“He was pretty damn good tonight,” Roy Williams said.
According to league information director Brian Morrison, who stayed up late Wednesday night scouring ACC annals, Hansbrough supplanted the 31-year-old mark of 38 points scored by Clemson’s Skip Wise on Nov. 30, 1974.
“It’s very important,” Hansbrough said when asked about the records he broke. “You look at all the great players that have played here and down the line it’s something I’ll talk about when I'm done playing basketball.”
Seemingly operating in his own realm of consciousness, Hansbrough scored inside, on the break, with emphatic dunks and circus shots inside, setting a new record for most points scored by a UNC freshman and tying the 13th best single-game scoring performance ever by a Tar Heel.
“Tyler’s off balance, holding the guy off with one arm, throwing the ball up with his right hand and getting fouled and making it…that’s pretty impressive,” described Bobby Frasor.
On five previous occasions, UNC rookies had scored 31, by Walter Davis, Mike O’Koren, Antawn Jamison and J.R. Reid twice.
“My game was just in a flow,” Hansbrough said. “I think I played well offensively and defensively. Definitely it was fun in the second half when we started coming back.”
Hansbrough, who was the first Carolina player to score 40 points in a game since Shammond Williams’ 42 in a 1998 double overtime win at Georgia Tech, converted 13-of-17 field goals and 14-of-19 free throws, while notching his fourth-career double-double with 10 rebounds.
“He probably runs the floor better than any other freshman big man I’ve ever seen,” Tech coach Paul Hewitt said.
Reyshawn Terry (13 points) and David Noel (11) were the other two Tar Heels in double figures. And Frasor’s eight assists were his most in an ACC game this season.
Yet even with Hansbrough’s incredible performance and Carolina’s miraculous comeback, the Tar Heels (16-6, 7-4 ACC) struggled to pull away. And when they did push the advantage to 76-71, Hansbrough picked up his fourth foul with 4:06 left.
It didn’t look like a classic on paper coming into the contest. After all, the Tar Heels had won four of their last five in impressive fashion, and Tech dropped eight straight before Sunday’s upset of N.C. State.
But as once prophesized by the legendary R&B combo Blood, Sweat and Tears, “What goes up must come down.” And after blistering the nets for 9-of-10 three-point shooting in the first half, the Yellow Jackets’ balloon had long since burst and plummeted to earth as Tech was 0-for-7 from beyond the arc in the second half.
On the flip side, UNC missed all nine of its attempts from three-point range in the first half, and the Yellow Jackets led 50-30 with 4:03 to play in the first half.
“It’s probably no secret to anybody [Coach Williams] wasn’t happy with us at halftime,” Wes Miller said. “He got into us pretty good in the locker room.”
But over the next 11 minutes of basketball time – spanning intermission – Carolina went on a 31-11 run, completing the comeback when Quentin Thomas found a trailing Terry for a three with 12:53 remaining to knot the score at 61 apiece.
“We really got after it defensively in the second half,” Hansbrough said. “That’s what Coach was really stressing in the locker room at halftime. We came out there, and we had to stop some of their open shots, and I think that’s what we did.”
Only twice before had the Tar Heels trailed by as many points in the Dean Dome and won, coming back from 22 against Wake Forest in ’92 and Florida State a year later.
Anthony Morrow, the ACC’s three-point field goal percentage leader, had a team-high 22 points for Tech (10-13, 3-9).
The Tar Heels return to action on Sunday when they travel to Wake Forest (13-12, 1-10). The game tips off at 1:30 p.m. and will be televised by ABC.