For years people in the Atlantic Coast Conference have made fun of Dudley Bradley's offensive ability.
The book on the 6-foot-7 North Carolina forward was good field, no hit, or, he can play defense but he's dangerous to his own team on offense.
"I never considered it dirty work," Bradley said last night, "because I like playing defense. I enjoy it. But I always knew I could play well offensively too."
As Bradley spoke he was sitting with a net draped around his neck, one of the souvenirs he took with him after Carolina had beaten Duke, 71-63, tonight for the ACC championship.
The other souvenir was probably the one he will cherish most: the Most Valuable Player trophy.
"Maybe later on it'll hit me," Bradley said, after he had scored 16 points and made seven crucial steals to help stifle Duke's desperate attempts to come back. "This is a great moment, a happy moment but in a way it's also a sad moment because this is my last ACC game."
Bradley made his last ACC game a memorable one.He helped his team jump on top early with three steals and helped them stay there with a slam dunk in the final minutes when it looked as if the Blue Devils might come back.
"They're a great team," said Mike O'Koren, whose 18 points and clutch free throw shooting also kept Duke at bay. "They always play tough, they never give up and they keep coming at you. That's why we have such a great rivalry with them."
That rivalry has produced a split of four games this season.
Tonight, the Blue Devils were slightly below par because of the absence of point guard Bob Bender. He was admitted to the Duke hospital for an appendectomy three hours before tipoff.
"What hurt us there was that Bobby had probably played his best game of the season last night against State," Duke Coach Bill Foster said. "He was doing a super all-around job. We didn't have good ball movement early and Bobby being out may have been part of it. But heck, we had our chances."
O'Koren and Bradley, with help from much-maligned center Rich Yonakor, snuffed out those chances. "Bender's a great player, he hurt us in The Big Four (16 points in a 78-68 Duke win) and I was disappointed when Coach Smith told us he was sick. That's rough," O'Koren said.
As he spoke, a middle-aged man reached through the crush of reporters to shake his hand. "You deserved it Mike," the man said. "I'm Bob Bender Sr. Thank you."
"I hope Bob's okay," O'Koren told the elder Bender, quieting the questions briefly.
But the players on both teams chose not to dwell on the absent Bender. Instead, they talked about what made the difference between two evenly matched teams.
"We got' em early, jumped on them quick," said Yonakor of UNC's 8-2 lead. "They had to play catchup all night."
"It seemed like right from the start it was just one of those nights when the shots just weren't going to drop," said Duke's Jim Spanarkel. He scored 13 points and surpassed Art Helman as Duke's all-time leading scorer with 1,996 points.