LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP)—Tyler Hansbrough had 34 points against a Top Ten team and his coach said he’s about 75 percent. Top-ranked North Carolina won the EA Sports Maui Invitational by almost 30 points per game and its coach said the team can get a lot better.
Hansbrough, playing in just his third game of the season because of leg injuries, led the Tar Heels to a 102-87 victory over No. 8 Notre Dame on Wednesday night in the championship game to win this title for the third time.
“He’s about 75 percent but he played better than that tonight. He was really fired up,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said of the reigning national player of the year. “It’s been tearing at him not to be able to play.”
Hansbrough was 13-of-19 from the field, hitting his shots down low, throwing down dunks and even making a 3-pointer. He grabbed five rebounds and blocked two shots, including one by Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody, like Hansbrough a preseason All-America.
“One thing when you’re missing games is that it plays a little bit in your mind because you want to be out there but you have to take care of your body,” Hansbrough said. “To get a couple under my belt made me feel better about my game. I still feel out of shape, but that will come as I play.”
It wasn’t all Hansbrough for the Tar Heels (6-0), however.
Point guard Ty Lawson had too much speed in the open court for the Fighting Irish (4-1) and he finished with 22 points and 11 assists. He was selected tournament MVP after totaling 22 assists against two turnovers in the three games.
“It was just basically my teammates making shots for me and taking care of the ball, not putting it in jeopardy,” Lawson said. “That’s what I’ve been doing and I’m playing real well right now.”
Deon Thompson had 19 points and 13 rebounds for the Tar Heels, who had a 44-36 rebound advantage and shot 55.7 percent from the field.
Harangody, who had to cover and be covered by Hansbrough despite being sick all day, had 13 points and seven rebounds.
“I feel for him a little bit,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “We had him on IV. He had flu symptoms, upset stomach, fever. He didn’t go to shootaround. He gave us everything he had. He feels really bad that he let everybody down but I told him, `We wouldn’t be playing tonight without you. We rode you pretty hard.”’
Kyle McAlarney picked up the slack, scoring a career-high 39 points on a wild shooting show that saw him finish with 10-of-18 from behind the arc. He broke his own school record of nine 3s set last season.
“I just felt good, got my legs under me and was taking what the defense gives me,” McAlarney said. “I got lucky, got some open looks and got hot.”
That’s not what Williams thought.
“That was as good an exhibition of shooting the basketball as I’ve ever seen,” he said.
North Carolina shot 52.9 percent from the field in taking a 46-36 halftime lead, and the numbers were even better to start the second half. The Tar Heels built a 23-point cushion midway through the period.
But the Fighting Irish got to 84-73 behind McAlarney’s shooting. He hit another long one to make it 90-78 with 2:47 left only to have it answered by a three-point play from Hansbrough.
“We didn’t panic,” Williams said. “At the end when McAlarney was making all those 3s, we made plays at our end. We can get a lot better by being more intelligent.”
Hansbrough missed three weeks of practice and the first two games of the season as he recovered from a stress reaction in his right shin. He had 13 points in 25 minutes last week against UC Santa Barbara but he tweaked his left ankle at the end of that game and didn’t play in the Tar Heels’ 115-70 first-round win over Chaminade.
He had 16 points in 19 minutes in the semifinal win over Oregon, and Williams said the decision on whether he would play against Notre Dame wouldn’t be made until he saw if Hansbrough had any pain during warmups.
“Coming in, I wasn’t really sure I would play. I wanted to loosen it up a little bit,” Hansbrough said. “I went over to Coach and told him I was ready to go, but I wasn’t really sure until warmups.”
Then came the game.
“They really come at you with a lot of guys. It’s a heck of a basketball team,” Brey said. “Lawson did a great job in transition and then we were digging out of a hole the whole game.”
The Irish were coming off an 81-80 win over No. 6 Texas in the semifinals.
“To be honest, last night did take a lot out of us and they can rotate fresh bodies all game on you,” Brey said.
North Carolina won the Maui Invitational in 1999 and 2004, and was the runner-up in 1989 and 1995. This was Notre Dame’s second appearance, with the Fighting Irish finishing sixth in 1993.
This game could have had a real family feel but North Carolina freshman Tyler Zeller, the younger brother of Notre Dame’s Luke Zeller, broke his arm against Kentucky and is out for the season, and Ben Hansbrough, the younger brother of Tyler Hansbrough, is sitting out this season at Notre Dame after transferring from Mississippi State.