CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP)—Danny Green has made coming off the bench something of a show for top-ranked North Carolina this season.
First comes his gyrating dance moves from the Smith Center sideline just before tipoff. Then comes a solid all-around game that has made the Tar Heels deep and dangerous.
The junior matched his career-high with 20 points and sparked the decisive second-half spurt Sunday night to help North Carolina beat Valparaiso 90-58, keeping the Tar Heels rolling as they head into the final games of their nonconference schedule.
Tyler Hansbrough had 23 points and 13 rebounds for the Tar Heels (13-0), who are off to their best start since winning 17 in a row to start the 1997-98 season.
With just one game left before opening Atlantic Coast Conference play at No. 21 Clemson, North Carolina has been repeatedly rolling up big-margin victories and cracking the 100-point mark in crowd-pleasing fashion. The Tar Heels eventually made this one look the same way despite blowing an early 17-point lead, putting the game away with a big second-half run sparked by their steady— yet often overlooked—producer off the bench.
Green, a 6-foot-6 junior, came in averaging 12.6 points despite starting just one game. But he finished 8-for-10 from the floor and 4-for-5 from 3-point range against the Crusaders (10-3), including four rebounds, five assists, three steals and four blocks in 20 minutes.
“As long as we keep winning and as long as we play well, I’m fine with it,” Green said. “I don’t need to start.”
North Carolina’s fans would probably prefer Green stays on the bench, if for no other reason than his pregame sideline antics.
With the rap song “Jump Around” playing over arena speakers just before every opening tip, Green has made a ritual of showing off his dancing to the cheers of the home crowd. His carefree moves had Ty Lawson and the rest of the starters watching and laughing from midcourt Sunday, while Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams and his assistants couldn’t help but chuckle.
But when Green enters the game, he’s been about as reliable as any other Tar Heel, scoring in double figures in all but three games this season.
“He’s a big part of this team,” Hansbrough said. “I’m not sure everybody overlooks him. We know how important he is for us.”
Jarryd Loyd scored 14 of his 24 points in the first half to lead Valparaiso, which fell behind 13-0 and 19-2 early before fighting back to tie the game at 37 early in the second half. But the Tar Heels responded with a 27-2 run over 8 1/2 minutes, a stretch that Williams called “probably our best basketball of the year.”
Green was at the center of the run, scoring 11 points and knocking down three 3s.
The Tar Heels also got key contributions from Deon Thompson (11 points, eight rebounds, career-high five blocks) and redshirt freshman Will Graves, who ended the spurt with a 3-pointer followed by a jumper from the left corner to make it 64-39 with 8:57 to play.
Graves finished with a season-high 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting, including 4-for-5 from behind the arc. Those performances offset an off day from starter Wayne Ellington (five points on 2-for-10 shooting) while Lawson had just six points.
“They needed to step up because we were trying to key a little more on Ellington and Lawson,” said Valparaiso coach Homer Drew of Green and Graves. “They really shot the ball well and broke the game wide open.”
North Carolina shot 51 percent and took a 47-31 rebounding advantage while holding the Crusaders to 11-for-32 shooting after the break.
It was North Carolina’s first game without key reserve Bobby Frasor, who is out for the season after tearing a ligament in his left knee against Nevada. The injury robbed the Tar Heels of a versatile junior who can play either guard position, and North Carolina’s depth at the point was further depleted because senior Quentin Thomas sat out with a sprained left ankle suffered in Friday’s practice.
The injuries forced junior swingman Marcus Ginyard, the team’s top individual defender, to spend time at the point behind Ty Lawson.