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January 9, 2008
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. ? Tyler Hansbrough stormed down the lane with that familiar, focused "Psycho T" look in his eye. Nobody was going to stop him - not even the tallest player in college basketball.
Hansbrough scored 23 points and started top-ranked North Carolina's decisive rally with a momentum-shifting dunk over 7-foot-7 Kenny George in a 93-81 victory over North Carolina-Asheville on Wednesday night.
"Everybody on the team is like, 'Who's going to try to dunk (on George)?"' Hansbrough said. "It definitely was in the back of my mind."
Wayne Ellington scored 19 points, Ty Lawson had 17 and reserve Danny Green had 12 of his 14 in the first half for North Carolina (16-0), which never trailed in completing its first perfect nonconference regular season since 1998 and just its fifth in 50 years.
"The nonconference schedule's over with now - congratulations," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "Now we've got 15 straight (Atlantic Coast Conference) games where we've got to raise the level of our play."
Bryan Smithson had 25 points and K.J. Garland added 16 for UNC Asheville (11-4), which had its three-game winning streak snapped. Many of George's 14 points came on feet-on-the-ground dunks and layups.
But the snapshot of the night belonged to Hansbrough, who reached the 20-point mark for the eighth time in nine games. After the Bulldogs closed within 54-45 one minute into the second half on Garland's 3-pointer, Hansbrough took matters into his own hands.
"I just felt like I could drive around him," Hansbrough said.
Or over him.
Starting at the free throw line, Hansbrough charged down the left side of the lane, leaped and threw a two-handed dunk over George's outstretched arms. The dunk - the first against George in at least three years, he said - started the Tar Heels' game-clinching 13-4 run and sent the crowd at the Dean Smith Center into delirium.
"I saw him coming to the basket. I just kept my hands straight up," George said. "I had him. I just forgot to jump. He jumped. I didn't jump. I should have known than a 6-10 player as athletic as him was able to jump over my hands even if I go straight up."
After Ellington's one-handed dunk capped the run and made it 67-49 with 14:14 left, UNC Asheville didn't get closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
The Tar Heels iced it by reeling off nine straight points after George's layup made it 84-74 with 5 minutes left.
"I wasn't surprised that we fought back, because we're a good team," George said. "We just made some mistakes in the first half that cost us."
Ellington had his second straight dominating performance, coming three days after scoring a career-best 36 points in the Tar Heels' ACC opener at Clemson - a 90-88 victory he sealed with a last-second 3-pointer in overtime.
Vincent James added 11 points and George had 11 rebounds while regularly altering the Tar Heels' shots. During one memorable first-half sequence, Hansbrough had the ball with his back to the basket and pivoted, only to find George looming over him - leading him to quickly retreat from the basket, drawing chuckles from the crowd.
"He blocked a couple of shots, but he changed about a million," Williams said.
UNC Asheville shot 53.2 percent yet fell to a combined 0-6 against the Kansas and North Carolina teams coached by Williams, an Asheville native.
Deon Thompson added 10 rebounds for the Tar Heels, who flirted with a turnover-free first half before backup forward Mike Copeland couldn't keep control of the ball in the paint with 4 seconds left, leading to a layup at the buzzer by Garland that made it 53-40.
For more coverage of North Carolina, visit CarolinaBlue.com.