GREENSBORO, N.C. - When Roy Williams took Kendall Marshall out of the game with four minutes to go, he had to admonish the freshman point guard to run - not walk - off the court to the bench.
Marshall looked like he barely had the energy.
He and the rest of the Tar Heels were gassed all around after their third comeback attempt in three days here at the ACC Tournament.
While the first two resulted in dramatic victories, top-seeded Carolina didn't have enough left in the tank to complete the third. Instead, No.2 seed Duke came away with a 75-58 victory in the championship game.
"We kept saying it was going to come back to bite us," Marshall said. "If there's anything we take away from this it's that we have to play 40 minutes of basketball."
The first title-game matchup between the teams since 2001 resulted in Duke (30-4) getting its 3-point stroke back and the Tar Heels (26-7) re-learning the lesson that they can't start games out cold when it's do-or-die time.
The previous five matchups between Duke and Carolina in the ACC Tournament final had yielded a margin of victory of more than 21 points on average.
This one was only marginally closer and only because, for a while, the Tar Heels looked like they might just have one last surge left in them.
But they never got closer than nine points in the second half.
After a jumper from Harrison Barnes - who led UNC with 16 points - made the score 63-54 with six minutes to go, the Blue Devils answered with back-to-back 3-pointers to reassert control.
Nolan Smith scored 20 points and dished out 10 assists to lead the Blue Devils, who shot 50 percent in the game and hit more threes than they did in their first two ACC Tournament games combined.
"He's a tough dude to guard," Williams said of Smith. "We had a freshman trying to guard a senior."
That freshman wasn't too hot at the other end, either.
Marshall didn't have an assist in the second half and turned the ball over five times in the game while shooting 3 for 10.
His lack of success trickled down to the rest of UNC's offense.
John Henson recorded yet another double-double, with 10 points and 18 rebounds, but shot 4 for 15.
Barnes, who was coming off a 40-point performance that helped land him on the all-tournament first team, missed his first five shots of the game on the way to a 6-for-15 performance.
"As a team, we just didn't come to play," Henson said. "They were more aggressive. We should have come ready."
Both teams had offensive problems coming into this game.
Duke's was that it was shooting the ball terribly from 3-point range, combining for an 8-for-33 showing in its first two ACC Tournament games (after a 6-for-27 3-point performance in Chapel Hill to close the regular season).
Carolina's problem was early turnovers and an inability to generate offense, which in turn led to early double-digit deficits.
The Blue Devils fixed their problem. The Tar Heels didn't.
UNC's first six possessions of the game amounted to three missed shots and three turnovers. Williams yanked Marshall from the lineup 2 ½ minutes into the game.
"We have a freshman point guard, and he did not play well today," Williams said. "Kendall didn't feel like he could get past (Smith), and that's not a good feeling for a point guard."
While Carolina missed 15 of its first 18 shots in the game, Duke was on its way to a 62-percent shooting clip in the first half.
Duke was 5 for 9 in the period from 3-point range, led by Andre Dawkins' 3-for-4 mark. The Devils knocked in 9 of 20 from outside in the game.
The Tar Heels ended up trailing quickly, just as they had when piling up deficits in their first two tourney games, against Miami and Clemson.
But against the Blue Devils, there was no coming back.
After the game, Williams could only hope that if the first two tournament games didn't teach the Tar Heels to show up from the opening tip, this one did.
"I couldn't convince them otherwise," Williams said. "But Duke convinced them today."