Ben Cohen

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Heeled After Halftime

Duke’s bonfire permit may have been revoked, but it was No. 3 North Carolina which ensured the No. 6 Blue Devils wouldn’t be burning benches anytime soon.

This time, though, it wasn’t Tyler Hansbrough who extinguished the Cameron Crazies’ pyrotechnic dreams, but rather, Ty Lawson doing his best impression of an NBA star.

Lawson, who scored 21 of his season-high 25 points in the second half, keyed a 14-0 Tar Heel run to help them erase a halftime deficit and run away from Duke 101-87 Wednesday in Cameron Indoor Stadium. It was North Carolina’s fourth straight win in Durham.

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Trio Delivers ACC Title

ATLANTA – When Jon Scheyer climbed the short ladder to cut down the nets in the Georgia Dome Sunday, he was nervous, he admitted afterward. Never before had he celebrated a postseason title in a Duke uniform, and the last time he had clipped the twine was in high school.

It might have been the first time all day that Scheyer wasn’t sure of himself.

The junior guard earned Tournament MVP honors as the third-seeded Blue Devils beat No. 4 Florida State 79-69 to win their first ACC Tournament since 2006. Scheyer, Gerald Henderson and Kyle Singler combined for 70 of Duke’s 79 points, and all three were named to the Tournament’s first team.

Duke’s three stars carried the Blue Devils (28-6) throughout the weekend, scoring 80 percent of the team’s points and converting on clutch possessions in all three games. Not surprisingly, it was the three players, all clad in ACC championship T-shirts and hats, who earned the loudest ovations when they used the small pair of metallic scissors to take a memento from the arena.

It was, after all, the team’s first postseason title in three years, and it wouldn’t have been possible without them.

“It’s a long time coming,” said Henderson, who scored 27 points in the final, second only to Scheyer’s 29. “We’ve put a lot of work into building our team into what it is today. Winning this championship is an accomplishment because we’ve waited a long time for it.”

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Grandma’s Still Got It

EAST RUTHERFORD — Nearly eight years ago to the day, a sellout crowd packed Giants Stadium to see the United States women’s national team beat Denmark 3-0 in the first game of the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

On Saturday in the same venue, the crowd was noticeably smaller, the players wore a noticeably different color, and the roster was noticeably lacking of big-name stars. The Americans debuted their snazzy gold uniforms in a friendly with Brazil, but drew only 16,856 fans, partly because the icons of the past have been replaced by budding stars of the future.

Almost the entire setting was different, but the 2-0 winning result was the same because of Kristine Lilly.

Lilly, the captain and prime source of consistency on this fledgling national team; the 36-year old matriarch dubbed “Grandma” by the youngsters; the United States’ all-time leader in international appearances; the midfielder on four World Cup teams and three Olympic squads.

Just 58 seconds into the match, Lilly used her left foot to send a gorgeous, 18-yard free kick into the top left corner of the net. The quick strike, which even surprised her, essentially ended the game even before the 22 field players had broken a sweat on the unusually cool summer afternoon.

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Duke Ends Nation’s Longest Losing Streak

EVANSTON, Ill.- Vincent Rey never saw Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher throw the last pass of the night, never saw the football fall harmlessly to the ground, never saw the clock tick down to 0:00. Lying in the grass of Ryan Field post-blitz on Saturday night, all Rey saw were his Duke teammates whooping in celebration, and he knew.

For the first time in his college career, Duke had won a game. The Blue Devils, celebrating that same realization, piled onto the sophomore linebacker as the final score-Duke 20, Northwestern 14-glowed unexpectedly in the crisp Midwest night.

The wait to win was over, and so was that 22-game losing streak-tops in the nation.

The Blue Devil offense clicked for 20 first-half points, the defense withstood a furious Wildcats’ comeback in the second half, and the combination proved potent enough for the first time in nearly two years.

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Duke Snaps Conference Slide

Forgive Jabari Marshall for his fourth-quarter excessive celebration penalty. The end zone must have looked so close, near enough for him to finally grasp and literally dive into, and his interception return for a touchdown was about to seal Duke’s first ACC win since 2004 and the first of the senior’s career.

Maybe he just wanted to get there quicker. After all, it had been a long three years on the other side. And after the day Duke’s newly stalwart defensive unit enjoyed, Marshall had plenty of reason to celebrate-even excessively.

The Blue Devil defense forced six turnovers-including four interceptions in the second half-and did not allow a touchdown, and a shaky offense suddenly became efficient after halftime as Duke routed Virginia 31-3 Saturday in Wallace Wade Stadium, snapping a 25-game ACC losing streak and exceeding its total amount of wins from the past three seasons combined.

Marshall wasn’t the only one celebrating, although he was the only one to earn a flag for Duke on the play.

Vince Oghobaase and Greg Akinbiyi were two of the last players off the field after hobnobbing with the student section, and before they retreated into the tunnel leading to the Yoh Football Center, they hugged and chestbumped one last time. Nose guard Clifford Respress, a high school trumpet player, did his best imitation of a maestro in conducting the marching band.

The party was, indeed, 25 games in the making.

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