give us some more confidence."

It was Virginia that had confidence leading much of the first half but Carolina was able to tie it at 28-28 just before the half when Theo Pinson threw an alley-oop pass from mid-court to Brice Johnson.

Midway through the second half, Virginia led 44-40 before Carolina went on an 8-0 run. The Tar Heels never trailed again after Berry hit a long two-point jumper with 7:12 left.

"It took a lot of poise down the stretch," said Brice Johnson, who scored 12 points.

Speculation is that both North Carolina and Virginia could get No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. The bracket will be announced early evening Sunday.


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