CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Blood poured from his nose and onto his lip, chin and the court. The latest bruised face of college basketball's nastiest rivalry belongs to North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough.
"Just a little bump and bruise," teammate Reyshawn Terry said. "Nothing that a little ice can't handle."
Hansbrough had 26 points and 17 rebounds before suffering an injury that looked worse than it really was in the closing seconds of the No. 8 Tar Heels' 86-72 win over 14th-ranked Duke on Sunday, clinching the top seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Terry added 15 points in his final home game for the Tar Heels (25-6, 11-5), who swept the regular-season series with the Blue Devils for the first time in 11 years, avoided their first three-game slide under Roy Williams and gave the homespun coach his 100th victory at his alma mater.
But perhaps the lasting image of the intense rivalry is Hansbrough's bloodstained face, a scary-looking picture that evoked memories of center Eric Montross' bleeding, shaven head after he took an elbow in 1992. The latest injury came with 14.5 seconds left, when Hansbrough leaped for a layup. After the ball left his hand, he was struck in the face by Gerald Henderson's right elbow.
"He got our guys in the air, and I came down on him," Henderson said. "It's unfortunate that it turned out like it did, but I wasn't trying to hurt the kid or anything. It just turned worse than it was."
Hansbrough crumpled to the ground, his nose bleeding onto the floor and down his face, before he jumped to his feet menacingly and had to be restrained from Duke's players while he was taken to the locker room. The officials reviewed the play and ejected Henderson, then later said in a joint statement that under NCAA rules he would be suspended for one game.
After the game, Hansbrough had cotton in his nose while he watched his teammates cut down the Dean Smith Center nets. Williams said team doctors told him the center's nose was not broken, and though Hansbrough didn't speak to reporters after the game, point guard Bobby Frasor said the player nicknamed "Psycho T" for his relentless focus had calmed down and was laughing about the near-confrontation.
"He said, 'Did you see me get up?" Frasor said.
Greg Paulus had 21 points before fouling out, and Henderson finished with 16 for the Blue Devils (22-9, 8-8).
Ty Lawson scored 12 points and Brandan Wright finished with 10 for the Tar Heels, who took control early with a hot start before a fired-up Senior Day crowd, dodged Duke's second-half rally and pulled away late for their fourth win in their last five meetings with the Blue Devils.
North Carolina led comfortably for most of the way before Duke made things interesting midway through the second half, closing to 50-48 on Paulus' baseline jumper with 12:50 left.
The Blue Devils then forced Frasor to miss and had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead, but Marcus Ginyard intercepted Paulus' pass to the interior.
Ginyard then started the fast break, and it led to a three-point play by Hansbrough. That play started the game-clinching 18-4 run, capped by Hansbrough's free throw that made it 68-52 with 5:14 left.
That led to a win which, coupled with Virginia Tech's loss to Clemson, gave North Carolina the top seed and a first-round bye in the ACC tournament that begins Thursday in Tampa, Fla. Had the Tar Heels lost, they would have been the No. 5 seed and would have had to win four games in four days to claim their first league tournament crown since 1998.
"We had so many chances so far just to win it straight out, and we didn't take care of it," Lawson said. "This was our last chance, so we all had to take care of it and get this win."
The Blue Devils fell to the seventh seed with the loss and Georgia Tech's win over Boston College, meaning they will begin tournament play Thursday against 10th-seeded North Carolina State.
Some of the luster had dimmed on this fierce rivalry after a spate of uncharacteristic losses by both teams. Before this season, only four times since the 1975-76 season had both teams entered the game after a loss -- but that happened twice this year.
North Carolina, which was coming off consecutive road losses to Maryland and Georgia Tech, avoided its first three-game losing streak since 2003. Duke, meanwhile, already was assured of its first non-winning ACC finish since also going 8-8 in 1996.
"We've played a hell of a schedule, especially in February," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Sometimes you can't see as much improvement because the team you're playing against is better. Carolina is better than we are. That doesn't mean we can't win. Maryland, at this point, is better than us. That doesn't mean everything is wrong. By playing these people, you should get better, and I think we have."
The Tar Heels looked like a first-place team for most of this one, feeding off a rowdy crowd which roared when little-used walk-on Dewey Burke was anointed a Senior Day starter. North Carolina took a quick 12-2 lead and didn't allow the Blue Devils to draw closer than five during the rest of the half.