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December 30, 2007

Tar Heels use defense to go from tie to blowout

CHAPEL HILL - So much for getting Quentin Thomas extra minutes in the wake of Bobby Frasor's season-ending injury.

The senior guard - now the primary backup to starter Ty Lawson - was out with an ankle injury, but the No. 1 Tar Heels and their experimental rotation still had no trouble getting a 90-58 win against Valparaiso.

Tyler Hansbrough led the way for Carolina (13-0) with 23 points. The junior forward finished 7-of-8 shooting, his only miss an ill-advised 3-point attempt.

But since the personnel situation wasn't ideal for the Tar Heels' offense, they beat Valpo (10-3) with defense.

The Crusaders tied the game at 37 less than three minutes into the second half, but Carolina responded with a 27-2 run, highlighted by three 3-pointers from Danny Green.

UNC's Marcus Ginyard said that when the game was tied, it served as a wake-up call that the Crusaders were a good team and would have to be treated as such.

"I think at that point the respect for this team was right in our face," Ginyard said. "They're going to get the momentum and go on a run, or we're going to get our act together."

UNC coach Roy Williams called the stretch perhaps his team's best basketball of the season.

"We had a lot of plus moments from a lot of different kids," Williams said.

During the run, the Tar Heels held Valparaiso without a field goal for nearly nine minutes.

"It always starts at the defensive end," Green said. "We feed off our defense."

Green finished with 20 points - tying a career high - and got a standing ovation when Williams substituted him out at the 10:42 mark of the second half.

His 8-for-10 shooting night was crucial with starting guard Wayne Ellington shooting just 2-for-10 and finishing with five points.

"Wayne's been shooting it great, and Danny's been stinking it up," Williams said. "Tonight that changed. He was huge for us."

Williams knew his rotation would change after losing Frasor to a torn ACL against Nevada.

But without Thomas, who suffered an injury to his left ankle in practice two days before the game and missed the next day's practice, Williams had to shuffle his lineup even more than he expected to.

Ginyard served as Lawson's backup in addition to his duties starting at small forward.

"I had a lot of fun out there," said Ginyard, who hadn't played point guard since the summer before his senior year of high school. "It's been interesting."

But Ginyard wasn't the only Tar Heel picking up the slack.

William Graves hit four 3-pointers and finished with a career-high 14 points in eight minutes off the bench.

Deon Thompson had five blocks and Green had four to help the Tar Heels to a season-high 12 blocked shots, the highest single-game total for UNC since 1994.

And Ellington, despite his poor shooting night, contributed with a career-high six assists and no turnovers.

"A lot of hot spots there," Williams said.

The Tar Heels opened up an early double-digit lead while holding Valparaiso without a field goal for the game's first seven minutes.

The Crusaders bounced back with seven first-half 3-pointers - including four from Jarryd Loyd, who finished with 24 points to lead the team - and Carolina led by five, 36-31, at the break.

But in the second half, Valpo hit just two 3-pointers, and both of those came after the outcome was clear.

"I thought Coach Williams did a great job adjusting, taking away the 3-point line from us," Valparaiso coach Homer Drew said. "We wanted to make it a more competitive second half. You can see why they're the No. 1 team."


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