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March 17, 2007

Hansbrough, Tar Heels pull away from Spartans

Box score

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Tyler Hansbrough tossed away the mask protecting his broken nose and busted up Michigan State.

Top-seeded North Carolina sure did need it's big man to fend off the Spartans.

The sophomore finished with 33 points and nine rebounds and Reyshawn Terry knocked down several key baskets down the stretch to help the Tar Heels hold off Michigan State 81-67 Saturday night in the East Regional.

North Carolina is in the round of 16 for the second time in three seasons, and will face the winner of Sunday's Texas-Southern California game next week in East Rutherford, N.J.

Terry scored 12 of his 14 points in the final seven minutes despite battling an illness for the Tar Heels (30-6), who continued their long-running NCAA success in their home state. North Carolina improved to 21-1 in instate tournament games, including 6-0 in games played here - home to conference rival Wake Forest.

But even with the crowd essentially giving them a home game, the Tar Heels didn't put away the ninth-seeded Spartans (23-12) until a late surge in a rematch of the 2005 Final Four game won by North Carolina.

Playing with former Michigan State and NBA star Magic Johnson watching from the stands, the Spartans took a 57-54 lead on one of Drew Neitzel's six 3-pointers with 8:48 left. But North Carolina responded with a 14-4 run, which included six points from Hansbrough and a 3-pointer from Ty Lawson, to take a 68-61 lead with 4:03 left.

That's when Terry - who missed the morning shootaround with a fever and a headache - came up with his biggest baskets. The senior made three free throws during the run, knocked down a contested jumper from the left wing then followed with a 3-pointer with 2 1/2 minutes left that pushed North Carolina's lead to 73-65 with 2:25 left and further charged his hometown crowd.

Michigan State got no closer the rest of the way, coming up short of pulling off what would have been the biggest upset of the tournament, so far.

Hansbrough finished 10-for-17 from the field and 13-for-17 from the line in 38 minutes. Most of that came after he took off the mask to protect the injury he suffered when he was hit with an elbow on a flagrant foul by Duke's Gerald Henderson on March 4.

Lawson finished with 20 points, eight assists and five rebounds for North Carolina, which shot 48 percent and went 25-for-34 at the foul line. But the Tar Heels had little offensive balance. Brandan Wright, the team's No. 2 scorer at 14.9 points per game, finished with three on 1-for-5 shooting, while fellow rookie starter Wayne Ellington went 1-for-4 with five points.

Neitzel finished with 26 points on 9-for-27 shooting, including 6-for-17 from 3-point range, to lead Michigan State, while Raymar Morgan added 19 points.

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