Carolina Marches On Thanks to Hansbrough, First Half

Tyler Hansbrough never ceases to amaze. It’s no surprise he led Carolina with a vintage 28-point, 13 rebound performance in the most important game of year, and scored the two biggest baskets of the game. But how he did it – nailing back to back long jumpers from the top of the key with David Padgett closing in – that nobody saw coming. Two daggers from deep, extending the Heels lead to 9 points with under two minutes left clinched UNC’s first Final Four appearance since the 2005 championship team, an 83-73 decision over a game Louisville team.

Pitino needed to find the delicate balance between employing employing a full court press, yet not getting into an up tempo game with a deep, more athletic Carolina team. He failed to find that balance in the first half, the game was too fast for Louisville. Ty Lawson single-handedly dribbled through the Cardinal pressure, and Louisville failed to slow Carolina’s potent transition offense, getting beat down the court for easy layups multiple times in the first half. Hansbrough exerted himself in the paint, not about to repeat his two point first half from Thursday night. Lawson also took advantage of the man to man half court defense with dribble penetration that left hot-shooting Danny Green open, and setup Wayne Ellington for good links.

Each time Louisville garnered consecutive baskets, trying to claw back into the game, Carolina seemed to answer with an easy layup, or would draw a quick foul. But never count out Rick Pitino coached teams. The Cardinal came out in the second half with an improved offensive game plan, running offense off David Padgett in the high post, as they successfully did during conference play, and effectively pressuring Carolina by denying Lawson the ball on out of bounds plays. One way to measure the improvement in the Louisville press from the first half to the second was how long it took Carolina to inbound the ball after made baskets – with Lawson blanketed, the Heels teetered with 5-second calls a few times before going to the second or third option, playing right into Louisville’s hand.

Reverting to their aggressive 2-3 matchup zone was another important halftime adjustment by Pitino. It forced Carolina to shoot more contested jumpers, creating a few turnovers , slowing the offensive juggernaut enough to get back in the game. Louisville succeeded in finding the right tempo, patiently finding good shots on offense and pushing in transition at the right times, and found themselves back in the game thanks to the hot shooting of Jerry Smith, and inside prowess of Terrence Williams and Earl Clark, pulling even with UNC midway through the second half.
Whenever Carolina needs a big basket, they look to Hansbrough, and the three-time All American delivered, scoring the next 10 Tar Heel points pushing the lead back to four, re-energizing the team and the crowd. As Hansbrough relished the pressure, Louisville wilted. Clark turned it over on consecutive traveling calls, two of his seven turnovers. After a clutch Ty Lawson three, his first basket of the second half, Hansbrough iced it with the two perimeter shots, starting the victory march to the foul line.

To beat North Carolina you need to play a full 40 minute game, get big performances from your star players, and hit clutch shots. Despite a valiant effort, Louisville failed to execute in the first half, and disappeared late in the game, nobody stepping up to hit a big shot. Palacios and Caracter were non-factors, and while the offense fed off Padgett for a stretch in the second half, he had a subpar offensive game. In the end, Carolina had Tyler Hansbrough and Louisville did not.

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One Response

  1. Tyler and the rest of the Tar Heels played great. Good luck to
    Tyler Hansbrough in the Final Four.

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