Already dominant without Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina has continued to roll with the return of the reigning national player of the year.
Heading into Sunday’s home game with UNC-Asheville, the top-ranked Tar Heels (6-0) have won all of their games by at least 15 points, including 102-87 over No. 8 Notre Dame in Wednesday’s Maui Invitational championship.
Hansbrough scored a season-best 34 points in his third game since returning from a stress reaction in his right shin. Playing a season-high 30 minutes, the 6-foot-9 All-American went 13-for-19 from the field and 7-for-7 from the free-throw line.
“One thing when you’re missing games is that it plays a little bit in your mind because you want to be out there but you have to take care of your body,” Hansbrough said. “To get a couple under my belt made me feel better about my game. I still feel out of shape, but that will come as I play.”
He also helped hold fellow All-American Luke Harangody, who was averaging 25.0 points, to 13 points.
“He’s about 75 percent but he played better than that tonight. He was really fired up,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “It’s been tearing at him not to be able to play.”
The 13 field goals tied a career high, which Hansbrough set Feb. 15, 2006 against Georgia Tech when he scored a career-best 40 points. It was also his sixth 30-point performance in four seasons.
While he may not be at full strength, Hansbrough’s production nearly is. The senior forward has averaged a team-leading 21.0 points in three games, a little less than last season’s 22.6 average.
Ty Lawson finished with 22 points and 11 assists Wednesday and was named tournament MVP with 22 assists against two turnovers in three games. Deon Thompson added 19 points and 13 rebounds in the championship game.
“It was just basically my teammates making shots for me and taking care of the ball, not putting it in jeopardy,” Lawson said. “That’s what I’ve been doing and I’m playing real well right now.”
With Hansbrough back, the Tar Heels now have five players averaging double figures in scoring. North Carolina ranks fourth nationally with 93.7 points per game and has shot 50.9 percent from the field.
Lawson is averaging 15.0 points and 6.5 assists and Thompson has averaged 15.3 points and 7.8 rebounds. Danny Green (14.0) and Wayne Ellington (13.5) are the other two players scoring in double figures.
With the loss of freshman Tyler Zeller to a wrist injury, fellow freshman Ed Davis has stepped in to average a team-leading 8.8 rebounds and score 8.7 points per game.
After starting 3-0, UNC-Asheville has dropped two straight, including a 74-69 loss Tuesday at Wofford.
“We had some little things that we did wrong that hurt us,” Bulldogs coach Eddie Biedenbach said. “We lost to a good basketball team on the road, but this will make us a better team down the road.”
UNC-Asheville (3-2) has four players averaging in double figures, led by senior forward Reid Augst’s 12.2 points per game. Augst had a team-high 15 points Tuesday.
North Carolina has won three meetings with UNC-Asheville—all at home— including 93-81 last season. Hansbrough led the Tar Heels with 23 points against the Bulldogs, who finished with a school-record 23 wins in 2007-08 and a trip to the NIT.
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