North Carolina Wins The NCAA Championship

April 7, 2009

The North Carolina Tar Heels ended Michigan State's storybook Tournament run by trouncing the Spartans 89-72, in Monday night's championship game. Carolina exploded to an early lead in the contest and never looked back, as they effectively silenced a largely pro-Spartan crowd in Detroit's Ford Field.

The game was a rematch of an earlier December contest between the two schools, and similar to that previous game, Carolina dominated in a one-sided victory.

Goran Suton led the Spartans with 17 points and 11 rebounds. His trey in the opening minutes gave Michigan State its only lead at 3-2.

Carolina then stormed to a double-digit, 17-7 lead, after a Tyler Hansbrough turnaround jumper in the post. Michigan State would get no closer.

By the 10:00 minute mark of the first half, Carolina was in firm control of the game with a 21-point lead, at 32-11. By halftime, the Heels had already dropped 55 on Michigan State, as they enjoyed a commanding 55-34 lead. Although the Spartans eventually would trim that lead to 13 in the second half, timely Carolina shooting and solid defense would end any notion of a comeback.

For Carolina, the secret to their success was their defense. Ty Lawson led the way with a record 8 steals, many of them leading to easy transition buckets. In addition, the Carolina D forced the Spartans into 40% shooting and a back-breaking 21 turnovers. The high turnovers especially hurt the Spartan cause, as legendary alum Magic Johnson noted that Michigan State got sloppy by playing a little faster than its normal pace.

Offensively, the Heels used their size advantage on the interior to draw fouls and get points in the paint. Carolina enjoyed a 40-29 advantage in free throw attempts, and committed a mere 7 turnovers for the whole game.

Lawson led the way with 21 points and 6 assists, including an impressive 15 of 18 makes from the charity stripe. Lawson set a torrid pace for the Heels, as he pushed the ball in transition after made baskets, and provided his team with numerous easy opportunities. In the second half, Lawson's clutch drive and lay-in forged Carolina to 80-65 lead, and ended the Spartans' hopes after they had cut the margin to 13 points.

Wayne Ellington also continued his stellar play for Carolina, scoring 19 points on 7-12 shooting, including 3-3 shooting from three-point land.

Senior Tyler Hansbrough also contributed 18 points and 7 boards to the Carolina cause. For Psycho T, the victory had to be especially sweet, as he chose to return for his senior year precisely to help Carolina win a title. Moreover, that decision probably improved the marginally-skilled Hansbrough's draft status, as this year's draft figures to have fewer impact players. Had Hansbrough entered the 2008 draft against a promising group of one-and-dones, he likely would have gone late first-round at best.

Michigan State's Kalin Lucas contributed 14 points and 7 assists in defeat. He also had 6 turnovers.

The victory earned North Carolina its fifth championship. The school is now six titles short of tying UCLA's all-time record of 11 championships.

By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for

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