North Carolina turns back pesky Eastern KentuckyMar 16, 2007 - 7:04 AM WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Ticker) -- It may have been the most uncomfortable blowout in North Carolina's storied NCAA Tournament history.
Tyler Hansbrough scored 21 points and the top-seeded Tar Heels regrouped after a stunning collapse to rout 16th-seeded Eastern Kentucky, 86-65, in a first-round matchup of the East Region.
North Carolina (29-6) moves on to play ninth seed Michigan State - a 61-49 winner over Marquette - in Saturday's second round.
The Tar Heels were magnificent at the beginning, building a 27-point first-half lead, but then had to survive a 32-9 run that brought the Colonels within four points at 48-44 with 16 minutes to play.
Hansbrough took over from there by scoring seven points, including a three-point play, as Carolina extended the lead to 60-48.
Seconds later, freshman Wayne Ellington hit a 3-pointer and Reyshawn Terry scored back-to-back baskets to push the lead to 17 as the Tar Heels pulled away.
"We got off to a great start," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "It was so easy that we lost our focus and all of a sudden we got a little sloppy and made some bad decisions. Give Eastern Kentucky credit because they kicked us for about 12 to 14 minutes there and we were on our heels offensively.
"We were turning the basketball over and we could not stop them defensively and it was a bad run. It got down to four and ... we got the ball to (Hansbrough) three or four different times and we were able to open it up. We had a big run of our own right there."
Hansbrough, still wearing a mask to protect his broken nose, finished 9-of-11 from the floor and Terry scored 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting for North Carolina, which is seeking it second championship in three years.
"I think it was on those things where we had to stay poised and stay within ourselves," Hansbrough said. "At the same point we wanted to keep attacking them and try to get a run and get some stops defensively. I don't think it ever got to the point were we just started shooting every time. I think it was one of those things where we had to get stops, convert and make shots that we all wanted."
Nonetheless, the turn of events adds to the debate whether Carolina, despite its talent, can win the title with three freshmen in the starting lineup.
"We have a young team, 11 freshmen and sophomores, and I think we did not maintain our intensity but you still have to give them credit because they did some nice things," said Williams, who had to coach one day after his sister died of Alzheimer's disease.
The Tar Heels look like they would enjoy a romp for the ages, racing to a 22-3 lead and extending it to 39-12 less than 12 minutes into the game, putting them on pace for a 70-point half.
Eastern Kentucky took advantage behind Adam Leonard and Julian Mascoll, who scored 11 points apiece to whittle the lead to 47-35 at the half despite North Carolina shooting 67 percent (20-of-30).
"I'm extremely proud of what our guys did in coming back," Colonels coach Jeff Neubauer said. "Our guys kept competing. We ran into a team that is very talented and had a great night shooting the ball. We were within four with 16 minutes left to go in the game and we're going to be proud of what we were able to accomplish."
Mascoll and Leonard combined to score the first seven minutes of the second half, and when Mike Rose hit a reverse layup with 16:03 to play, it capped a 32-9 surge and had Eastern Kentucky within four points.
"When we were sitting there in that media timeout and we were down by four, I think everybody had a great feeling that we were going to make more of a run than we already had," Colonels' Darnell Dialls said.
Dialls finished with 17 points to lead four players in double figures for Eastern Kentucky (21-12), which shot just 6-of-23 from the arc.
- EAST REGIONAL
AT WINSTON-SALEM NC
NCAA BB EAST REGIONAL
FINAL 1ST 2ND TOTAL
--- --- -----
EASTRN KENTUCKY 35 30 65
NORTH CAROLINA 47 39 86 FINAL
Mar 15 11:58 PM
- EAST REGIONAL
AT WINSTON-SALEM NC
NCAA BB (16) EASTRN KENTUCKY 35
(1) NORTH CAROLINA 47 HALFTIME
Mar 15 10:54 PM
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