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North Carolina headed in Wright direction: to ACC final

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Roy Williams angrily pounded the scorer's table hoping to get the attention of his players -- not the referee.

North Carolina never trailed Saturday during their 71-56 victory over Boston College in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. But Williams is never content when the Tar Heels are playing sloppily.

Even with a big lead.

"I hit it with my hand. The referee told me I couldn't do that. I said, `I'm not mad at you. You know that," Williams said after North Carolina moved a step closer to its first ACC tournament title in nine years.

"He said, `But the perception.' I said, 'You don't referee on perception. There's 8,000 people at least that think you make a mistake on every call."

Williams said he was upset because of a miscommunication on the Tar Heels bench. One possession after taking a bad shot, the team nearly didn't get a shot off because coaches were screaming and a play call wasn't heard.

That's about all the Tar Heels did wrong.

Brandan Wright scored 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting -- most of them dunks -- and the conference regular-season co-champions weathered a Boston College spurt that trimmed a 20-point deficit to nine before pulling away again.

Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson scored 10 each and Tyler Hansbrough grabbed 13 rebounds for the Tar Heels (27-6), who will face 10th-seeded North Carolina State -- a 72-64 winner over No. 3 seed Virginia Tech -- in Sunday's championship game.

"We haven't won an ACC championship, so we basically wanted to come out strong against BC and not have them be in the game," Lawson said. "Just get out strong and get ahead, so we don't have to fight back the whole game."

Sean Marshall led Boston College with 23 points. ACC Player of the Year Jared Dudley bounced back from a subpar first half to finish with 20. The fourth-seeded Eagles (20-11) trailed 48-28 before Marshall scored eight during a 13-2 run that trimmed BC's deficit to 50-41.

Reyshawn Terry made a long 3-pointer and Wright followed with a dunk as North Carolina regained control. The Tar Heels rebuilt the advantage to 18, and Boston College never got closer than 13 the rest of the way.

Boston College has lost five of its last seven, but is still hopeful of receiving an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament.

"Let's understand something. The ACC is the best conference in the country. I think it's proven that this weekend," BC coach Al Skinner said. "As I told my guys, once we get out of this freaking ACC, we're going to do OK."

North Carolina is back in the championship game for the first time since 2001. The Tar Heels haven't won the ACC tournament since 1998, and their current streak of eight consecutive years without a title is their longest since 1958-66 -- the year before Dean Smith won his first conference tourney.

North Carolina led by as many as 18 before settling to a 38-23 lead at the half. The Tar Heels limited the Eagles to 24 percent shooting from the field and held Dudley scoreless for the first nine minutes of the game.

Dudley and Tyrese Rice, who scored 32 Friday in BC's overtime victory over Miami, were a combined 2-for-15 at the break. The Eagles' deficit would have been even larger if Marshall hadn't rebounded from a poor shooting performance against Miami to score 10 first-half points.

Hansbrough played for the second straight game with a mask to protect a broken nose. The Tar Heels star scored a season-low six points against Florida State in the quarterfinals and had nine on 4-for-13 shooting Saturday.

Dudley finished 7-of-18, but Rice was 1-for-9 for five points -- all in the first half.

North Carolina has not trailed in the tournament and held Boston College to 34.5 shooting for the game. The Tar Heels limited Florida State's Al Thornton, the league's leading scorer, to 12 points on Friday.

"I thought our defense was better today than it's been in a while," Williams said.