DETROIT – Warm and fuzzy they were not.
For a year, maybe more, North Carolina could feel this national championship coming.
It was a calculated march, and behind the unrelenting play of Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson, the Tar Heels stomped out Michigan State’s inspirational run Monday night with an 89-72 blowout that wasn’t that close.
“I felt like it was fitting for us to do what this group just accomplished,” coach Roy Williams said.
Hansbrough scored 18 points, Ellington had 19 and Lawson led all scorers with 21 and also had a record eight steals. Now, they and Danny Green can all head to the NBA feeling good about their decision to return to school. They’re bringing home Carolina’s fifth championship, and the second for Williams.
All those upperclassmen, save Hansbrough, came back in part because their draft prospects didn’t look so good. They also didn’t want their college careers to end on last year’s embarrassing loss to Kansas in the Final Four. That was a dud of a game in which they trailed 40-12 in the first half.
This game was a slam dunk. Ellington got choked up as he basked in the confetti. Williams gave a shout-out to his mentor, Dean Smith, and he almost started crying, too. Hansbrough was the first to grab one of those “National Champion” T-shirts. Nobody worked harder for it than him.
“Sounds like I made a pretty good decision,” Hansbrough said. “Nothing beats this feeling right here.”
Likewise, it can’t feel much worse for the Spartans (31-7). They never had a chance. They had been on an uplifting run, and the final chapter was supposed to be the national championship. It would, the storybook said, bring the definitive ray of sunshine to a city and state that’s been battered by an ailing economy.
Instead, the 90-mile ride home to East Lansing will be a quiet one.
“You’ve got six NBA players that could be drafted in the first round or early second,” Spartans guard Travis Walton said. “You’re looking at a team that could probably beat the worst team in the NBA.”
The Tar Heels (34-4) were up 55-34 at halftime, breaking a 42-year-old title-game record for biggest lead at the break and setting the mark for most points at the half.
By then, Lawson had already set an NCAA title-game record with seven steals.
“When you play North Carolina, there’s nothing you can do,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “Lawson says it all. He does stir the drink.”
A pretty strong drink.
This collection of NBA talent was too, too much from wire to wire, from the start of the tournament, to the very end.
Carolina won every game by double digits, something that hasn’t happened since Duke did it in 2001.
Izzo tried to call a timeout to stop the onslaught with 6:45 left in the first half. His team came out and promptly turned it over — one of 14 in the first half, compared to only 12 baskets.
Goran Suton led the Spartans with 17 points, and Kalin Lucas, the Big Ten player of the year, had 14 — most scored once the game was out of hand, which was very early in this one.
“I just don’t think we did the things we did all year,” Izzo said. “It was a combination of us and them, but we need to take some of the blame.”
North Carolina 89, Michigan St. 72
Michigan St. (31-7)—Lucas 4-12 6-8 14, Morgan 1-2 2-2 4, Roe 1-1 0-1 2, Walton 0-2 2-2 2, Suton 7-10 0-0 17, Allen 0-8 3-5 3, Summers 4-10 3-4 13, Green 2-2 3-5 7, Lucious 2-5 0-0 6, Gray 0-1 0-0 0, Thornton 0-1 2-2 2, Ibok 0-0 0-0 0, Dahlman 1-1 0-0 2, Crandell 0-0 0-0 0, Herzog 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-55 21-29 72.
North Carolina (34-4)—Ellington 7-12 2-2 19, Lawson 3-10 15-18 21, Thompson 3-8 3-4 9, Green 2-4 0-0 6, Hansbrough 6-14 6-10 18, Drew II 0-1 0-0 0, Campbell 0-1 0-0 0, Frasor 1-2 0-0 2, Tanner 0-0 0-0 0, Watts 1-2 0-0 2, Davis 5-7 1-4 11, Moody 0-0 0-0 0, Copeland 0-0 0-0 0, Zeller 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 28-61 28-40 89.
Halftime—North Carolina 55-34. 3-Point Goals—Michigan St. 7-23 (Suton 3-4, Lucious 2-5, Summers 2-6, Lucas 0-1, Allen 0-7), North Carolina 5-12 (Ellington 3-3, Green 2-3, Frasor 0-1, Hansbrough 0-2, Lawson 0-3). Fouled Out—Green, Morgan. Rebounds—Michigan St. 42 (Suton 11), North Carolina 35 (Davis 8). Assists—Michigan St. 13 (Lucas 7), North Carolina 13 (Lawson 6). Total Fouls—Michigan St. 28, North Carolina 22. A—72,922.
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