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Tar Heels' march to No. 1 trods over FSU
A bigger and deeper UNC squad blows open a tight game in the second half.
By KEVIN BRAFFORD
Published January 8, 2007
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Too big, too strong and, in the end, too good.
Second-ranked North Carolina flexed its size and considerable talent in a dominating second half Sunday night, wearing down Florida State to win easily, 84-58.
Preseason All-America forward Tyler Hansbrough bullied his way inside for 20 second-half points on his way to a game-high 25, and long-armed freshman Brandan Wright added 20 as the Tar Heels pulled away from a tight game at halftime. North Carolina, which has lost only to Gonzaga, improved to 14-1 while capturing its Atlantic Coast Conference opener and with No. 1 UCLA's loss Saturday is positioned to take over the top spot when the AP poll is released today.
The Seminoles (12-4, 0-2) shot only 29 percent in the second half. Senior forward Al Thornton was his usual terrific self, totaling 29 points and 12 rebounds, but he had little help; only Jason Rich joined him in double figures, and that with only 10 points.
Starting guard Isaiah Swann and Toney Douglass combined to make just 4 of 20 field goals, and reserves Ralph Mims and Jerel Allen weren't any better, going 1-for-4 and 1-for-5 from the field, respectively.
"I had shots that I should have knocked down," said Swann, who missed all four of his 3-pointers. "But they did a great job of pressuring us. They're relentless in how they just keep coming at you."
The Seminoles trailed by as many as 12 in the first half before closing with a 10-4 run to trail 36-30 at the break. But it took the Tar Heels less than five minutes of the second half to push their advantage to 53-38 as Hansbrough scored 10 of North Carolina's first 17.
"He's just a load," Thornton said of Hansbrough. "He's so strong and he just keeps coming at you."
FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said the same is true for all of the Tar Heels.
"I thought they wore on us with their physical bodies," he said. "They probably fatigued us a little more than we'd like to admit. The truth is that we got beat by a better basketball team."
FSU, which had an eight-game winning streak snapped in a heartbreaking two-point loss on its home floor to Clemson on Wednesday night, has nearly a week to stew about its 0-2 start in the league. A trip to Georgia Tech awaits Saturday before the Seminoles return home for games against Virginia Tech and Miami.
Sunday night, Hamilton was just thankful that FSU won't see the Tar Heels again in the regular season.
"There are going to be some teams that physically we're going to have difficulty matching up with," he said. "This is that ultimate team. It's a good year to only have to play them one time."