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Defense propels North Carolina over Mich. State

The Baltimore Sun

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Under Roy Williams, North Carolina has been known for its high-octane offense.

The Tar Heels needed some defensive stops to cool Michigan State and Drew Neitzel, however, as the Spartans went five minutes without a basket last night while North Carolina pulled away to an 81-67 win in the East Regional's second round.

The top-seeded Tar Heels (30-6) advanced to the Sweet 16 on Friday in East Rutherford, N.J., where they will meet the winner of today's Southern California-Texas game.

Tyler Hansbrough scored 19 of his season-high 33 points in the first half. After playing a few minutes, he shed a clear mask he wore to protect a broken nose. Freshman point guard Ty Lawson had 20 and eight assists, and Winston-Salem native Reyshawn Terry overcame a migraine to score 14.

"We showed some poise and composure," Terry said. "It came down to who got the defensive stops, and we were tough enough to get the job done."

Neitzel, an all-Big Ten left-handed guard, scored 11 of his 26 points in the first 12 minutes of the second half. The last of that outburst came on a driving bank shot with his right hand, and gave the Spartans their final lead, at 59-58, with 8:08 left.

No. 9 seed Michigan State (23-12), the premier defensive team in the Big Ten, then got a taste of its own medicine.

The 12th and final lead change of the second half came on a pair of free throws by Terry with 6:54 left. Lawson forced a Neitzel miss, and fed Hansbrough at the other end for a basket.

After two Hansbrough free throws, Marcus Ginyard stripped Neitzel, leading to a Lawson three-pointer and a 67-61 lead with 4:52 remaining.

Terry and the Tar Heels then poured it on to become the first Michigan State opponent to score more than 73 points this season.

"I thought it was our best defense of the year," Williams said. "From a toughness viewpoint, that was pretty impressive. They set a million screens for Neitzel, but our guys were tough enough to keep going."

North Carolina's first Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title victory in nine years was clouded by concern over Hansbrough, the all-ACC sophomore forward who had struggled since Duke's Gerald Henderson broke his nose in the regular season finale.

In the NCAA opener, Hansbrough wore a tighter mask that improved his peripheral vision. He had four points last night when he shed that one, re-entered with 12:33 remaining and led the Tar Heels to a 41-33 lead at the half.

A pro-North Carolina crowd at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum then watched Neitzel and freshman forward Raymar Morgan, who had a career-high 19 points, revive Michigan State, which was in foul trouble and missing reserve forward Idong Ibok (elbow).

"I think we played our butt off," said Neitzel, who attempted 27 shots and 17 threes, both career-highs. "We left everything we had on the court. We got in a little foul trouble. Losing Idong in the previous game limited our depth."

The game was a rematch from the 2005 Final Four, where North Carolina beat Michigan State in the semifinals en route to the NCAA title.


MICHIGAN STATE--Morgan 4-12 10-11 19, Gray 4-6 3-3 11, Naymick 0-1 0-0 0, Walton 0-2 0-1 0, Neitzel 9-27 2-2 26, Darnton 0-0 0-0 0, Tibaldi 0-0 0-0 0, Curry 0-0 0-0 0, Suton 3-7 0-0 6, Ducre 0-1 0-0 0, Dahlman 0-0 0-0 0, Joseph 1-2 0-0 3, Hannon 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 22-59 15-17 67. NORTH CAROLINA--Terry 4-10 4-6 14, Wright 1-5 1-2 3, Hansbrough 10-17 13-17 33, Ellington 1-4 2-3 5, Lawson 6-10 5-6 20, Ginyard 1-1 0-0 2, Frasor 0-0 0-0 0, Thomas 0-0 0-0 0, Green 0-1 0-0 0, Burke 0-0 0-0 0, Thompson 2-4 0-0 4, Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Wood 0-0 0-0 0, Stepheson 0-0 0-0 0, Copeland 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-52 25-34 81. Halftime--North Carolina, 41-33. 3-point goals--Michigan St. 8-20 (Neitzel 6-17, Joseph 1-1, Morgan 1-1, Ducre 0-1), North Carolina 6-16 (Lawson 3-5, Terry 2-7, Ellington 1-3, Green 0-1). Fouled out--Gray, Walton. Rebounds--Michigan St. 29 (Suton 8), North Carolina 40 (Hansbrough 9). Assists--Michigan St. 15 (Neitzel, Walton 5), North Carolina 12 (Lawson 8). Total fouls--Michigan St. 27, North Carolina 17. A--14,148.

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