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COLLEGE BASKETBALL FINAL FOUR NOTES : NORTH CAROLINA : Phelps Stakes His Claim to Van Exel

With 21 points in the first half, Nick Van Exel of Cincinnati was shredding North Carolina’s defense in Sunday’s NCAA East Regional final. Junior guard Derrick Phelps was assigned to do something about Van Exel--and fast.

“In the locker room at halftime,” Tar Heel teammate Brian Reese said, “Derrick just kept walking around saying: ‘He’s mine now. Mine. He’s mine now.’ ”

Over the next 20 minutes, plus a five-minute overtime period, Van Exel scored two points. He made one of 10 shots.

“I just made up my mind I was going to stay in front of him and keep the ball out of his hands before the guy killed us,” Phelps said.

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In other words, make him yours?

“Exactly,” Phelps said. “Mine.”

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Van Exel amazed some and annoyed some with his shooting/gunning. But he and Cincinnati made the tournament’s final eight two years running.

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“Think you at least earned some respect?” the outspoken senior was asked.

“Too late for respect,” Van Exel replied. “We’re out of the tournament and respect’s not going to put us back in.”

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Coach Dean Smith and his wife, Linnea, a physician, have donated $100,000 to the University of North Carolina library.

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The Smiths intended the act to remain private, but school officials requested a public announcement that could encourage additional donations.

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He might not be anybody’s All-American, but during the East Regional, North Carolina senior George Lynch moved into second place among the Atlantic Coast Conference’s all-time rebounders, passing Billy Cunningham.

Lynch has 1,077 rebounds, second only to Sam Perkins’ 1,167.

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Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski won the last two national championships, partly explaining why Arkansas Coach Nolan Richardson called him the top coach in the game today.

Not by name, though.

“I’ll go with, what’s his name, Mister K,” Richardson said at the East Regional. “I never could pronounce that man’s name.”

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