"Well, this feels pretty good; there's no question about that," said Roy Williams, who captured his first ACC Tournament crown in four tries. "I couldn't be more proud of the kids that I have and what they've done."
But cutting down the nets didn't come without a fight. In one of the most exciting tourneys in recent memory, UNC (28-6) got a huge lift from senior Reyshawn Terry, who scored eight clutch points for UNC after a furious rally by State slashed a 16-point deficit to one.
After Gavin Grant's three-pointer made the score 70-69 with 5:07 to play, Terry answered with a jumper from the wing. Lawson then stole the ball from Brandon Costner and Terry scored on a layup in traffic and was fouled. He hit his free throw to extend UNC's lead to six, and after a pair of Grant free throws, Terry nailed a three off the dribble with the shot clock running down, and with Engin Atsur all over him.
"It's another achievement and accomplishment for me, my team, my coaching staff," Terry said. "For Coach Williams, he hasn't won this since he's been here so it's another jewel to go in his jewelry box."
A pair of threes by Wes Miller late in the first half provided the Tar Heels with a little breathing room and a 42-34 halftime lead. Carolina would take its largest lead at 56-40 with 13:51 remaining, but a 29-14 Wolfpack run over the next eight minutes turned a would-be blowout into a thriller.
"This is something I always dreamed about as a kid," Miller said. "I used to go these games as a kid, and it's one of the things that inspired me to want to work at the game. I really can't describe with words how it feels."
Brandan Wright, who scored 47 points in three games, tallied a co-team-high 16 in the final, and Wayne Ellington had 16 as well. Tyler Hansbrough scored 15 including 11-for-11 from the free throw line, and Terry and Ty Lawson each added 13 points.
Lawson who received raves for his defense against Boston College's Tyrese Rice on Saturday and turned in another stellar effort against Atsur, committed just four turnovers on the weekend.
Wright became just the fifth freshmen (fourth Tar Heel) in history to be named ACC Tournament MVP. Lawson and Ellington joined Costner and Courtney Fells of NC State on the All-Tournament Team.
"Coming out of the Duke game I thought I played well," Wright said. "I thought we had a lot of momentum coming into the tournament and I just felt like I had to really step up."
The other four rookie MVPs were Phil Ford (1975), Sam Perkins (1981), Jerry Stackhouse (1994) and Duke's Jason Williams (2000).
Costner led N.C. State (18-15) with 28 points. Fells had 18 and Grant finished with 10.
But Carolina shot 58 percent for the game and converted 23 of 24 free throws to counteract Costner and the Wolfpack's second half heroics.
"They made some big shots down the stretch," State coach Sidney Lowe said. "They're tough inside, they're tough outside and obviously they play hard. But I'm so proud of our guys and the way we performed this entire weekend, how we came out and played and got to this point. It was a great effort by our guys."