UNC looks strong in win over 'Nova

UNC looks strong in win over 'Nova

April 5th, 2009 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - College

North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough (50) shoots over Villanova's Dante Cunningham during a men's NCAA Final Four semifinal college basketball game, Saturday, April 4, 2009, in Detroit. (AP Photo/NCAA Photos, Rich Clarkson)

North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough (50) shoots over Villanova's...

DETROIT - Thirteen minutes into Saturday's first half, North Carolina led Villanova by 17 points in their Final Four semifinal game. They would go on to win 83-69. They will meet Michigan State at 9:21 on Monday night for the national championship.

Oh, what a difference a year makes.

It was this time last April that UNC trailed eventual 2008 national champ Kansas by 40-12 in another semifinal game at roughly the same point they led the Wildcats by 17.

For 12 months after that stunning setback the Tar Heels had dreamed and schemed of redemption.

"It was a motivating factor for us the whole off-season," said Hansbrough. "Definitely not the way we wanted to end our season last year."

Added Wayne Ellington before Saturday's game, "We wanted to come out this year and show we were well-prepared."

They were certainly prepared for this one. Senior point guard Ty Lawson finished with a game-high 22 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Ellington backed him with 20 - including five 3-pointers - and Hansbrough added 18 points and 11 boards.

"It's like Jimmy Valvano used to say, survive and advance," said UNC head coach Roy Williams. "We didn't play our best game tonight, but it was good enough."

Yet they won't be the only team in Monday's final looking to right a past wrong. The Spartans played the Tar Heels inside this same Ford Field in December and lost 98-63.

Not to say Michigan State is eager to avenge that 35-point embarrassment, but during Saturday's post-game press conference following its 82-73 semifinal win over Connecticut, Spartans guard Kalin Lucas - not yet knowing which team he'd face - said, "You know, UNC is a great team. So is the other team."

Think Michigan State has had Carolina on its mind for awhile?

But wanting to play 33-4 UNC and beating them is are two different matters.

On a night Villanova won the rebounding battle 53-49, on a night the Tar Heels hit just 40 percent from the floor, they survived and advanced remarkably easily.

And if they might be tempted to take Michigan State for granted in the rematch they hardly sounded like it late Saturday night.

"The last game doesn't have anything to do with this game," said Lawson. "They had a couple of guys who were hurt. They were coming off a tough stretch of games. They're a different team now."

The Spartans will need to be if they expect to make up 35 points on the team that's been favored to win it all since the season began.


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