Hansbrough led UNC with 34 points and grabbed five rebounds, nearly tripling Harangody’s output of 13 points. The Poplar Bluff, Mo. product knocked down 13 of his 19 shots, in addition to a perfect 7-of-7 from the free throw line, in 30 minutes of action. Nineteen of those points occurred in the second half.
Not bad for a player that was a game-time decision on Wednesday.
“I said today that I think Tyler Hansbrough is about 75 percent – now, he played better than that tonight, I’ll be honest with you,” head coach Roy Williams told reporters during his postgame press conference. “But he was really fired up... He’s a competitive rascal.”
The reigning national player of the year showcased his range early, knocking down several shots from the perimeter, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
“I work on it every day, so I think it’s just me shooting it a little more and knowing when to shoot it,” Hansbrough said. “If I get the opportunity, I’ll take it.”
Notre Dame (4-1) connected on six of its first 11 field goal attempts, thanks in part to missed assignments from the Tar Heels. But North Carolina (6-0) buckled down quickly, holding the Irish to 28.6 percent shooting (8-of-28) for the remainder of the opening half. The Irish jumped out to an early 15-11 lead, but the Tar Heels used a 13-4 spurt to build a 46-36 working margin at halftime.
UNC shot 55.7 percent (39-of-70) for the game, while holding Notre Dame to 41.0 percent on 32-of-78 shooting. The Heels also won the rebounding battle, 44-36.
Ty Lawson was instrumental in the first-half turnaround, slicing and dicing through the Notre Dame defense in transition to jumpstart the North Carolina offense. The junior point guard scored 13 of his 22 points in the opening 20 minutes, and dished a career-high 11 assists for the game. That performance, as well as his 22-2 assist-to-turnover ratio for the week, resulted in tournament most valuable player honors for him.
“Basically, it’s just my teammates making shots,” Lawson said. “Getting it down to Tyler and Wayne [Ellington] and Deon [Thompson] – they’re making shots for me. And just taking care of the ball, making sure I don’t put the ball in jeopardy like Coach has been saying.”
Thompson contributed 19 points and a career-high 13 rebounds on Wednesday.
Hansbrough and Danny Green (8 points, 6 rebounds) joined Lawson on the All-Tournament Team, in addition to Harangody and Irish guard Kyle McAlarney.
Harangody, who played despite battling flu-like symptoms, was limited to 12 field goal attempts on Wednesday after combining to take 34 shots in his first two games in Maui. The Tar Heels frustrated the 2007-08 Big East Player of the Year with solid post defense.
“It was tough to try to limit his touches, but every time he got the ball, we just tried make sure that he was shooting over our body, instead of just straight to the basket,” Hansbrough said.
With Harangody being rendered a non-factor, the Irish turned to McAlarney for offensive firepower, and the senior guard delivered it in bunches, drilling 10 of his 18 3-point attempts for 39 points on the night.
After Hansbrough provided a highlight reel excerpt in the form of a transition one-handed slam dunk to give the Tar Heels a 74-51 lead, McAlarney knocked down six 3-pointers in short order to cut the deficit to 84-73 with 5:11 left on the clock.
But his efforts fell short, giving North Carolina its second Maui Invitational title in five years. The Tar Heels has now won nine consecutive games on the island, winning the tournament in 1999 and 2004. UNC’s 13 wins in this event are the most in the tournament’s history.
North Carolina won its three contests by an average of 29.7 points, nearly nine points more than the national championship squad managed back in 2004.
“It’s a great tournament – it’s my favorite tournament to play in and to coach in,” Williams said. “We feel very fortunate to win and we’re going to enjoy ourselves tomorrow and go back home tomorrow night.”