RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)—Tyler Hansbrough never forgot the sinking feeling he had when North Carolina State’s fans stormed the court to celebrate the Wolfpack’s upset of highly ranked North Carolina last year.
“That moment last year was very, very disappointing,” he said. “It was in the back of my mind, but I didn’t say anything to anybody.”
He almost single-handedly wouldn’t let the Tar Heels experience that again.
The junior All-American had 32 points—including 16 during the decisive 11-minute run—to help No. 3 North Carolina beat rival N.C. State 84-70 on Wednesday night, continuing his recent surge that has helped the Tar Heels stay afloat without injured point guard Ty Lawson.
Wayne Ellington added 21 points for the Tar Heels (25-2, 10-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who led by 20 points to easily avenge last year’s 83-79 loss here.
North Carolina played its fifth straight game without Lawson, the speedy sophomore who sprained his left ankle in the early minutes of an overtime win at Florida State earlier this month. Yet the 6-foot-9 Hansbrough came through with another big day, finishing 11-for-19 from the field while tallying 12 rebounds and five steals against the Wolfpack (15-11, 4-8).
“He gives you the same thing every night,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said, “and that’s absolutely the best that he can give you.”
Hansbrough is averaging 27.8 points and 13.3 rebounds in the six-game stretch that began with the Florida State win, keeping him atop the ACC in both scoring and rebounding.
On Wednesday night, he did a little of everything. He passed out of double teams. He made tough shots inside against N.C. State freshman star J.J. Hickson. He outfought and outhustled N.C. State’s players to rebounds while being the prime target for boos from frustrated home fans.
At one point, Hansbrough had 24 of North Carolina’s 50 points.
“Everybody talks about Tyler Hansbrough as a player-of-the-year candidate, and the game like tonight is exactly why,” said Marcus Ginyard, who had 13 points for the Tar Heels. “The guy’s going to battle throughout the whole game. He’s going to get banged up, but he’s still going to finish.”
Ellington also came through, scoring 12 points after the break and finishing with three 3-pointers for the game—including one just before halftime that capped a 9-0 spurt and gave North Carolina a 34-31 lead at the break.
The Tar Heels didn’t let up in the second half, extending that modest push into a 31-7 run that silenced a once-rowdy crowd and took all drama out of this one.
Before the run, N.C. State led 31-25 on a one-handed alley-oop dunk by Courtney Fells off a pass from Gavin Grant with 4:50 left in the half—a highlight-reel play that had the Wolfpack dreaming of another upset. By the time Hansbrough ended the run with a slam off a halfcourt steal, North Carolina led 56-38 with about 14 minutes to go.
“In the second half, they came out and turned it up again and we didn’t respond,” said N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe, who again donned a bright red blazer for the rivalry game. “Our defense wasn’t there as it was in the first half, and obviously against a team like that you have to stay solid and focused. We weren’t, and they took advantage of that.”
North Carolina shot 53 percent for the game and got another capable performance from senior Quentin Thomas, who matched his career high of 10 points to go with seven assists in Lawson’s place.
Grant scored 17 points to lead N.C. State, which has lost four straight games. The Wolfpack shot 49 percent but allowed the Tar Heels to get easy baskets almost all night, including one play in which Ginyard blew past a defender at the top of the 3-point arc and raced in untouched for a dunk.
“We need to come out and play the right way,” Grant said. “We’re playing good in certain spurts, but we’ve got to put it all together for 40 minutes.”