Carolina sails into second round of tourney
Published 3:07 pm Friday, March 16, 2007
By By AARON BEARD
AP Sports Writer
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.— North Carolina spent the early minutes of its NCAA tournament opener looking like a top seed determined to beat down an overmatched opponent.
The Tar Heels then needed almost the rest of the game to do it.
Tyler Hansbrough had 21 points and 10 rebounds to help the Tar Heels beat Eastern Kentucky 86-65 in the first round, giving coach Roy Williams an NCAA-record 18 straight years with at least one tournament victory.
Reyshawn Terry added 18 points on 8-for-9 shooting for the Tar Heels (29-6), who advanced to face ninth-seeded Michigan State in the second round of the East Regional on Saturday. The victory marked the 24th time in 25 appearances North Carolina has won at least one NCAA tournament game, while Williams surpassed mentor Dean Smith’s previous record of 17 straight years with at least one NCAA win.
Still, it was an emotional day for Williams. A team spokesman confirmed Williams’ sister died Wednesday night, and athletic director Dick Baddour said he thought the coach had remained with his team leading up to the game.
Williams was on the sidelines as always Thursday night. But his team responded by showing a familiar weakness that has followed it all season: the inability to put away a game that looks completely in hand.
North Carolina led by as many as 27 points in the first half, then watched the 16th-seeded Colonels (21-12) claw to within four points early after the break.
Playing in front of a home-state crowd — where the majority of fans wore light blue and cheered their every move — the Tar Heels ultimately had the answer by getting back to the up-tempo attack that Williams loves. Regardless, it had to be a wake-up call about the dangers of letting their intensity waver against a determined opponent.
Hansbrough led the way with his strongest performance since suffering a broken nose on a flagrant foul by Duke’s Gerald Henderson on March 4. The 6-foot-9 sophomore wore a new protective mask and finished 9-for-11 from the field — including two straight baskets and a three-point play that pushed North Carolina’s lead back up to 60-48 with 10:47 left.
The lead grew to as many as 26 points from there, with Terry scoring six of his baskets the rest of the way for a strong showing in his hometown. North Carolina finished the game shooting 65 percent while taking a 38-16 rebounding advantage against the smaller Colonels.
Darnell Dialls scored 17 points to lead Eastern Kentucky, which was in the NCAA tournament for the second time in three seasons.