9) Ty Lawson vs. Rutgers – Lawson is difficult enough to control in transition just when his offense is clicking. But when he elevates his defensive pressure – as he did in Piscataway in December – the sophomore guard is a blowout creator. Lawson set a strong UNC defensive presence with four steals en route to a 19-point first half performance on 7-of-9 shooting (2-of-3 three-pointers) as the Tar Heels took a 47-26 lead at the break. He finished the night with a season-high 26 points, six rebounds, five assists and the aforementioned four steals.
8) Tyler Hansbrough vs. Duke – Rarely does a performance in a losing effort make this type of list, but as we've learned during the past three seasons, Hansbrough is anything but normal on the basketball court. With North Carolina's perimeter shooters connecting on a dismal 7-of-34 field goal attempts in the 89-78 loss to Duke on Feb. 6, the National Player of the Year did everything he could to keep his team in contention, tallying 28 points on 12-of-21 shooting and 18 rebounds.
7) UNC Defense vs. N.C. State (1st half) – North Carolina's defense served as a punch line for much of the early season, but in the Tar Heels' second ACC outing, Williams' squad provided the comedic smackdown to rival N.C. State on Jan. 12. North Carolina capitalized on eight blocks and a 31-17 rebounding advantage to hold the Wolfpack to 17.6 percent on 6-of-34 shooting en route to a 43-13 halftime lead. Those first 20 minutes included a 10-minute, 14-second drought for the team from Raleigh – a drought that ended with a standing ovation from the Smith Center crowd.
6) Danny Green vs. Washington State – If Tyler Hansbrough is the constant for the North Carolina basketball program, Danny Green represents the ultimate variable, because no one is ever sure exactly what to expect from the junior wing from New York. When the Tar Heels were trailing Washington State, 10-8, in the Sweet Sixteen with seven minutes already elapsed, Green swatted the ball out of Cougars guard Derrick Low's hands following a defensive rebound and quickly scored on a layup, igniting a 16-5 surge with 10 points of his own to turn the momentum in UNC's favor. He finished with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting (3-of-5 from long range), five rebounds and three steals.
5) Hansbrough vs. Florida State – If there was any question as to how Hansbrough would respond with Lawson out of the lineup due to an ankle sprain, the National Player of the Year answered the inquiry emphatically in Tallahassee on Feb. 3. Hansbrough missed his first five shots and struggled early in adjusting to Quentin Thomas' insertion at the point, but the junior All-American connected on five of his last nine shots and knocked down 12-of-14 free throw attempts to post 22 points and 21 rebounds in the overtime victory.
4) Marcus Ginyard vs. Virginia – Not all performances can be judged by the stat sheet. Consider that Marcus Ginyard had contemplated using crutches to alleviate the pain of a right ankle sprain and a nagging toe injury on the other foot less than 48 hours before the Feb. 12 contest at Virginia. When the junior wing decided to play just moments before the opening tip, he never expected to play 35 minutes with Thomas plagued with foul trouble for most of the game. His stats were mundane, at best – seven points, six rebounds, three assists. But Ginyard's toughness on that night allowed the Tar Heels to emerge victorious in a game that they had no right to win.
3) Green vs. Duke – As alluded to earlier in this list, Danny Green seems just as likely to make a boneheaded play as he is a brilliant one, so it should not be surprising that the junior's highlight in the season-finale victory – a transition slam over Greg Paulus – was a play that Roy Williams was not pleased with, in terms of execution. But North Carolina fans would be remiss if that dunk was all they remembered about Green's efforts on that night in Cameron Indoor. The New York native scored 18 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked seven shots, while his weakside defensive efforts frustrated Duke's dribble penetration during the second half.
2) Wayne Ellington vs. Clemson – Every once in a while, an individual player will single-handedly cradle his teammates and carry them to victory. It's rare, but it's also one of the greatest joys in watching sports. Ellington provided one of those moments in North Carolina's 90-88 overtime victory against Clemson to open the ACC schedule on Jan. 6.
In a desperate attempt to keep his team within striking distance, the sophomore shooting guard connected on five baskets in the final 20 minutes after the Tigers had extended their lead to four points or more. Ellington finished with a career-high 36 points, including 27 in the second half and in overtime, none bigger than the game-winning 3-pointer from the left wing with 0.4 seconds remaining. The Philadelphia product connected on 11-of-19 shots (5-of-8 from long range) and hit all nine of his free throw attempts, including four in overtime.
1) Hansbrough vs. Louisville – If there was one person that could possibly steal the top spot in this list from Ellington, it would be – go figure – Tyler Hansbrough. And while his numbers in the 83-73 victory over Louisville were not as impressive as his teammate's at Clemson, the stage was much grander, as the Tar Heels were battling for a spot in the Final Four. Hansbrough scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the second half, including 10 straight points when the Cardinals rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit to eventually tie the game at 59. For a young man with enough awards hardware to fill an oversized storage unit, this outing provided him with a signature NCAA Tournament performance and his first trip to the Final Four. The National Player of the Year finished the night with 28 points on 12-of-17 shooting, 13 rebounds and two steals.