CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP)—Nobody takes as much low-post punishment as Tyler Hansbrough does. Now the North Carolina star has a record to go along with those bumps and bruises.
Hansbrough had 28 points and 10 rebounds, and set the NCAA’s career free-throw shooting mark in No. 4 North Carolina’s 104-74 rout of Georgia Tech on Saturday.
“There’s a lot of fouls involved,” Hansbrough deadpanned.
Danny Green added 23 points for the Atlantic Coast Conference-leading Tar Heels (25-3, 11-3), who bounced back from their overtime loss at Maryland a week earlier and used a pair of huge runs to reach the 25-win mark for the third straight year.
North Carolina took the lead for good during a 21-5 run midway through the first half that also put them up by double figures to stay, and pushed the lead to 20 barely 2 minutes into the second half while opening the half with a 14-2 spurt.
Lewis Clinch scored 22 points and Alade Aminu added 19 to lead the last-place Yellow Jackets (10-17, 1-13), who lost their seventh straight and were emphatically denied their first victory in Chapel Hill since 1996.
Deon Thompson and Wayne Ellington added 10 points apiece, and the Tar Heels shot 53.6 percent while forcing 18 turnovers and holding Tech’s freshman star, Iman Shumpert, scoreless for the first time this season on 0-of-6 shooting.
But the star of this one—as it always seems to be whenever Georgia Tech comes to town—was Hansbrough.
“I wish we could have denied him the ball a little bit more,” Tech coach Paul Hewitt said.
The big man’s career high of 40 points came as a freshman in 2006 against the Yellow Jackets, and he averaged nearly 31 points in three meetings with them at the Dean Smith Center.
“You can’t touch him. You can’t even do anything. If you touch him, it’s a foul,” Aminu said. “He’s a great player, and he’s worked on his midrange (game). If you don’t get close, he’s got that midrange (jumper). I have to give it to him though. He never takes any plays off, he always working hard, crashing the boards.”
He entered having made 899 free throws—six shy of Dickie Hemric’s mark of 905. He tied Hemric with 6:43 left in the first half and broke the record by swishing a foul shot with 14:54 to play—and, in Hansbrough’s typically understated style, appeared oblivious to the record until his accomplishment was announced a few minutes later during a timeout. He hit all eight of his foul shots, giving him a career total of 907.
“These records are kind of on the back burner,” Hansbrough said.
Of course, his dominance wasn’t limited to the free-throw line. He scored 11 of North Carolina’s first 13 points, had 18 at halftime and was 10-for-13 from the field to bounce back from his 4-for-12 shooting performance last time out.
That 88-85 overtime loss to Maryland was one to forget for the Tar Heels, who were still fuming over their self-described selfish play in the defeat. After dwelling on it for seven days, they got back to the dominating form that has them in prime position to claim No. 1 seeds in the ACC and NCAA tournaments.
“This whole team was kind of miserable for a week,” Hansbrough said. “We were more of a team today.”
That’s because they got back to getting their teammates involved: point guard Ty Lawson didn’t hit a field goal, but he matched a career high with 11 assists a week after managing a season-low two against the Terrapins. The Tar Heels had assists on their first five baskets—they had that many in the entire Maryland game—and finished with 26.
“We didn’t go one-on-one, we set more screens,” Lawson said. “Tyler inside early, he gives you a lot of assists (when he’s) knocking down shots.”
Neither team led by more than three before Green’s 3 from the left corner at the 9-minute mark started the first-half run that put North Carolina in charge.
The efficient Tar Heels scored on 10 of 14 possessions, held Georgia Tech to two field goals during a 7-minute stretch and owned the glass by limiting the Yellow Jackets to two rebounds over a Hansbrough-led span of 9 minutes.
“He’s always been that guy that’s really focused and really fired up,” Green said. “He came out hot, he came out pushing and playing physical and getting inside and being a big presence for us inside. He did a great job of just making them double him, and that freed us, our shooters on the outside, to get some open shots.”
Bobby Frasor capped the burst with a drive down the lane that made it 43-28 with 2:41 before the break, and that had the Yellow Jackets well on their way to their ninth straight road defeat of the season and eighth consecutive loss on a Top 25 team’s home floor since 2004.
“When they made their run, we tried not to fold, but we ended up folding,” Clinch said. “Carolina’s a team that, if you let them go on runs and you can’t answer back, they’ll put you away.”