If not for Rashad McCants, Hanson may have propelled UW to the Final Four. Instead it was UNC (31-4) cutting the Carrier Dome nets down and advancing to face Michigan State in a national semifinal with an 88-82 win over the Badgers.
Following a media timeout with two minutes, 40 seconds left to play, UNC freshman forward Marvin Williams knocked down a pair of free throws to give the Tar Heels a 76-73 edge.
At this juncture Hanson had hit 5 of 7 3-pointers, including 2 of 2 in the second half, all as the result of assists out of Wisconsin's basic offense.
So on the ensuing possession, the Badgers ran a set play for Hanson, running him off a screen at the top of key. McCants, a 6-4 swingman who was defending Hanson, thought he was caught.
"I definitely didn't anticipate," McCants said. "I was actually kind of dead on the play and I was beat because the play was really designed for [Hanson]. The way their offense was running the whole night, he really didn't have a designed play for him the whole night. He came off a flare screen, I got buried behind."
Somehow, someway, McCants made up the lost ground, leaping up and blocking a 3-pointer that could have tied the game.
"I happened to just use my speed and quickness to get out there and block it," he said.
Hanson's five made 3s had all been big plays that helped UW close UNC's lead. And all five came off assists. With UW trailing by 11 with seven minutes left in the first half, Hanson made his first triple of the game to close the lead to 30-22 off a Mike Wilkinson pass.
About a minute later Kammron Taylor found Hanson for another triple to make it 30-25 UNC.
After the Heels built a 35-27 lead, Hanson answered again, taking a pass from Sharif Chambliss and burying his third triple in less than three minutes. He finished 3 of 5 in the first half.
Hanson did not take a 3-pointer in the second half until midway through the period, this time taking a pass from Alando Tucker and knocking down the long-range shot to make it 66-64 UNC. Moments later Hanson drew a charge on David Noel, giving UW possession with a chance to tie, but Taylor missed a jumper.
After a pair of Sean May free throws made it 68-64, Hanson answered yet again, off another Wilkinson assist, to close the lead to one with less than nine minutes on the clock.
McCants, however, thwarted Hanson's next chance.
"That's a big play of the game," Hanson said. "There are a lot of different things that you go back and they are going to run through your head. I saw him go under the screen and I saw I had an opening. But he's athletic and quick. He closed out pretty quickly."
A few possession later, after Tucker's thrilling alley-oop dunk narrowed UNC's lead to 78-75, it was McCants who made a triple of his own to make it 81-75 Heels.
Still, the Badgers had a chance when Taylor made a triple to close it to 81-78 with 56 seconds left.
"I was thinking that we could win the game," Taylor said. "You never think you are going to lose a game until that horn sounds."
With six free throws from Raymond Felton and one from McCants, though, UNC outscored UW 7-4 to close out the game.