Tar Heels Draw Trojans in 2nd Round

Tyler Hansbrough can appear so focused on the court, he seems downright possessed. Easy to see why he earned the nickname ``Psycho T'' even before he got bloodied by a broken nose.

That's why it looked so strange to see him standing out on the wing, swishing 3-pointers and dribbling between his legs. And laughing.

``Tyler is always going to play an aggressive game of basketball,'' North Carolina coach Roy Williams said Thursday.

Oddsmakers have made N Carolina -8.5 point spread favorites (College Basketball Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 151.5 total points (View College Basketball Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 63% of bets for this game have been placed on USC +8.54

(View College Basketball Bet Percentages).

A beast under the bucket, Hansbrough and the top-seeded Tar Heels hope their bulk in the low blocks more than offsets Nick Young and Southern California's 3-point shooting in their East Regional semifinal Friday night.

Hansbrough was more relaxed during a loose practice at the Meadowlands. Maybe that's because he shucked his mask - he'd worn a clear plastic cover since he was hit in the face by a stray elbow from Duke's Gerald Henderson this month.

``Won't wear it in the game,'' Hansbrough said.

The 6-foot-9 sophomore launched long-range shots - he was 1-for-4 overall behind the arc this season - during the workout. About 2,000 fans attended the free session, and when a teenager yelled ``Dunk it!'' during a drill, Hansbrough simply made a layup. And then grinned.

Hansbrough probably won't clown around come gametime.

``He looks awesome,'' Southern California freshman Taj Gibson said. ``Phenomenal player, see him all the time on TV since last year. ``I know he's overcome a lot with the hurt nose.''

The fifth-seeded Trojans (25-11) have come a long way, too. Perennially known as a football school, they set a team record for victories by beating Kevin Durant and Texas last weekend.

Southern California will get a chance to build on that success against the Tar Heels (30-6). Stopping Hansbrough will be a key - he totaled 54 points and 19 rebounds in the first two games of the NCAA tournament, and spends a lot of time at the foul line.

``It's just a big opportunity,'' guard Gabe Pruitt said. ``You know the Carolina blue. Everybody across the country knows the Carolina blue. We know what we're up against.''

Then again, the Trojans did fine the last time they played. In December 2005, USC beat the visiting Tar Heels 74-59 - it remains Williams' most-lopsided loss in his four years as head coach at Carolina.

``They beat us pretty good,'' Hansbrough said. ``It stuck with us for a while because we went straight home for Christmas. Christmas wasn't as good.

``This is a different situation. We're in the tournament. They are not coming to our place, we're not going there,'' he said. ``I think we do have a bunch of different players. They do, too, so I think it's totally different. I think the revenge factor doesn't really matter.''

Besides, revenge usually comes during rivalries. Hansbrough wound up battered against North Carolina's No. 1 opponent - but Williams was quick to point out that his star's physical nature was not to blame.

``Let's understand one thing: He could have been a lily standing under the basket, standing by the ocean, if somebody hits you like that,'' the coach said. ``It was not his fault. It's not his style of play that caused that.

``There's nothing over the edge with him,'' he said.

Playing in the shadow of UCLA hoops, the Trojans would like to build a similar rivalry.

``We're just taking it one day and one game at a time with UCLA,'' Gibson said, ``Even though we dislike them, it's nothing like Duke-Carolina with the fighting.''

While Hansbrough's nose is healing, North Carolina could be missing another starter.

Senior Reyshawn Terry sat out practice while recovering from strep throat, leaving his status in doubt. The 6-foot-8 Terry is averaging 9.8 points.

``We're hoping, but I am not real, real encouraged,'' Williams said.

USC coach Tim Floyd also held off on finalizing his lineup. He usually starts the same four, then picks among several young players.

``We felt like we needed to develop the bench and develop some depth,'' he said. ``The best way to do that, we felt like was to start a different kid at that fifth spot every night.''

by: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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