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Hansbrough powers North Carolina past Tennessee

Nov 25, 2006 - 12:15 AM NEW YORK (Ticker) -- North Carolina was hoping to leave Madison Square Garden with a win over Tennessee. A championship was supposed to accompany the victory.

Tyler Hansbrough scored 27 points to lead the second-ranked Tar Heels over the 21st-ranked Vols, 101-87, in the consolation game of the NIT Season Tip-Off.

The game served as an undercard for Friday night's championship game between surprise finalists Gonzaga and Butler.

North Carolina (4-1) was much more impressive in this contest than in Wednesday night's matchup against Gonzaga.

Relying on the inside duo of Hansbrough and freshman Brandan Wright, the Tar Heels opened an early double-digit lead en route to a 56-35 halftime lead. Tennessee did not threaten thereafter.

Hansbrough, a Wooden Award candidate, was held to nine points against the Bulldogs - 13 below his average entering the game - but bounced back in a big way, scoring 16 points in the second half and grabbing eight rebounds.

"Tonight didn't make up for anything we felt on Wednesday. But at the same time it was good to get a win," Hansbrough said. "I think Wednesday night, I kind of got out of my game and definitely I think tonight didn't make up for anything. But I just moved more and was more aggressive."

"I just think he was more active tonight," Carolina coach Roy Williams said of Hansbrough. "We wanted to get the ball in there and the other guys did a better job of getting it to him."

Wright scored 13 of his 19 points in the opening 20 minutes and finished 9-of-10 from the floor, following up his 21-point, 13-rebound performance against Gonzaga in helping North Carolina shoot 57 percent (35-of-62).

"I think me and Tyler scored all our points in the paint," Wright said. "So it was a big game down low. "Coach really emphasized getting the ball inside, taking advantage of our size, height and athleticism. That's all he talked about during pregame."

Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith scored 18 points apiece for Tennessee, but any hope the Vols had of getting back in the game disappeared when Smith was whistled for a flagrant foul on Hansbrough with 12:34 left and the Tar Heels leading, 72-57.

With Tennessee trailing, 66-44, Smith scored 10 points in a two-minute span, including a four-point play, to close the deficit to 70-57 with 14:22 to play.

Less than two minutes later, Smith took a hard swipe attempting to block Hansbrough's shot from behind and was ejected from the game.

"I disagree with the call. I didn't see it that way," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "I'll watch the tape and Hansbrough is a great player, he went to the foul line 15 times. ... He's a strong fella, he takes it to the contact. If you're going to try to block his shot you have to make an aggressive play. I thought that's what it was."

Hansbrough and Wright combined to split the next eight points for the Tar Heels to extend the lead to 78-62 midway through the half and the Vols never got closer than 12 points.

North Carolina, behind 11 points from Hansbrough, led, 20-16, before a quick 7-0 spurt pushed the advantage into double digits.

Wright added three quick buckets and Danny Green and Wayne Ellington hit 3-pointers to extend the lead to 49-30 with 3:05 to go in the half.

"I think they were just that big and took advantage of us as well as anybody could," Pearl said. "You know Hansbrough is 8-for-18, Wright 9-for-10. They are 17-for-28. There's only so much you can do."

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