No. 3 Tar Heels dig out of hole to top of ACC Print
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Thursday, 12 February 2009 10:27
NCAAB Headline News


 DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -Bobby Frasor remembers all the fuss when North Carolina went from being favored to win the national championship to the bottom of the Atlantic Coast Conference standings in the span of a week.
That seems like a lot longer than just a month ago.
After losing their first two league games, the third-ranked Tar Heels are now alone atop the ACC standings after Wednesday night's 101-87 win at No. 6 Duke. It's right where everybody expected them to be, yet no one expected the preseason No. 1 team to take the long way there.
``I don't know that there's that much of a difference,'' Frasor said of how the Tar Heels are playing now. ``Yeah, we've been playing better. Defensively, we're a little better. But it wasn't the end of the world when we were 0-2 like everybody was making it seem.
``Even if we lost this game, it wouldn't be the end of the world. There's still a lot of games left, and anything can happen in the ACC.''
nce a stunning home loss to Boston College on Jan. 4 followed by a loss at Wake Forest a week later. In that stretch, seven victories have come by double-digit margins - including a 24-point home win against then-No. 10 Clemson to keep the Tigers winless all-time in Chapel Hill - while the exception was an 80-77 win at Florida State in which Ty Lawson hit a running 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Yet those performances don't hold the same luster as Wednesday's victory. After all, this one came against the hated Blue Devils in Cameron Indoor Stadium on the court that bears Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski's name.
Since North Carolina's loss to BC, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Duke and now Connecticut have grabbed headlines as the nation's top-ranked team. But this was the kind of efficient and composed performance that reminded everyone these Tar Heels are no afterthought, even after losing three key players to injuries or suspension since the start of the season.
``There's no laying in the weeds here,'' said Danny Green, who joined fellow senior Tyler Hansbrough as the first Tar Heels to play in four wins at Cameron in the Krzyzewski era. ``There's always a target on our chest every time we play somebody. It's their best shot, and we're expecting their best shot, so every time we step on the floor we've got to give it our best shot and work as hard as we possibly can and execute the way we're supposed to.''
ter allowing Duke to shoot 62 percent to take a 52-44 halftime lead, North Carolina answered with a dominating second half in which it led by as many as 17 points late. The Tar Heels shot 59 percent after halftime, outscored Duke 57-35 and held the Blue Devils to 36 percent shooting.
Lawson led the way with 21 of his 25 points coming in the second half, while four others finished in double figures. Even Frasor, who has struggled with his shot all year, had three 3-pointers off the bench while freshman big man Ed Davis added eight points.
North Carolina was the first team to score 100 points against the Blue Devils in nine years. It was also the first time any team had scored 100 points in regulation in Cameron since North Carolina did it 26 years ago.
Now the Tar Heels control their own destiny in the league race.
``I thought overall we played well, but we're not as good as they are right now,'' Krzyzewski said. ``They're better than us, and sometimes a team that's better doesn't play as well, but they played that way, too. It's going to be difficult to beat them.''
edshirt), freshman 7-footer Tyler Zeller (broken wrist) and junior reserve Will Graves (suspension).
Zeller was expected to miss the rest of the season after being hurt late in the second game against Kentucky, but has since returned to limited practice. It's unclear whether he will return this year or redshirt.
Still - short-handed or not - North Carolina is looking just fine.
``We didn't panic when we went 0-2,'' junior Wayne Ellington said. ``We felt like it was a long, long season left. We knew that we were going to get a chance to make up for it. We just had to take care of our own business.''
 

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