The top-ranked Tar Heels (17-0, 2-0 ACC) used a 25-0 run in the opening 20 minutes to build a 43-13 halftime lead over their in-state rival, capitalizing on eight blocks and a 31-17 rebounding advantage to hold N.C. State (11-4, 0-1 ) to 17.6 percent on 6-of-34 shooting before the break.
“Needless to say, it was a great first half for us,” said head coach Roy Williams, who is now 14-1 overall (9-1 at UNC) against N.C. State. “They had a lot of shots that they normally make that didn’t go in for them today. I think our defense had something to do with it, but it wasn’t the only reason… It was one of those days where things broke well for us, and it didn’t do it for them.”
And if the initial onslaught left any lingering questions as to just how impressive North Carolina was on this cool January afternoon, Ty Lawson answered those inquiries soundly with 10 straight points to start the second half en route to opening up a 36-point lead at 55-19 before the Heels coasted to the final margin of victory. The sophomore point guard finished with 16 points and five assists, while sixth-man Danny Green posted another phenomenal stat line – a career-high 14 rebounds (six offensive) to go along with 13 points, six assists, four blocks and one steal.
“Danny has really played pretty doggone well for us all year and has given us some really good things,” Williams said. “He couldn’t make an outside shot today, but just his activity on the boards was great.”
In what was supposed to be a fierce battle between the two programs’ elite frontcourt players ended up being a Tar Heel clinic. All-American Tyler Hansbrough (13 points, 13 rebounds) and sophomore Deon Thompson (career-high 16 points, five rebounds) combined for 19 points and 15 rebounds in the first half, while State’s J.J. Hickson, Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley managed just nine points and six points collectively. Junior guard Courtney Fells led the Pack with 16 points, and Hickson added 14 points and eight rebounds.
North Carolina shot 48.6 percent for the game on 36-of-74 shooting, while N.C. State finished at 36.9 percent (24-of-65). The Tar Heels also won the battle on the boards, 50-34.
“We played against a very good ball club – it’s the No. 1 team in the country,” N.C. State head coach Sidney Lowe said. “They played well. I didn’t expect us to shoot 3-for-23 in the paint and [have] one free throw. So hindsight is that if we make a couple of those and we get a couple of fouls in there and go strong and get to the line, then who knows, maybe this a different ball game – a little closer, anyway.”
While North Carolina’s offense included its typical up-and-down frenetic pace, N.C. State seemed content to spread the court, get the ball into the post and back down the Tar Heel defender with a number of dribbles. But those slow-developing plays provided UNC with plenty of time to bring weakside defensive help, which shut down the Wolfpack’s only plan action for the majority of the contest.
“We know what we’ve got to do to get better, and that’s getting better on the defensive end,” Green said. “That’s little things – boxing out and just playing our principles the right way Coach [Williams] asks us to. So we did that tonight and it worked out for us.”
Hansbrough indicated that Williams got his point across on increased defensive efficiency this week in practice by removing the rims.
"He calls it 'The Pit' -- practice gym with no rims," the 6-foot-9 junior said.
Hansbrough continued to build on his UNC legend, connecting on seven of his eight free throw attempts. His 564 career free throws moved him past four all-time ACC legends today in free throws made – Duke’s Art Heyman and Grant Hill (both hade 558), UNC’s Phil Ford (560) and Sam Perkins (561). The junior forward isnow tied for 14th place in ACC history with Duke’s Jim Spanarkel.
The 31-point margin of victory is the largest by the Tar Heels against the Wolfpack since a 104-58 win on Feb. 6, 1993. North Carolina has scored 90 or more points in seven consecutive games for the first time in school history.