North Carolina (12-0, 0-0 ACC) continued what could be a fairy-tale season by drubbing Big East foe Rutgers (9-4, 0-0 Big East) 97-75 Sunday evening. Rutgers closed within 12 points in the second half, but could not sustain enough momentum to get the lead to single digits.
Senior All-American and Player of the Year candidate Tyler Hansbrough led the way with 26 points on 10 of 15 shooting (.667) and 10 rebounds, his second double-double of the season. He was also perfect from the charity stripe, hitting all six of his free throw attempts.
Hansbrough’s field goal percentage and free throw percentage, the latter of which is exceptionally high for a big man, are part of what make the Tar Heel PF/C so incredibly dangerous. His heart, of course, is a major factor as well, and there is no stat line for that.
Ty Lawson’s speed was on display yet again, as he contributed 19 points on 8 of 12 shooting (.667), 6 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals, while turning the ball over just once.
Lawson’s assist to turnover ratio is among the highest in the nation, and his name continues to be mentioned in Player of the Year conversations as well. If he keeps playing as he has in the first 12 games, the conversation will continue.
Shooting guard Wayne Ellington’s disappointing start continued on Sunday as he hit just 2 of 7 (.286) from the field, though he did go 5 of 6 from the free throw line. He has been particularly cold from behind the arc, and he missed both 3-point shots he attempted against Rutgers.
The fact that UNC is routinely blowing out teams by 15 to 20 points while Ellington remains cold only furthers the argument that this team will be virtually unbeatable while they remain healthy. Deon Thompson, Danny Green, Ed Davis, Larry Drew II, and Will Graves have all stepped up in the absence of defensive specialist Marcus Ginyard (who returned to the court for the first time, playing 11 minutes on Sunday) and freshman center Tyler Zeller, who is likely out for the season with a broken wrist.
Ginyard had three points and two steals in the brief time that he played. He looked smooth, making a superbly athletic move to score his one field goal of the game.
Rutgers shot nearly 50% from the field and was led by freshman Mike Rosario, who dumped in 26 points on 9 of 17 shooting. Rosario added three assists and two rebounds, and shot an impressive 4 of 8 (.500) from behind the arc.
If the Tar Heels had any weaknesses on display, it was the field goal percentage allowed and their own paltry .286 3-point effort.
For North Carolina, conference play begins Jan. 4th at home against Boston College. The Scarlet Knights are not as fortunate, facing successive games against No. 3 Pittsburgh and No. 2 Connecticut.