Hansbrough entered the first contest between these two rivals coming off an eight-point performance against Florida State last month, and dominated N.C. State with a 31-point, six-rebound outing in Raleigh on Jan. 31.
Different venue, similar results.
“He’s so active – he creates opportunities,” N.C. State head coach Sidney Lowe told reporters during his postgame press conference. “Obviously, we know he’s certainly capable of having a big game… I’d love to watch him on television in the NBA someday. I don’t mind seeing him, just with another jersey on.”
The reigning national player of the year grabbed seven rebounds, tied his career high with four assists and connected on 10 of his 15 field goal attempts, while knocking down all seven of his free throws. Hansbrough capitalized on a 3-point play with 9:29 remaining in regulation to move past LSU’s Pete Maravich (893) for second place in NCAA history for career free throws made (896).
“I just came out to play tonight,” Hansbrough said. “I hit some shots. I worked on it in practice, just preparing myself well for this game.”
N.C. State’s Ben McCauley (nine points, six rebounds) found Brandon Costner (12 points, four rebounds) on a backdoor cut to open the second half and slice UNC’s lead to 39-38, but the Tar Heels answered with a 14-0 run to jump out to a 53-38 lead and essentially put the game out of reach. Wayne Ellington (16 points, six rebounds) added a 7-0 scoring spurt of his own later in the half to push the lead to 77-59 with 6:12 remaining in regulation.
North Carolina (24-2, 10-2 ACC) led 89-70 in the closing minutes before the Wolfpack scored 10 points in garbage time to make the final score respectable.
Danny Green scored 19 points, while Ty Lawson continued his strong play, posting 17 points, nine rebounds and two steals.
The Tar Heels took advantage of the ACC’s worst defense to the tune of 55.4 percent on 36-of-65 shooting, including 62.5 percent after intermission. N.C. State (14-10, 4-7 ACC) has allowed its conference competition to connect on 47.4 percent (324-of-684) of its field goal attempts.
UNC head coach Roy Williams, however, expressed frustration about his team allowing the Wolfpack to shoot 64.3 percent (18-of-28) in the second half, finishing with a 54.1 mark. UNC outrebounded N.C. State 34-28, and outscored its rival 16-4 off offensive rebounds.
“The good news is we shot 62 percent in the second half; the bad news is they shot 64,” Williams said. “One of the things I put up on the backboard was `We must win the rebound battle'... Yet I thought they got too many second shots in the second half."
North Carolina used a 7-0 spurt to build a 37-29 lead late in the first half, but Javier Gonzalez refused to let the Tar Heels blow out his squad early in this rivalry clash. The sophomore point guard, who entered Wednesday night’s game averaging 4.7 points per game, scored 16 points before halftime, knocking down all four of his 3-point attempts. Gonzalez had only connected on three 3-pointers (25 percent) all season long.
The Carolina, Puerto Rico native finished with 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting. Tracy Smith added 15 points and eight rebounds for the Wolfpack.
Wednesday also brought the highly-anticipated return of freshman Tyler Zeller, who entered the game at the 8.28 mark of the first half. The McDonald’s All-American scored his first bucket on a turnaround from the left baseline over Tracy Smith to knot the score at 26. The seven-footer finished with two points and three rebounds in limited action.
“The physical [play] bothered him,” Williams said. “He only played eight minutes, but he had four fouls. That’s the reason that you’d like freshmen to be able to play some of those other opponents other than just start out in the ACC.”
The Tar Heels return to action on Saturday, as they travel to College Park on Saturday to face Maryland.