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Hansbrough, UNC shred Mount Saint Mary's

Mar 22, 2008 - 5:46 AM RALEIGH, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Playing close to home proved very amicable for Tyler Hansbrough and top-seeded North Carolina.

Hansbrough scored 17 of his 21 points in the first half as the Tar Heels had little trouble recording Friday's 113-74 victory over No. 16 Mount Saint Mary's in the first round of the East Regional.

Ty Lawson also had 21 points and Wayne Ellington added 16 for North Carolina (33-2), which posted its highest point total in the NCAA Tournament since a 123-97 victory over Loyola Marymount in the second round in 1988.

"We're very pleased with the way we played in the second half," Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. "We had a little separation right before the half, and then got it up to 19, and then we came out early in the second half and I think made our first three shots.

"Then after that, we were just more gifted and talented, is what is boils down to."

With this latest lopsided win, the Tar Heels continued an impressive showing in recent games as a high seed. Over the last 11 years, North Carolina has posted a margin of victory of 29.2 points in five games when being a first or second seed.

"I think as a team we didn't come out slow and sometimes when you see teams like Mount St. Mary's, you might come out a little slow, not as prepared to play," Tar Heels forward Dean Thompson said. "But we came out from the beginning prepared to play, and we're going to need just as much intensity for Sunday."

Playing no more than two hours from campus, the Tar Heels improved to 6-1 in tournament games at Raleigh. The last time UNC lost here was in the second round against Penn in 1979.

If the Tar Heels can get past Arkansas on Sunday, UNC will have another cushy path to its first Four Four in three years as it moves on to nearby Charlotte.

The Tar Heels sizzled early, shooting 58 percent (22-of-38) in the first half en route to a 60-41 advantage at the half.

Hansbrough got UNC off on the right foot, collecting a steal and taking it in for a dunk. Ellington added a 3-pointer moments later and Lawson added a basket from the arc to make it 10-2 with less than three minutes expired.

Although the Mountaineers managed to fight back within 15-12 with 14:56 left, the Tar Heels simply ripped off another run, scoring the next nine points for a 24-12 lead after a dunk by Hansbrough with 11:13 to play.

"In the first half, I thought they ran the ball real well, they came back at us, which was good for us, just because we can see that farther on," Hansbrough said. "They came out, not intimidated by us, and really played well."

Despite Mount Saint Mary's lack of fear, its decision to force the pace against UNC played into the Tar Heels' hands.

"We actually like when teams run with us, we practice like that every day, getting back on defense and then pushing us back," Lawson said. "It gives us a lot of opportunities to score on the break and that's the way we like to play."

Hansbrough went 7-of-10 from the field in the first half, as UNC outscored Mount Saint Mary's in the paint, 32-16, and had 20 points off second chances.

Hansbrough added four more points in the opening minutes of the second half, helping the Tar Heels build a 72-43 cushion due to a 10-2 run out of halftime.

North Carolina eclipsed 100 points with 4:39 remaining on a pair of free throws by Alex Stepheson.

Plagued by a left ankle injury for most of the second half of the season, Lawson appeared completely over the injury on Friday, pushing the pace for the Tar Heels, who finished with a 29-12 advantage in fast-break points.

Lawson finished 7-of-9 from the field with two 3-pointers and also collected four assists and four steals.

"My ankle has been feeling better the last few games," Lawson said. "That ACC tournament I was trying to push off on it and things like that. I think that helped it out a lot more playing in the ACC tournament and I feel like I'm a lot better and trusting my ankle.

"I just pushed it and he tried to cut me off and I sped off of him and my ankle, felt good on it. I was just pushing and playing like I normally do"

Thompson had 15 points and eight rebounds and Stepheson contributed 12 and eight off the bench for UNC, which finished 61 percent (43-of-71) from the floor and ended up with a 60-22 advantage in points in the paint.

The Tar Heels also finished with a 48-22 margin in rebounds.

"We talked about before the game that we were going to play one of - for sure, one of probably four or five teams that has a really legitimate shot to win a national championship, and it was going to take a big effort," Mount Saint Mary's coach Milan Brown said. "I thought we worked really hard. It's just the battle of trying to win the paint, and we were not able to do that. This was the result."

Chris Vann scored 16 points for the Mountaineers (19-15), who topped Coppin State, 69-60, in the opening-round game on Tuesday.