|Carolina's early blitz too much for Spartans|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 06 April 2009 19:26|
Rebound, rebound, putback. Strip, rebound, putback.
Those two possessions, lasting all of 33 seconds early in the first half, were part of a blitz from which Michigan State never recovered. Oh, the Spartans managed to rally in the second half - or as much a rally as it can be when it cuts the deficit to 13 - but the Tar Heels' early display of dominance removed any doubt that North Carolina is the best team in the country.
Speed, power, athleticism, depth - the Tar Heels had it all. And now they have a fifth NCAA title, their second in five years, after a 89-72 thrashing of Michigan State on Monday night.
``We came out strong,'' Tyler Hansbrough said. ``We wanted to get going from the gates. We knew there was going to be a big crowd there for them, and we wanted to take them out of it early.''
steals and six assists. Hansbrough closed out his college career with 18 points and seven rebounds. Wayne Ellington, the most outstanding player of the tournament, added 19.
But it wasn't only North Carolina's stars that did a number on Michigan State (34-4). Freshman Ed Davis finished with 11 points, only his eighth double-figure performance of the season, and eight rebounds. Deon Thompson had nine points - all in the first half.
``You look at that team, you have five to six NBA players that can maybe go first round to early second round in the draft,'' Michigan State guard Travis Walton said. ``When you got a team like that, you're looking at a NBA team. They can maybe beat the worst team in the NBA.''
North Carolina embarrassed the Spartans on this very floor in December, a 35-point victory that was Michigan State's most lopsided loss since 1996, Tom Izzo's first year as a coach. This game was supposed to be different. Not only did the Spartans (31-7) have big man Goran Suton back, but they were a different team than they were even three weeks ago.
They bulldozed overall No. 1 Louisville in the Midwest Regional final, running at the Cardinals from the opening tip. Did the same thing to another top seed, Connecticut, in the Final Four on Saturday night. They were fierce, physical and utterly relentless, never giving either opponent a chance to find any kind of groove.
rdinals and Huskies felt.
``We couldn't stop it,'' Walton said. ``It was a blur the first five minutes when they jumped out on us so fast.''
The Spartans had four turnovers before the game was even five minutes old, but were still only down by 10. When Suton grabbed the rebound on Hansbrough's miss, Kalin Lucas took off running, hoping a fast-break layup would give Michigan State some momentum.
But he missed, and Davis scooped up the rebound. Davis dished off to Lawson and, when Lawson missed a jumper, was right there again to collect the rebound and score on the putback. There was a Tar Heel or two who hadn't even gotten across midcourt when Lawson stripped Draymond Green for one of his seven first-half steals. Bobby Frasor missed a 3, but Ellington grabbed the ball and scored on a layup.
With 14:26 still to play in the first half, North Carolina had a 14-point lead and the game was as good as over. By the 10-minute mark, the Tar Heels had forced another four turnovers and were up by 21.
And by halftime, the Tar Heels had a 55-34 lead - that's a final in some Big Ten games - that was the largest ever in the title game.
``It was like a perfect storm,'' Izzo said.
Maybe against another opponent gritty Michigan State could have clawed back.
Against the Tar Heels? No way.
ly to fall behind 40-12 to Kansas in the first half of the Final Four. A furious rally fell short, and Lawson, Ellington and Hansbrough and the rest of the gang came back.
Given another chance, they were determined to have a much better start. And finish.
``Sounds like I made a pretty good decision,'' Hansbrough said. ``Nothing beats this feeling right here.''