CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP)—A bunch of freshmen grew up in a hurry Wednesday night in a November game that lived up to the hype.
Sophomore Tyler Hansbrough, a veteran in a game that had eight freshmen make major contributions for both teams, dominated down low in the second half to lead No. 7 North Carolina to a 98-89 victory over No. 3 Ohio State.
It could have been very different if 7-foot Greg Oden, a freshman considered the equal of college big men such as Patrick Ewing, Ralph Sampson and Alonzo Mourning, had been able to play instead of sitting on the Ohio State bench in street clothes with a towel around his neck.
But that’s an argument for another day.
“It was a heck of a college basketball game,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “Even as a coach, you sit there and marvel at the level that kids are playing at offensively.”
The defense was pretty impressive in the second half for North Carolina as it was finally able to slow down Ohio State’s incredible shooting from 3-point range.
“We definitely won this game on defense,” Hansbrough said. “Coach really adjusted in the halftime, and we came out really aggressive, and tried to step it up, and I think it flowed into our offense.”
Hansbrough started and ended North Carolina’s game-breaking 17-2 run in the second half.
The 6-foot-9 forward was the key inside for the Tar Heels (5-1) against the Buckeyes (6-1), who were playing outside the Columbus city limits for the first time this season.
Hansbrough finished with 21 points and a career-high 14 rebounds, and freshman Wayne Ellington added 19 for North Carolina, which trailed by 10 points in the first half and was down 68-63 with 10:50 to play in the game.
“It wasn’t anything I did in particular,” Hansbrough said of his second-half offense. “I was still playing. Movement, a little more. I moved myself without the ball and got open looks.”
Ron Lewis had 30 points for Ohio State, which finished 13-for-26 from 3-point range after hitting 12 of its first 19 shots from beyond the arc.
“I guess it was just our adrenalin. That’s what we’re known for is hitting 3s,” Lewis said. “We came out and played a great game, but they got it done in the end.”
North Carolina started three freshmen and played five in the game, while Ohio State had two on the floor at the beginning and had one more among its eight available players.
Oden, the 7-0 defensive specialist, was reduced to a cheerleading role as he continues to recover from offseason surgery on his right wrist. He is expected back by Jan. 1, but the Buckeyes could have used him against North Carolina.
“I think this was a very good test for our guys,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. `I think we learned a lot about our guys through the first six games and I think we can come from here and say `These are the areas we have to get better at, defensive transition and rebounding.’ The encouraging thing for us is that we’re waiting on Greg, and where they got us tonight is some areas where he’s going to help us a lot.”
“They have got a big-time team and when Greg Oden gets back and playing for them, they are going to be a heck of a team,” he said.
The ACC had already clinched the 11-game challenge series for the eighth time in as many meetings earlier Wednesday night, but the Tar Heels put a nice cap on the event for their conference.
Ty Lawson had 13 points for North Carolina, while fellow freshman Brandan Wright added 11.
Lawson said he knew most of the Ohio State freshmen from the high school all-star circuit.
“It was friendship off the court and all business on it,” he said.
Ivan Harris had 17 points for Ohio State and freshman Daequan Cook added 14.
North Carolina overcame a 48-44 halftime deficit by scoring the first nine points of the second half in a 12-2 run. The sellout crowd of 21,750 at the Smith Center sensed the Tar Heels were in control, but Ohio State had other ideas and they again involved 3-pointers.
Harris hit three straight 3s for Ohio State to give the Buckeyes a 64-58 lead with 12:43 to play. For a team that entered the game shooting 42 percent from behind the arc and averaging 10 3s per game, Ohio State was on a long-range roll, but it was about to end. The Buckeyes made just one more 3 the rest of the way.
A tip-in by Cook gave Ohio State a 68-63 lead with 10:52 left.
That’s when Hansbrough started to dominate down low.
His basket started the run and then he followed a reverse layup by Lawson with a three-point play to give the Tar Heels the lead for good at 70-68 with 8:28 to go. Rayshawn Terry hit a 3 to end North Carolina’s run of 12 straight points. After a jumper by Harris, Ellington hit a 3 and Hansbrough followed with another basket in the paint to make it 80-70 with 6:33 to play.
Ohio State led 35-25 with 7:10 left in the first half on a drive by Lewis. Sophomore reserves Marcus Ginyard and Bobby Frasor led the Tar Heels on a 12-5 run to get them within 40-38 with 4:21 left on a dunk by Hansbrough after Frasor, who had hit consecutive 3s, tapped a loose ball while on the floor to Danny Green who fed Hansbrough ahead of the field for the breakaway slam.
David Lighty then hit the Buckeyes’ seventh 3 in 11 attempts—at the time they were 9-of-18 from inside the arc—to restore the lead to five.
Ohio State finished the half 8-for-13 on 3s.