The pair may as well have drawn straws in determining which half to showcase their individual talents. Lawson (23 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and one turnover) used the opening 20 minutes as a clinic in transition offense, capping a 15-point performance with an over-the-shoulder runner in the closing seconds to give the Tar Heels (19-1, 4-1 ACC) a 47-40 lead at the break.
“Nobody I’ve ever had pushes the ball faster on the dribble than Ty does,” head coach Roy Williams said. “And not only does he push it, he makes really good decisions when he gets down there and he has the ability to take it to the basket and score.”
The sophomore point guard passed the torch to his All-American teammate after the squads emerged from the locker room, and Hansbrough responded with his best performance of the season, as the Tar Heels opened up a double-digit lead and never looked back.
The junior forward scored 27 of his season-high 35 points in the final 20 minutes, while contributing eight rebounds and a career-high 15 free throws out of 16 attempts against the Hurricanes (14-4, 1-3). The 35 points were the most Hansbrough has posted since scoring 40 points against Georgia Tech as a freshman on Feb. 15, 2006.
“I felt like things were just falling my way,” the Poplar Bluff, Mo. native said. “My teammates got me some open shots. Ty, with his penetration, did a lot of things for me and I felt that we moved the ball a little bit better tonight.”
The Hurricanes ranked second in the ACC in field goal percentage defense (.387) and scoring defense (62.8) entering Wednesday night’s contest, but the UNC offense was just simply too good on this balmy Miami evening.
The Tar Heels blistered head coach Frank Haith’s squad, knocking down 55.9 percent of their attempts in the second half en route to a 48.0 field goal percentage for the game. North Carolina committed a season-low seven turnovers and connected on a season-high 91.7 percent (22-of-24) from the free throw line, as well as winning the rebounding battle, 40-32.
Sophomore Wayne Ellington added 12 points, while fellow classmate Deon Thompson contributed 10 points and five rebounds in 22 minutes of action.
Junior wing Marcus Ginyard effectively shut down Miami’s hot-shooting Jack McClinton (11 points on 4-of-12 shooting), who scored 24 points in the second half and overtime period in Saturday’s loss at N.C. State.
“We knew coming in what he was averaging and to really get after him,” Ginyard said. “He can be that spark for his team. Especially coming into the second half, knowing he only had [three] points – we knew that he was going to try to get some touches in the second half. We just wanted to be there every time he caught the ball.”
But UNC’s total defensive effort failed to alleviate any of the building concerns pertaining to that end of the floor as the Hurricanes shot 49.2 percent (30-of-61) for the game. It’s the third straight ACC game that a Carolina opponent has posted a field goal percentage higher than 45 – Georgia Tech shot 45.2 percent, while Maryland connected on 46.9 percent of their attempts.
It’s also the sixth game out of the last seven that a UNC opponent has posted a 50 percent shooting performance in one half – the Terrapins fell just short of making it seven straight by only knocking down 48.6 percent of their attempts in the first half of Saturday’s contest.
“We were upset the first half, because they shot [50 percent],” Lawson said. “We’ve got to work on that. In the second half, I think we played a lot better on defense. [We] contested shots and finished with rebounds.”
Junior guard Lance Hurdle led the Hurricanes with 20 points (7-of-10, 3-of-4 on 3-pointers) and senior forward Raymond Hicks added 17 points and three offensive boards.
The Tar Heels will get a much needed breather with a bye in their schedule this weekend, before returning to action next Thursday night in welcoming Boston College to Chapel Hill for a 7 p.m. tip.
“I’d rather be 5-0 in the league, that’s for sure, but I think we need [a break],” Williams said. “Marcus is beat up [and] Ty sprained his ankle a little bit there at the end, so physically I think it will be good for us.”