Road to the Final Four — UNC/Oklahoma

Michigan State has already punched its ticket to the Final Four. Can Tyler Hansbrough and North Caorlina?

Michigan State has already punched its ticket to the Final Four. Can Tyler Hansbrough and North Caorlina?

I’m not sure that I’m the go-to guy here, considering that with Michigan State’s destruction of Louisville, I’m now 0-for-3 on Final Four picks.

Still, I’m going to have some running thoughts about North Carolina’s game against Oklahoma. I need the Heels to save some of my face. I have my alma mater winning it all, so to me, getting a national title for Tyler Hansbrough and Co. would be a nice consolation prize after having had to burn my one sheet of integrity in the office pool.

With that said, I have no idea who’s going to win this game. I think the 5-on-5 matchups are incredible, and my only hope is that it’s a well-played game that isn’t decided by foul trouble. That’s my only hope.

Well, that and hoping that the Heels pull this off and punch a ticket to the Final Four.

First Half

15:50 A good start by the Heels, who lead 7-2 at the first timeout, but two worrisome things. One, Hansbrough picked up a foul just 50 seconds into the game. Also, both Blake and Taylor Griffin have blown by Hansbrough and Deon Thompson, respectively,  in the halfcourt set. Bad sign for UNC.

11:00 Jeff Teague.

Tyrese Rice.

Toney Douglas.

Greivis Vasquez.

Now Oklahoma’s Willie Warren.

North Carolina can’t guard Warren; it’s plain to see already. UNC tentatively holds a 17-10 lead, but Hansbrough has two fouls and Blake Griffin hasn’t even scored yet.

Ominous.

7:50 The Heels go 4-plus minutes without Hansbrough on the floor and stretch their lead to 23-14, mostly thanks to Danny Green, who has nine quick points and is playing well.

3:48 Green continues to have a big half, bouncing in a 3 for 12 points. Heels hanging on to a double-digit lead and using a ton of players.

Halftime Heels led by nine, 32-23, holding a cold-shooting Oklahoma to its lowest halftime point total of the season.

Surely the Sooners are going to start hitting shots soon, and to be honest, the game is being played at their pace. But Green has been the difference for the Heels, who lead despite getting less than 10 minutes from Hansbrough. Also, UNC will likely need something from Wayne Ellington, who is just 1-for-5 from the field, but has done a better job slowing down Warren.

Long way to go for both teams, but I have a feeling the first five minutes of the second half are going to be huge for both clubs.

15:58 The teams open the half trading baskets, but Ellington comes up with a runner and a 3 and the Heels take a 12-point edge. Griffin is still a monster, but Tony Crocker is passing up open 3s for the Sooners.

8:48 Ty Lawson is taking over the second half as the Heels just come in waves. Even a missed Green dunk leads to a foul on the Sooners. It’s all Carolina, and nothing but Griffin for Oklahoma. UNC leads by 19.

4:31 And finally Roy Williams listens and calls a timeout as Oklahoma has picked up its pressure and stayed within itself, while the Heels have done nothing but play stupid basketball for the last three minutes. What was Hansbrough doing trying to throw down a shot-put dunk? Terrible. It’s a 9-0 run and a 12-point game when it should’ve been over.

4:26 While her dad is screaming at the TV, 6-year-old Allison says, “Daddy, they still have to go all the way through the 50s.”

6:57 p.m. OK, the Guitar Hero Metallica commerical with Bobby Knight, Coach K, Roy Williams and Rick Pitino in boxers immediately moves into the pantheon of great commercials. The look on Roy’s face is priceless. And Knight: “We’re playing the Guitar HEEE-ro.” Incredible. Heels up 63-51 with 3:50 to go.

1:50 Heels make their foul shots and the lead builds back to 16. Get the scissors ready.

1:33 Her belly full of pizza and chicken and while sitting on top of the couch eating ranch Wavy Lays, Allison puts it perfectly.

“The Tar Heels are smokin’ them!”

Well said, Darling.

Final 72-60

Perhaps the best performance by the Heels, maybe all season, considering the caliber of opponent. This was the most complete game UNC has played all season, getting points inside — from Thompson, Green and Lawson — and outside — from Lawson and Green.

Green was tremendous is all facets, scoring 18 points — 14 in the first half — to go with six rebounds while Lawson turned it on again in the second half, going for 19 points — 15 in the second 20 minutes — with five rebounds and five assists.

Hansbrough was held in check by Griffin inside, but he did well to remain in the game after getting two quick fouls in the first seven minutes.

Griffin was amazing — on the offensive end. He finished with 23 points and 16 rebounds after failing to score in the first 11 minutes. But he seemed to shy away from contesting shots when Lawson would drive down the middle. Don’t understand that.

Meanwhile, North Carolina has never looked better defensively. Fantastic effort.

But the difference was clear. While Warren did end up with 18 points, UNC came in waves, with Thompson adding 10, Ellington with nine and Hansbrough with eight. Take away Hansbrough and Thompson’s 18 combined points, and Griffin’s 23, and the Heels still rolled 54-37. This wasn’t so much a matchup between the college game’s two biggest stars as it was a mismatch of the collective teams.

Now the Heels get Villanova, a team that destroyed Duke and physically matched up and beat Pitt. Tough game.

But that’s for later. For now, Heels’ fans can enjoy another trip to the Final Four.

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Filed under ACC, ACC Tournament, Big East Tournament, College Basketball, Designated Hitter, Duke Blue Devils, Final Four, North Carolina Tar Heels, Oklahoma Sooners, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald, Ty Lawson, Ty Lawsons, Tyler Hansbrough, UNC Tar Heels

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