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Boston College Set To Face Top-Seeded Duke In ACC Championship

Boston College's Craig Smith celebrates late in the second half during a semifinal Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament game Saturday, March 11, 2006, in Greensboro, N.C. (AP Photo/ChuckBurton)

Boston College's Craig Smith celebrates late in the second half during a semifinal Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament game Saturday, March 11, 2006, in Greensboro, N.C. (AP Photo/ChuckBurton)

March 11, 2006

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) - Everything was perfectly set for another Duke-North Carolina final in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Leave it to the league's newest member to spoil the occasion.

"I don't think we're crashing their party," Boston College coach Al Skinner said. "We're all part of a new league and you might as well get used to this."

Craig Smith had 23 points and 15 rebounds and the 11th-ranked Eagles shot 61 percent to beat No. 10 North Carolina 85-82 in Saturday's semifinals, putting them one win away from the title in their tournament debut.

Jared Dudley scored 21 points for the third-seeded Eagles (26-6), who have won 10 of 11 heading into Sunday's matchup with the third-ranked Blue Devils. Freshman Tyrese Rice added 10 points, including a running 3-pointer to beat the halftime horn and a pair of big baskets late.

"We came down here with a purpose, and right now we've placed ourselves in position to win the thing," Skinner said. "Obviously we're very pleased with that, but our goal is not over yet."

The Eagles won the first meeting 81-74 in January, and essentially beat the second-seeded Tar Heels (22-7) on the road again. In an arena about 50 miles from Chapel Hill and packed full of fans wearing light blue, the Eagles knocked down seemingly every open look to build a 14-point second-half lead and hold off a late spurt.

Boston College hit 33 of 54 shots, including an 8-for-16 effort from 3-point range, and took a 36-28 rebounding advantage.

But the Eagles' performance was as much a testament to their experience and unflappable poise down the stretch. Their starting five of two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore had combined to play in 468 games with 455 starts coming into Greensboro, a significant edge against a young team that starts two freshmen and two upperclassmen who were reserves on last year's national-title winner.

"They were a load for us today," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said, "no question about that."

Smith, a first-team All-ACC performer, went 11-for-16 from the floor to follow up his 21-point, 15-rebound, seven-assist day in an easy quarterfinal win over Maryland. He also scored on an inbounds play with 2 seconds left on the shot clock, forced a key jump-ball call that gave it back to the Eagles and grabbed the final offensive rebound - all in the last 3 minutes.

Dudley, a 6-foot-7 junior with the all-around game to cause matchup problems all over the court, did his part, too. He went 8-for-11 from the field, and grabbed an airballed 3-pointer by Louis Hinnant and threw it off Reyshawn Terry before falling out of bounds to set up Smith's shot clock-beating layup.

"I think what's crucial with this team is it's a veteran team," Dudley said. "I don't know how many teams can really say that. We've played a lot of games together and there's chemistry. When it comes down to crunch time, the crowd factor with them getting loud, I don't think that was that big of a deal."

Tyler Hansbrough had 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead North Carolina, which had won 11 of 12 coming in. The Tar Heels shot 47 percent with 12 3-pointers and 24 points off 19 BC turnovers, but they didn't get nearly enough of the little plays that the Eagles made often.

"We made a couple of silly mistakes and gave them some easy buckets," said Wes Miller, who scored 12 on four 3-pointers in the first half. "They made some tough plays too, and were able to run their offense and do the things they needed to do down the stretch and we weren't able to do that."

North Carolina also struggled with Terry getting in early foul trouble and freshman Danny Green suffering a small cut above his left eye that hindered the Tar Heels' depth.

Boston College led 70-56 with 8 1/2 minutes left before the Tar Heels closed the gap to 78-74 on free throws by Hansbrough with 3:23 to go. But Dudley saved the ball to set up Smith's layup off the inbounds, and Smith followed by kicking out to Rice for a 3 and an 83-74 lead with about 2 minutes left.

Smith also made two big plays on the boards late, first tying up David Noel for a jump ball that gave it back to Boston College after a missed free throw from Dudley. Rice scored on the possession by tipping in his own miss to make it 85-78 with 27.6 seconds left.

The Tar Heels got as close as three on a layup by Noel, then fouled Rice with 2.7 seconds left. He missed the free throw, but Smith grabbed the ball from Noel, kicked it back outside to kill the clock and pointed to the Eagles fans in celebration as the final horn sounded.

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