ACC Basketball: UNC 85, Valpo 63
Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 20, 2008
By Rich Gano
CHICAGO ó It took Tyler Hansbrough nearly nine minutes to get his first basket Saturday. Once he did, top-ranked North Carolina started playing the way it has all season.
Hansbrough finished with 25 points and the Tar Heels shook off a sluggish start to beat Valparaiso 85-63 at the United Center.
“I was just moving better,” Hansbrough said. “I wasn’t trying to force it early. I kept moving and eventually I got to spots and got the ball and made some shots.”
Hansbrough, who became North Carolina’s career scoring leader Thursday night in a victory over Evansville, sparked runs at the end of the first half and beginning of the second. It was a relief, he said, to get the record ó in which he passed Phil Ford ó behind him.
“There was a lot of pressure those last two games. Everybody wanted me to break it. It bothered me a little bit. I’m glad it’s behind me,” he added.
North Carolina (11-0) has won all 11 of its games this season by double figures, tying a school record also held by the 1992-93 team that captured the national championship.
Valparaiso (3-7) was facing the No. 1 team for the fifth straight season and the seventh time in school history. The Crusaders are now 0-7 in those games.
“It’s the fifth year we have played the No. 1 team in the nation and this is probably the most dominant,” Valpo coach Homer Drew said. “They’re experienced, they got size inside. We doubled Hansbrough and it didn’t seem to affect him at all.”
Valparaiso lost to North Carolina for the second straight season.
Igbavboa, who helped hold Hansbrough down early in the game, said the Tar Heels’ star is an even better player because of his ability to step out and hit the perimeter shots.
“He expanded his game,” Igbavboa said.
Hansbrough scored eight straight points ó two free throws, a layup after a steal, a slam and a jumper ó to get the Tar Heels started on a 12-0 run late in the first half that built a 38-25 lead. They were ahead 41-31 at the half.
North Carolina then scored the first nine points of the second half to pull away.
Hansbrough finished 9-for-13 from the field, scoring on a variety of shots, and moved into sixth place on the ACC career scoring chart.
“He can really shoot the basketball and I think he showed that today,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “Tyler sets a great example for a lot of things that are good about the game and the way the game is played.”
One minute in the second half, Hansbrough made a nice entry pass to Deon Thompson for a basket and then muscled his way for a three-point play and a 15-point lead. Hansbrough followed that with a steal and a soft jumper to put North Carolina in control at 48-31.
Hansbrough was knocked to the floor on a hard foul by Valpo’s De’Andre Haskins with 3:32 left and after making one of two free throws left the game with his team up 81-53.
Valparaiso came out hustling. The Crusaders forced six early turnovers with a bothersome zone defense and got 3-pointers from Rogers and Howard Little for a 12-3 lead less than five minutes into the game.
But Bobby Frasor, from the Chicago suburb of Blue Island, got the Tar Heels on track with back-to-back 3-pointers and then fed Ty Lawson for another three to tie the game.