Tyler Hansbrough comes through as No. 1 Tar Heels hold off BYU

Tyler Hansbrough comes through as No. 1 Tar Heels hold off BYU



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By GREG BEACHAM AP Sports Writer

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Top-ranked North Carolina needed a fine finish to avoid becoming the second Eastern power in two days to get hustled out of Vegas by Brigham Young.

Tyler Hansbrough scored 21 points, Wayne Ellington hit a key 3-pointer with 2:06 left and the Tar Heels made a late surge for a 73-63 victory over BYU on Saturday night in the final of the Las Vegas Invitational.

Ellington scored 15 points and Danny Green added 14 for North Carolina, which barely got off to its first 5-0 start since coach Roy Williams' first season in 2003-04. The Tar Heels played most of the night without injured point guard Ty Lawson, but finally pushed ahead for good when BYU's outside shooting acumen disappeared in the final minutes.

Jonathan Tavernari scored 18 points on six 3-pointers for the Cougars (5-1), who knocked off No. 6 Louisville on Friday night with the tremendous inside-outside punch of Tavernari and Trent Plaisted, who had 24 points and 17 rebounds against the Tar Heels.

BYU opened the second half with a 13-4 run, taking the lead on Tavernari's sixth 3-pointer with 16 minutes to play. The schools traded the lead down the stretch, but Hansbrough and Ellington scored big baskets while the Tar Heels' defense held BYU without a point for 3:41 between scores by Plaisted.

North Carolina finished the game on an 11-2 run. BYU missed six of its seven shots in the final 2:50, with its only points on the final dunk by Plaisted, who scored 18 points after halftime. Tavernari launched 16 3-pointers, two shy of the BYU record, but went scoreless in the final 16 minutes.

Lawson played just two minutes in the first half before limping off with an apparent right ankle injury. Lawson, who scored a career-high 23 points against Old Dominion on Friday, had his ankle retaped on the bench, but didn't come back in the game.

BYU dropped to 0-4 against top-ranked teams in its first meeting with a No. 1 since taking on Duke in 1992. But the weekend was a rollicking success for the Cougars, with a strong effort against North Carolina after taking out Louisville -- the highest-ranked team beaten by the Cougars in nearly 42 years.

Hansbrough and Thompson led North Carolina to an early 10-point lead that would have been even larger without Tavernari's three 3-pointers in the first seven minutes. The Brazilian sophomore hit another moments later, and his fifth at the halftime buzzer cut the Tar Heels' lead to 38-31.

Both schools' standout centers came through with remarkable efforts. Hansbrough and Plaisted weren't often matched against each other, but Plaisted apparently knocked out one of Hansbrough's contact lenses with a swat across the face 13 minutes into the first half.

Though Provo is just six hours away up the I-15, BYU's fans were well outnumbered by the powder blue-clad Carolina faithful enjoying the Heels' first-ever trip to Las Vegas.

The fans got a splendid Sin City experience during the holiday weekend, complete with the Orleans' heavily tattooed arena waitresses and the Marilyn Monroe impersonator who sang the national anthem.

The Tar Heels are two games into a six-game road stretch, the longest of Williams' coaching career at Kansas or North Carolina. They'll visit Ohio State and Kentucky next week.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-11-24-07 2246MST

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