CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Jason Williams scored 20 points Friday night to help No. 3 Duke put an end to North Carolina's worst season in school history with a 60-48 victory over the Tar Heels in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament.
The defeat officially ended Carolina's (8-20) record of 27 straight appearances in the NCAA tournament and secured its first 20-loss season.
The Tar Heels would have had to play their way into the tournament field by winning the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
But they didn't go down without a fight, unlike their previous two meetings with Duke (27-3) this season. The Blue Devils won the two regular-season games by a combined 54 points, including Sunday's 93-68 drubbing.
The Tar Heels made it clear early they wanted to slow the game and use as much time as possible on every possession. It worked for much of the game as they kept the score close while shooting 51 percent (15-of-29).
Kris Lang, who led North Carolina with 14 points, let the shot clock tick down to 3 seconds when he scored Carolina's first basket and followed it with a layup with just 1 second left on the clock on the next possession.
The strategy worked at first - the Tar Heels had an 11-10 lead with 12:26 to play - but when their shots stopped falling it dropped them into a deep hole. North Carolina went scoreless for almost 4 minutes, then Mike Dunleavy hit a pair of 3-pointers to give Duke a 26-14 lead.
So the Tar Heels brought the game to a near stop, with Adam Boone walking the ball across midcourt then stopping as he watched 10 or more seconds tick off the clock.
The pace was agonizing for the fans, who booed loudly every time Boone stood idle, and frustrating for the Blue Devils, who crouched low and began clapping in rhythm to keep their focus.
No matter to the Tar Heels, who closed the half with an 8-2 run to only trail 28-22 at the break.
They continued the slow, deliberate strategy in the second half, allowing the Tar Heels to twice climb out of 10-point holes. Working to their advantage was Williams' early shooting woes - he had just six points with 10 minutes remaining.
But he found his scoring touch at the worst possible time for North Carolina. After the Tar Heels had pulled within 37-34, Williams made them pay when Carolina's Jawad Williams missed a pair of free throws.
Instead of making it a one-point game, it went the other way when Jason Williams hit a soft jumper after the miss, then converted a North Carolina turnover into a 3-pointer for a 44-34 Duke lead.
When North Carolina again rallied to cut it to 58-43 with 4:35 to play, Williams came up with a steal that led to his own dunk then hit a quick 3 to push Duke's lead to 53-43. Chris Duhon followed with another 3 to make it 56-45 with 1:14 to play and seal the win.
Carlos Boozer finished with 11 points and Dunleavy had 10.
North Carolina senior Jason Capel finished with seven points and received a standing ovation when he fouled out with under a minute to play. He ran over to the Duke bench and shook hands with the coaching staff before leaving the court for the final time.
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