The Washington Times - April 6, 2009, 11:02PM


DETROIT — This has the look of a game every bit as ugly as the teams’ first meeting back in December.


Of course, it wasn’t supposed to be that way, and understandably so.

But North Carolina is playing well. Extremely well. So well, in fact, that pretty much no one in the country would have a prayer of being within two possessions of them (and probably three) at this stage. North Carolina’s 55 points in the first half is a title game record.

Three keys for the Tar Heels so far:

* The backcourt, which is the reason they advanced further than the last three years, is at it again. Ty Lawson had five steals in the first 13 minutes, and Wayne Ellington has gone off for 17 points even though Michigan State put Travis Walton on him in the early stages tonight.

* The secondary frontcourt options have been just as dangerous as Tyler Hansbrough (11 points). Deon Thompson has nine points and Ed Davis has seven points and five rebounds, and it might be the best both have played in the same game in a long while.

* Carolina’s hit some outside shots. That’s all that’s really necessary. If the Tar Heels avoid an utter debacle from the perimeter, they’re all right. Ellington’s connected from long range a few times, including a dagger to make it 43-20 to prompt a Tom Izzo timeout.

Meanwhile, Michigan State has not shot well, committed an double-digit turnovers and hasn’t defended with its usual gusto. That’s spelled doom for the Spartans, and there’s still 20 minutes left to endure — and a rerun of that 98-63 score in the first meeting is far from impossible.

—- Patrick Stevens