College Basketball: NC State at North Carolina - North Carolina Favored

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Tyler Hansbrough has helped North Carolina reach its first ACC tournament final in six years, but his recent struggles - and their cause - have coach Roy Williams frustrated.

Still adjusting to the challenges that come with wearing a protective mask, Hansbrough looks to snap out of his slump when the No. 8 Tar Heels take on North Carolina State on Sunday for the ACC tournament title.

Oddsmakers have made N Carolina -14 point spread favorites

(College Basketball Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 146.5 total points (View College Basketball Sports Books).

Hansbrough is North Carolina's (27-6) leading scorer at 18.2 points per game, but has been held to single digits in both of the Tar Heels' tournament games. He had a season-low six points in Friday's 72-58 quarterfinal victory over Florida State, then followed that effort up with nine points against Boston College in the semifinals - a 71-56 win for North Carolina on Saturday.

Hansbrough's slide coincides with the use of the protective mask he's had to wear since suffering a broken nose in the final seconds of last Sunday's win over then-No. 14 Duke.

"The mask is bothering him a great deal and it still bothers me because he's a victim and no one is worried about him," Williams said Saturday. "It's a shame because he had a great year ... but right now he's struggling."

Even without Hansbrough at his best, North Carolina has plenty of talent both on both ends of the court. Brandan Wright scored 20 points and Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson added 10 points apiece Saturday, while the Tar Heels' defense held Boston College to 34.5 percent shooting after limiting Florida State to 30.9 percent the previous night.

North Carolina and NC State (18-14) split their regular-season meetings this season, with each winning at home. NC State's 83-79 win on Feb. 3 ended its six-game losing streak to North Carolina.

The Tar Heels return to the ACC championship game for the first time since 2001. They haven't won the tournament since 1998.

They'll face a 10th-seeded Wolfpack team that has mounted a stunning run to the title game. NC State got here by upsetting No. 21 Duke 85-80 in overtime Thursday, beating Virginia 79-71 on Friday and finally defeating Virginia Tech 72-64 in Saturday's semifinals.

Gavin Grant scored 20 points and Courtney Fells added 16 against the Hokies to help the Wolfpack to the brink of an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

"I told them before we came here that special things happen to someone here every year, whether it's a player who emerges and becomes a great star and goes on, or it's a team that does something special," first-year coach Sidney Lowe said. "And I told them, 'Why not be that team?'"

Lowe was a point guard for NC State's 1983 team, which won the ACC tournament title en route to a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament and an eventual national championship.

"The way we're doing it right now is very similar to what a lot of our fans saw back in 1983," Lowe said. "It just would be an outstanding accomplishment for this ballclub."

The Wolfpack are trying to win their first ACC tournament title since 1987, when they defeated North Carolina 68-67 in the championship game.

by: Marc Young - - Email Us

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