DETROIT // North Carolina's cast of future NBA players overwhelmed Michigan State 89-72 in the final of the NCAA Tournament, giving the Tar Heels their fifth national championship and first since 2005. North Carolina raced to a 34-11 lead in the first 10 minutes, silencing many of the 73,000 in Ford Field that had been pleading for the home-state Spartans to make a run.
"We got off to a start where we looked either a little bit shell-shocked or a little bit worn down," conceded the Spartans coach Tom Izzo. "You can't do that against a good team." Wayne Ellington, the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, had 17 of his 19 points by half-time when the Tar Heels held a commanding 55-34 lead and essentially won the game. "We came out strong," said the Tar Heels forward Tyler Hansbrough. "We knew there was going to be a big crowd there for them and we wanted to take them out of it early."
Michigan State, who never cut the lead below 13 after half-time, saw their Bosnian-born centre Goran Suton score 17 points. The decision by North Carolina's Ellington, Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Danny Green not to turn professional after last year's bitterly disappointing semi-final loss to Kansas paid off. Lawson recorded a team-best 21 points and a championship-game record eight steals. "I'm so proud of this team," said the Tar Heels coach Roy Williams. "People anointed us before the year that you were going to go undefeated, which I thought was silly at the time.
"Then we lost two games and everybody jumped off the ship." The victory put an exclamation point on a stunning tournament streak by the Tar Heels, who won each of their six games by a double-digit margin. "Every time we made a decent run, [or] our crowd got into it, they gave the ball to Lawson or Hansbrough and they made a great play," said the Spartans guard Travis Walton. "That's why they won the national championship, because they are a great team and they can stop your runs."
Michigan State's East Lansing campus is just 145km from Detroit and the Spartans were trying to become the first school since University of California, Los Angeles in 1975 to win the title in their home state. The Spartans had carried the dreams of an economically ravaged city desperately searching for a ray of sunshine but were unable to finish their impressive tournament run. "As I walked off the floor, I told Hansbrough that it was really nice to see a bunch of guys that stayed in school and put winning above everything else," said Izzo.
"Even though we did have a cause they had a cause, too, and I was pretty impressed by that." * Reuters