CHAPEL HILL — On almost every offensive possession, the Duke women's basketball team looked inside and often finished with a layup.
Dominating in the paint, the No. 7 Blue Devils (24-4, 15-1 ACC) defeated North Carolina 69-63 Sunday at Carmichael Arena - claiming a hard-fought victory on their rivals' home court for the first time since Feb. 8, 2007.
"It's about time," said Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie, who in her fifth season collected her first victory in Chapel Hill. "I can thank the team for that."
The Blue Devils - also claiming their fourth consecutive victory against the Tar Heels (19-10, 9-7) - held steady amid a second-half rally from a North Carolina team finally finding its shooting touch.
They outscored the Tar Heels 40-24 in the lane, feeding freshman center Elizabeth Williams, who turning quickly inside on both blocks scored 13 points and finished with nine rebounds.
Duke sophomore guard Tricia Liston added a team-high 15 points, three rebounds, three steals and two assists, and sophomore point guard Chelsea Gray scored 12 points and dished seven assists - setting a single-season school record along the way.
It was a satisfying weekend for the Blue Devils.
With a win against No. 5 Miami on Friday, they secured the No. 1 seed in this week's ACC tournament in Greensboro. With Sunday's victory, they won the ACC regular-season title outright for the first time since 2006-07.
McCallie's team - shooting 51.9 percent - completed a sweep of the Tar Heels this season, posting a 96-56 victory on Feb. 6.
Sunday's win came with a little more wear on the body.
Duke led 44-30 at halftime, but in the second half met a determined UNC team.
North Carolina climbed back into the game with a 17-6 run built on the spectacular shooting of freshman Brittany Rountree. The Tar Heels cut Duke's 17-point lead at the 13-minute mark to 65-57 with a little over three minutes to play.
A rainbow 3-pointer from the top of the arc by Rountree - her fourth of the second half - cut the lead to five with 3:17 left.
Later, a rebound and layup by UNC junior forward Krista Gross pulled the Tar Heels to 67-64. They wouldn't get any closer.
On a late possession, the Tar Heels had an opportunity, but were defended around the perimeter by the Blue Devils.
As Duke defenders shuffled to deny, North Carolina junior Tierra Ruffin-Pratt drove the lane hard and tried to connect with senior center Chay Shegog. Her pass floated wide outside the outstretched arms of Shegog - who finished with a game-high 22 points.
Rountree added 17 points and was 5-for-7 from 3-point range.
Duke salted away the clock and ended the game at the foul line.
"If we had played the first half like we did the second half, we'd be a lot happier now," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "I thought the second half we competed a lot harder. We played transition defense, we played like we were supposed to play."
The Tar Heels will enter the ACC tournament as the No. 5 seed and face No. 12 Clemson on Thursday - a team they lost to 52-47 on Jan. 12.
With a 65-63 win against Miami on Jan. 2 as their signature win, the Tar Heels may need a tournament victory to secure an invitation to the NCAA tournament.
Duke, meanwhile, secured a bye in the ACC tournament first round and will play the winner of Friday's 3 p.m. game between No. 8 seed Florida State and No. 9 N.C. State.
McCallie credited her agenda-setting point guard for mining the way.
Gray handed out five assists in the first half and reached a school-record 173 for the season. She surpassed Kira Orr (170) atop the school's all-time single-season assist list.
"Any time a team shoots 52 percent from the floor, that's a sign of excellent ball movement and great, savvy play by the guards, particularly Chelsea in terms of her decisions and what she's trying to do with her team on the floor," McCallie said.
Duke's starting sophomore forward Haley Peters left the game near the end of the first half after taking an elbow in the mouth from Shegog.
She fell to the ground, her face and lip covered with blood.
"I didn't mean to bust her mouth open," Shegog said. "I had to apologize for it."
Peters did not return until 11:44 of the second half after receiving 16 stitches inside and outside her mouth. She was sent immediately back into the game and made a 12-foot jump shot. She also had a critical rebound late in the game.
"She's our warrior," Gray said.
Peters, a 6-foot-3 forward, was asked by trainers if she wanted to go back into the game. She didn't hesitate to continue banging inside, finishing with nine points and seven rebounds.
"I'm here to play," she said. "I'm not here to watch."