CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP)—Tyler Hansbrough never saw the guard who tried to stop his transition slam. Not until after North Carolina’s star forward had thrown down the dunk and landed on top of the would-be defender.
“I was just focusing on the rim,” Hansbrough said with a shrug.
That’s exactly the mentality the top-ranked Tar Heels need from him if they have plans to live up to all those lofty preseason expectations.
Hansbrough finished with 27 points while Danny Green scored 15 to lead North Carolina past Iona 107-72 on Sunday, helping the Tar Heels win their home opener for the 75th time in 77 years.
Wayne Ellington added 14 for the Tar Heels (2-0), who never trailed and quickly turned the game into a display of the all-around attack that has made them an early favorite to win the national championship. Five players scored in double figures as North Carolina shot 51 percent and led by 40 points against the Gaels (0-3) in its first game of the Las Vegas Invitational.
The 6-foot-9 Hansbrough, the leading vote-getter on The Associated Press’ preseason All-America team, went 8-for-12 from the field and 11-for-15 from the line with nine rebounds in 26 minutes. That included a dazzling stretch that began with his one-handed, highlight-reel slam following a turnover despite being fouled by the 6-foot De’Shaune Griffin.
Hansbrough missed the free throw, but ran down the loose rebound on the right side and fired up another shot. He missed again, but stepped inside a defender to tip it in for a 71-34 lead with 16:17 left—a run of plays that had the Smith Center’s blue-clad crowd roaring with delight.
Hansbrough was pulled from the game with the Tar Heels leading 85-49 with about 9 minutes left.
“He plays basketball the way every kid should play basketball in my mind,” Iona coach Kevin Willard said. “He plays so physical and is an impressive player.”
Hansbrough looked far more aggressive than the way he ended a 72-68 win over Davidson on Wednesday. He scored 12 points in the first half of that game, but picked up a technical foul and managed two points and only one shot after the break.
“I think I asserted myself better and got some better shots,” Hansbrough said.
While the Davidson game was a tough test to open the season, there was little drama here, except perhaps for how quickly the Tar Heels would hit the 100-point mark with Roy Williams’ fast-paced offense and scrambling trap defense.
“That’s the way we always love to play,” said Marcus Ginyard, who had seven points and three steals in 23 minutes. “We love that uptempo game, so we like to get out in the passing lanes and trap so we can get turnovers and steals — and be off to the races.”
The Tar Heels forced 23 turnovers and converted them into 32 points for the game and held Iona to 8-for-24 shooting in the first half to put the game away early.
“I thought we were really active defensively, particularly in the first half,” Williams said.
North Carolina also found success from behind the arc, an area regarded by many to be one of the Tar Heels’ biggest weaknesses. North Carolina hit six straight 3-pointers during a first-half spurt to build a 19-point lead with about 7 minutes left, then increased the margin to 52-26 at the break.
The Tar Heels knocked down 10 3s for the game and reached the 100-point mark on Ginyard’s driving layup with 4:17 left.
Ty Lawson added 13 points and nine assists for North Carolina, while Deon Thompson also scored 13.
Dexter Gray scored 18 points to lead Iona, while Andre Tarver added 16.