Heels Bounce Back, Drop Vols 101-87

NEW YORK – Second-ranked North Carolina rebounded from a surprising semifinal loss with a strong showing against No. 21 Tennessee in the NIT Tip Off consolation game on Friday. Headbands were jettisoned, Tyler Hansbrough returned to form and college basketball world order was restored, as the Tar Heels upended the Vols, 101-87.

"This doesn't make up for anything we felt Wednesday," Hansbrough said, referring to the earlier loss. "Tonight, I was more aggressive."

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  • Early indications suggest UNC (4-1) is a better team when it puts opponents in a deep hole early. The Tar Heels raced out to a 56-35 halftime lead much in the same manner in which they had easily disposed of teams prior to Gonzaga on Wednesday night.

    Perhaps better than any team Carolina has faced this season, the Zags put the clamps on Hansbrough – clearly the engine that drives UNC. But beaten, bruised, hammered, and at times, assaulted against the Vols, he dominated the paint for a 27-point, nine-rebound performance leaving defenders flailing their arms in his wake.

    Things got so frustrating with 12:34 remaining for UT's JaJuan Smith, that he was ejected in the second half for a "flagrant, severe and airborne" foul against Hansbrough, as an NCAA officials spokesperson described the incident after the game.

    The ejection was partially due to an emphasis this year on flagrant fouls.

    "I did think that it was an intentional foul and I did think that we should have gotten the ball and two shots," Williams said. "I was surprised when the youngster was ejected."

    No one so far this season has been able to solve the length of Brandan Wright, who finished with 19 points and eight boards.

    Freshman Wayne Ellington continued his steady contribution on this talent-laden team with 14 points, while Reyshawn Terry added 10.

    Both Hansbrough and Terry shared the lead in rebounds with nine apiece.

    "We caught Tennessee on a night when the ball wouldn't drop in the hole early," Roy Williams said.

    Disturbing, however, has been the Tar Heels' perimeter defense, especially as Tennessee cranked out 11 of 22 three-pointers in the second half. Still, the game was never in serious doubt.

    Despite his team's penchant for throttling teams before they seem to know what hit them, Williams remains concerned about his team's focus when it has a big lead – especially on the defensive end of the floor.

    "I was really frustrated with the way we played the last 20 minutes," Williams said.

    Smith and Chris Lofton led Tennessee (4-2) with 18 points each.

    Finally, Ty Lawson and Deon Thompson were told to hang up their headbands following the loss on Wednesday.

    "Coach said we were getting too cute out there," Terry said.

    Carolina returns home to face No. 4 Ohio State (4-0) on Wednesday at 9 p.m. as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

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