The reigning national player of the year scored his first two points from the free throw line before showing off that ever-emerging shooting touch with three jumpers from beyond 15 feet. After adding eight points to his career total and tying the record at 2,290 points, Hansbrough found a soft spot in Evansville’s perimeter – behind the 3-point line – and raised his hand, signaling to a teammate that he was open.
But his stated desire of breaking the record with a 3-ball never came to fruition, instead settling for his trademark shot on the blocks with 7:42 remaining before halftime to give the Tar Heels a 24-18 lead.
“It was a great night to see a historic moment in North Carolina history,” head coach Roy Williams told a packed media room following the game. “It’s a thrill for me to be sitting up here at this table with Tyler Hansbrough and Phil Ford. I think if you talk about North Carolina basketball tomorrow or twenty-five years from now, you’ll still be talking about these two guys.”
School scoring records are broken all of the time across the country, but rarely does the baton move from one national player of the year to another as it did in Chapel Hill on Thursday.
The Smith Center atmosphere dripped with anticipation, as the fans, players and coaches were anxious to witness history. When the record-breaking field goal dropped, the game was halted for about two minutes to acknowledge the accomplishment. But Hansbrough was just as eager to get past the moment and start playing ball again.
“I was happy it was over with,” said Hansbrough, who indicated that he was unusually nervous before the tip. “I didn’t really think about it much before a couple of games ago when someone mentioned it to me. I hadn’t really been keeping up with it until everybody started talking about it and I just tried to get it over with so that we could move on.”
And the Tar Heels (10-0) did need to move on against a scrappy Evansville squad. It was apparent that the Purple Aces’ strategy entering this contest was to use a bruising style to frustrate Hansbrough and his teammates. And when the referees failed to control the rough play, the game morphed into something resembling a football game.
The score was knotted at 18 before North Carolina utilized a 25-6 spurt to blow open the game and head into halftime with a 46-28 cushion.
Hansbrough led North Carolina with 20 points and nine rebounds, and Ty Lawson added 16 points and six assists against just one turnover. Danny Green (14 pts, 5 rebs) decided not to let his classmate bask in the spotlight all by himself, drilling a 3-pointer less than a minute into the second half to eclipse the 1,000-point mark, becoming the 61st Tar Heel to ever accomplish that feat.
“It feels nice,” Green said. “I’m honored to be a part of that group, and hopefully I can keep consistent. I just want to keep improving every game.”
North Carolina shot 50 percent (33-of-66) from the floor, while Evansville (7-2) managed to connect on 46.4 percent of its shots – the best percentage against UNC all season. The Purple Aces’ motion offense confounded the Tar Heels at times, providing a number of easy scoring opportunities for the visiting squad. Shy Ely led Evansville with 23 points.
“We’ve got to guard screens on the ball better and defend better,” said Deon Thompson, who added 13 points and five rebounds. “Evansville was no slouch. They’re a good team, and they showed they can play with us. So we’ve got to get better on the defensive end.”
North Carolina outrebounded their opponents, 44-32.
The Tar Heels face a quick turnaround, as they travel to snowy Chicago for Bobby Frasor’s homecoming game against Valparaiso at the United Center on Saturday afternoon.