Peach Jam: Hansbrough vs. Hendrix

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- It was touted as the matchup of the week. No. 1 vs. No. 2. North Carolina's top two targets clashing on the AAU stage, with Tar Heel fans driving in from north and south for just this game. And on the sidelines sat some of the biggest names in college coaching. While the game ended with an overtime, the head-to-head matchup didn't live up to its billing because of foul trouble.

Richard Hendrix sat for much of the second half and could only watch as his Alabama Lasers' lead crumbled in the final minutes to the St. Louis Eagles, thanks in part to the post play of Tyler Hansbrough. The Eagles prevailed, 68-63, in overtime in the last round of pool play Friday morning at the 2004 Peach Jam in Riverview Park.

Sitting in a group near midcourt were representatives from all the schools in pursuit of the two elite post players. Roy Williams sat beside assistant C.B. McGrath, and Tubby Smith (Kentucky), Bill Self (Kansas) and Mark Gottfried (Alabama) were nearby.

Hansbrough recorded 28 points (11-16 FG, 6-9 FT), 13 rebounds and 2 blocks, while Hendrix totaled 13 points (4-8 FG, 5-6 FT), 6 rebounds and 1 block in limited minutes.

Hansbrough shoots over Hendrix
"Richard got in foul trouble, so I don't think we got a full taste of what the matchup might have been," Hansbrough said.

The Lasers opened up a double-digit lead early, with Hendrix posting a quick 8 points, 6 boards and a block in the first five minutes – as it turned out that would be the bulk of his production.

Even with Hendrix sidelined with fouls for stretches in the second and third quarter, the Lasers held the Eagles at bay, maintaining their lead. But the Eagles began to make their final push late and were aided by Hendrix's fifth foul with just over four minutes remaining.

And that's when the walls caved in for the Lasers. In a matter of minutes the 12-point lead became a five-point deficit.

"I felt a lot better about the game [at that point]," Hansbrough said. "We have a better chance with Richard out. Without Richard, we don't have that wide, huge body in there to worry about."

Had the Eagles hit their foul shots, they would have walked away with the win in regulation, but the Lasers hit a couple of threes and with 10 seconds left on the clock and a tie game, the Eagles knew who they needed to get the ball to.

The post feed went right to Hansbrough, who spun to the baseline and scored, though the foul was called on the floor, sending Hansbrough to the line shooting one-and-on with 3.1 seconds left and a 60-60 score.

The foul shot clanged off the front iron, sending the game into overtime.

"He short-armed it," read the lips of Roy Williams.

But with Hendrix on the bench, and the Lasers still on their heels, the outcome was no longer in question.

Despite Hansbrough's not touching the ball on offense (save for an offensive rebound and two foul shots), the Eagles scored two early baskets and hit their foul shots to hold on.

"We lost a tough one – we had it – there's nothing else I can say," a frustrated Hendrix said afterwards. "They had the momentum."

What was hyped as the best showdown of the 2004 Peach Jam was still an exciting game, though it lacked the full battle of the titans between Hansbrough and Hendrx that was anticipated.

"It was a good matchup, but it would have been a lot better had other factors not played into the game," Hendrix said, referring to the trigger-happy officiating. "That's just how it goes. I just thought I stood straight up on all five of my fouls."

For Hansbrough and the Eagles, it was a great finish to what had begun as a disappointing tournament. After losing their first three games, the Eagles came from behind to upset the Illinois Warriors on Thursday night, followed by this win over the Lasers.

Hansbrough had been fatigued earlier in the week from both lack of sleep and physical play each game but appeared rejuvenated in this his final game of the tournament.

"Just the fact that we won last night and my teammates were getting more into it and communicating better did it for me," he said, as he left the gym and headed to his car for a 10-plus hour drive back to Poplar Bluff, Mo.

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