LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP)—Tyler Hansbrough was back for a second game and No. 1 North Carolina will be playing for a third title on Maui.
The reigning player of the year, who missed three weeks of practice and three games with a leg injury, had 16 points to lead the Tar Heels to a 98-69 victory over Oregon on Tuesday night in the semifinals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
North Carolina (5-0) will play No. 8 Notre Dame on Wednesday night in the championship game. The Fighting Irish beat No. 6 Texas 81-80 in the semifinals in the season’s first matchup of Top Ten teams.
Here comes the second and it isn’t a sure thing Hansbrough will be on the court for it.
“The decision will be made during warmups by both of us,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “If he has pain in his ankle, he probably won’t play. If he doesn’t, he probably will play.”
Hansbrough scored 13 points in 25 minutes last Friday in an 84-67 win over UC Santa Barbara after missing games for the first time in his college career because of a stress reaction in his right shin.
He tweaked his left ankle at the end of the game against the Gauchos and didn’t play in the Tar Heels’ 115-70 opening-round win over Chaminade. That wasn’t a real surprise because Williams had indicated he wouldn’t play the senior in all three games on Maui. Williams said after the Chaminade game that Hansbrough would have played if it “had been for the national championship.”
“It’s good to get back out there,” Hansbrough said. “As far as conditioning, I’m out of shape but that will come by playing. My ankle? I felt it a little, but overall I was able to play a little bit.”
Hansbrough said that because it’s another Top Ten team on Wednesday won’t matter.
“We’ll be ready. I play every game like the way we play everybody,” he said. “I’m hoping my ankle doesn’t stiffen up and hopefully everything will be all right.”
Against Oregon, Hansbrough looked like the player known as “Psycho T,” drawing plenty of contact down low on both offense and defense and diving on the floor for loose balls. He finished 12-for-14 from the free throw line, proof he wasn’t avoiding contact in his 19 minutes.
“We are concerned all the time because he’s so physical, he’s on the floor all the time and running the floor and banging inside,” Williams said, “but he’s the most focused, conditioned, driven athlete I’ve ever been around and he can take more than most people can.”
Hansbrough had 12 points and four rebounds in 16 minutes as the Tar Heels took a 51-22 halftime lead over the Ducks (3-2), a young team that looked good in a 92-69 first-round win over Alabama but just couldn’t stay with the nation’s unanimous No. 1 team.
Danny Green, who had a career-high 26 points in the first round, had a career-high five 3s and 21 points against Oregon. Freshman Ed Davis had 11 points and 13 rebounds for North Carolina, which led by as many 37 points in the second half.
Michael Dunigan, one of six freshmen who played for the Ducks, had 18 points.
“Carolina, obviously, is a great basketball team that causes a whole lot of problems,” Oregon coach Ernie Kent said. “We played nervous at times and made a lot of mistakes to start the game, but they are as good as people think they are and are the No. 1 team for a reason.”
North Carolina led 22-12 when it went on a 13-0 run that started with a 3-pointer by Green and ended with a 3 by Larry Drew II with 7:03 left in the half. The Ducks missed nine shots during the run, including five underneath the basket where Hansbrough led the Tar Heels’ impressive defense that held Oregon to 8-of-38 shooting (21.1 percent) in the half.
“We took some bad shots, rushed shots, but they do that to you,” Kent said.
Williams said it was a “great start for us, no doubt.”
“I thought Tyler’s aggressiveness to get to the free throw line and Danny’s 3-point shooting were big to say the least early and we were fortunate they didn’t shoot well early,” Williams said. “The first half we were really doggone good and that was pretty much the story right there.”
North Carolina won the Maui Invitational in 1999 and 2004 and finished second in 1989 and 1995. A third title would put them one behind Duke, which is 12-0 in the tournament.