CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Danny Green had just hit a long 3-pointer — his sixth straight of the second half — when he grabbed a rebound and pushed the ball upcourt in transition. As he crossed midcourt, the home crowd began playfully yelling, “Shoot!”
Green obliged but missed, ending a run that had even coach Roy Williams chuckling during a timeout a short time later.
“When you’re up big and having fun,” Green said, “it’s a lot easier to make jokes.”
Yes, it was an easy night for top-ranked North Carolina.
Ty Lawson scored 22 points to help the Tar Heels beat North Carolina-Asheville 116-48 on Sunday, remaining unbeaten despite playing without national player of the year Tyler Hansbrough.
Green added 18 points on that long-distance flurry for the Tar Heels (7-0), who put on an impressive offensive display heading into their matchup with fifth-ranked Michigan State this week in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. North Carolina shot 57 percent, led 53-19 at halftime and cracked the 100-point mark with about 5 minutes left.
The Tar Heels didn’t miss Hansbrough, who sat out as a precaution as he continues to recover from a preseason injury to his right shin. Hansbrough also injured his left ankle in his debut against UC-Santa Barbara last week, but still had 34 points against Notre Dame in the championship of the Maui Invitational on Wednesday.
He spent this game watching from the bench while wearing his pregame warmups. Still, it was an improvement in one respect: He wore a suit while sitting out the first two home games against Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
His absence allowed the Tar Heels to show off their depth yet again, whether it was Lawson cracking the 20-point mark in the Smith Center for the first time in his career or Deon Thompson’s latest solid performance up front with 17 points and nine rebounds. North Carolina also hit 14 of 27 3-pointers.
The only hiccup was allowing the Bulldogs (3-3) to take an 18-15 edge on the offensive glass.
“Other than the backboard work,” Williams said, “I was pleased with them the entire game.”
For the players, it ended up being a test of their focus.
“I think it’s really tough for our team to play games like this because of the talent level,” Thompson said. “But we still have to find a way to do the little things we need to do to get better as a team.”
Jason Ridenhour had eight points and six rebounds for the Bulldogs, who led 6-2 early before the Tar Heels kicked into gear and sprinted far out in front. UNC-Asheville shot 27 percent for the game, including 3-for-18 from 3-point range.
It ended up being the biggest margin of victory and highest scoring output for North Carolina under Williams, surpassing a 57-point win against Cleveland State in the 2005-06 season and a 115-point performance against George Mason in 2003-04.
“Against teams like us, I don’t think Hansbrough (being out) makes a difference,” UNC-Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach said.
Freshman Ed Davis started in Hansbrough’s place and finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Wayne Ellington also had 13 points as 12 players scored for the Tar Heels.
Lawson’s performance followed his MVP award in Maui, where he had 22 points, six rebounds and 11 assists with one turnover against the Fighting Irish. In the past three games, Lawson has 30 assists against just three turnovers.
Lawson figures he’s back to the form he displayed before a suffering a sprained ankle midway through last season. The injury sidelined him for nearly seven games and left him a little hesitant to drive into the paint or take off in transition during North Carolina’s run to the Final Four.
“I think at the beginning of this year is when I got back to being full speed,” Lawson said. “I was afraid to go to the basket. If I’d jump too hard off my left ankle, it would just start hurting again, so it was just tough trying to play through that and be productive like I was.”
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