Tar Heels hammer Radford
Published 10:09 am Friday, March 20, 2009
By By AARON BEARD, AP Sports Writer
GREENSBORO — Tyler Hansbrough heard the roar of the crowd and knew he had just become the leading scorer in Atlantic Coast Conference history.
His response? Just run down court and get back on defense.
Whether he liked it or not, Hansbrough’s latest record overshadowed North Carolina’s 101-58 win over Radford to open the NCAA tournament on Thursday. He finished with 22 points despite a bad shooting day, part of an overwhelming performance by the top-seeded Tar Heels in the first step in what they hope will be a return to the Final Four.
Wayne Ellington had 25 points for the Tar Heels (29-4), who led the entire way and had no trouble beating the 16th-seeded Highlanders even with point guard Ty Lawson, who missed his third straight game with a toe injury.
It was another easy tournament opener for the Tar Heels in their home state, where they are 26-1 in NCAA games with the past 11 victories coming by double-digit margins. They next face LSU on Saturday in the South Region.
Playing about an hour drive from its Chapel Hill campus, North Carolina enjoyed a huge home-crowd advantage and built a 19-point halftime lead against Radford (21-12). The Tar Heels steadily increased the margin from there, cracking the 100-point mark in their NCAA opener for the second straight season.
There were plenty of positives, from a strong bounceback performance for Danny Green to the solid play of senior Bobby Frasor in Lawson’s absence. But on this day, the focus came back to Hansbrough, who has made breaking records seem commonplace in his final college season.
The reigning national player of the year came in with 2,767 points and needed three to pass Duke’s J.J. Redick for the ACC record. The 6-foot-9 senior missed his first two shots before tying Redick on a layup about 3 1/2 minutes in, then broke the record on a free throw with 15:43 left in the first half.
The record wasn’t announced, but the crowd — packed with fans wearing light blue — knew immediately when it happened. Besides the cheers, many fans held up congratulatory signs, while North Carolina assistant coach Steve Robinson and a few players on the bench also applauded.
Still, it was the latest honor for a player who earlier this year broke both the career scoring and rebounding records at the storied program.
Hansbrough shot just 5-for-16 on the day, but went 12-for-12 from the foul line — where he holds the NCAA record for most made free throws — to go with five rebounds in 20 minutes.
Amir Johnson and Joey Lynch-Flohr each scored 12 points to lead the Highlanders, the Big South Conference champion making just its second NCAA appearance and first since 1998.
Ellington got off to a fast start for the Tar Heels, scoring a layup off the opening tip and finishing 11-for-16 with three 3-pointers. In addition, Green — who shot a combined 3-for-25 in last week’s ACC tournament games — finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
That was more than enough to offset the loss of Lawson, who has been slow to recover from a jammed right big toe suffered in practice two days before the regular-season finale against Duke. Lawson played 36 minutes in that game, but the toe swelled unexpectedly the day after and forced him to miss both of the Tar Heels’ ACC tournament games.
Lawson has said he is feeling better and battling more stiffness than pain, adding he thinks he’ll play Saturday. He dressed for the game and went through pregame warmups, but it was clear that Williams didn’t want to play him unless the Tar Heels were at risk of a historic upset.
That just wasn’t going to happen, as North Carolina finished with 25 fast break points to go with 21 points off turnovers.