ACC Basketball: UNC 93, N.C. State 76: Hanbrough rebounds in heated rivalry game
By Bret Strelow
RALEIGH ó Tyler Hansbrough bounced back from a subpar performance, but not before coach Roy Williams benched him early in fifth-ranked North Carolina’s 93-76 victory against N.C. State.
Hansbrough, who scored 31 points, was replaced by freshman Ed Davis after allowing Brandon Costner to convert an offensive rebound into a layup less than three minutes into Saturday’s game at the RBC Center.
“My gosh, I’ve been the luckiest coach in America, but anybody can box out or at least make an effort,” Williams said. “He didn’t, so he got a chance to come over there and see what it feels like to be over there early.”
Hansbrough hit a 3-pointer during his 20-point second half and played 33 minutes in the rivalry game, which was progressing toward the expected conclusion until a last-second confrontation between UNC reserve Mike Copeland and N.C. State’s Ben McCauley.
Foul trouble limited Hansbrough to 26 minutes in the Tar Heels’ victory against Florida State on Wednesday. The Seminoles held him to eight points and no free-throw attempts.
“Anytime that happens to a player, I think how they bounce back is really important,” Hansbrough said. “I wanted to make sure I came back strong.”
A quick departure from the lineup wasn’t what Hansbrough had in mind, but he said he agreed with Williams’ decision.
“He doesn’t give me any special treatment when I mess up,” Hansbrough said. “He yanks me.
“I think every player needs that. I think if you’re not playing well you need to be taken out, and Coach will talk to them. It either motivates them to play better or gets them down. For me, I think it motivates me.”
All five starters scored in double figures for UNC (19-2, 5-2 ACC), and guard Ty Lawson posted 16 points while effectively controlling tempo.
Courtney Fells scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half to lead N.C. State (11-8, 2-5). He made three 3-pointers in approximately three minutes to cut the Tar Heels’ lead to single digits, and the Wolfpack trailed 69-62 after Trevor Ferguson drilled a jumper with 8:18 left.
Fells, who issued a tired signal to coach Sidney Lowe prior to Ferguson’s basket and took a quick breather, airballed a 3-point attempt once he returned. He scored two points the rest of the way.
“I wanted to pull a Coach V on him,” said Lowe, who started at point guard for former N.C. State coach Jim Valvano. “When he gave me the fist sign to come out, I wanted to turn my back like Coach V did me, but I didn’t do it.”
Lawson’s three-point play pushed UNC ahead 78-63, and the Wolfpack twice drew within eight near the five-minute mark.
Tempers flared with 1.9 seconds left, when Copeland caught a pass from Bobby Frasor and went up for a transition layup. McCauley knocked Copeland to the ground with a hard foul.
“To me, I just thought it was a little unnecessary,” McCauley said. “Maybe I shouldn’t have gone about it as physical as I did. But I just didn’t want him to do that in front of our crowd and go off the court like that.”
Copeland took exception to the contact and charged toward McCauley before being pushed away by official Les Jones.
“I definitely regret doing it,” Copeland said. “I made a bad mistake, and I should have just walked away and shot my free throws.”
Copeland and McCauley both received technical fouls, and Williams sent Copeland to the locker room.
Williams walked to N.C. State’s bench once order was restored and apologized to Lowe. McCauley offered an apology to Williams when they met in the handshake line.
“Don’t say that,” Williams recalled telling McCauley. “You’re playing hard.”
Williams spoke with Lee Fowler, N.C. State’s director of athletics, while exiting the floor and said Fowler had no issue with UNC’s reserves trying to score.
Williams, who said he responded by asserting that UNC was still in the wrong, had a friendly conversation with Lowe in the hallway outside the teams’ locker rooms.
“There are two schools of thought,” Lowe said. “One, yeah, the game is over, so lets run the time out and don’t try to embarrass people.
“The other is there are guys who haven’t played minutes and they want to get two points. The game is not over until the buzzer rang, so maybe you should just sprint back on defense and not give them an easy layup to where you’re surprised that he’s going and you have to foul.”