- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2008

Even with a hobbled Tyler Hansbrough, top-ranked North Carolina breezed through the EA Sports Maui Invitational.

No wonder the Tar Heels are a unanimous No. 1.

Playing only his third game this season because of leg injuries, Hansbrough scored 34 points to lead North Carolina past No. 8 Notre Dame 102-87 Wednesday night in the championship game at Lahaina, Hawaii.

“To get a couple under my belt made me feel better about my game,” Hansbrough said. “I still feel out of shape, but that will come as I play.”

The reigning national player of the year, Hansbrough looked like his old self in helping the Tar Heels (6-0) win their third title in the 25 years of this tournament _ second only to Duke’s four.

Hansbrough, who returned for his senior year, went 13-for-19 from the field. He hit his shots down low, threw down dunks and even made a 3-pointer. He grabbed five rebounds and blocked two shots, including one by Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody _ like Hansbrough a preseason All-America.

“He’s about 75 percent but he played better than that tonight. He was really fired up,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “It’s been tearing at him not to be able to play.”

In other Top 25 games Tuesday, it was: No. 6 Texas 70, Oregon 57; No. 10 Purdue 71, Boston College 64; and No. 11 Oklahoma 77, UAB 67.

It wasn’t all Hansbrough for North Carolina, however.

Point guard Ty Lawson had too much speed in the open court for the Fighting Irish (4-1) and finished with 22 points and 11 assists. He was selected tournament MVP after totaling 22 assists against two turnovers in the three games.

“It was just basically my teammates making shots for me and taking care of the ball, not putting it in jeopardy,” Lawson said. “That’s what I’ve been doing and I’m playing real well right now.”

Deon Thompson added 19 points and 13 rebounds for the Tar Heels, who had a 44-36 rebound advantage and shot 55.7 percent from the field.

Harangody, who had to cover and be covered by Hansbrough despite being sick all day, had 13 points and seven rebounds.

“I feel for him a little bit,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “We had him on IV. He had flu symptoms, upset stomach, fever. He didn’t go to shootaround. He gave us everything he had. He feels really bad that he let everybody down but I told him, `We wouldn’t be playing tonight without you. We rode you pretty hard.’”

Kyle McAlarney picked up the slack, scoring a career-high 39 points on a wild shooting show that saw him finish 10-of-18 from behind the arc. He broke his own school record of nine 3s set last season.

“That was as good an exhibition of shooting the basketball as I’ve ever seen,” Williams said.

Hansbrough missed three weeks of practice and the first two games of the season as he recovered from a stress reaction in his right shin. He had 13 points in 25 minutes last week against UC Santa Barbara but he tweaked his left ankle at the end of that game and didn’t play in the Tar Heels’ 115-70 first-round win over Chaminade.

He had 16 points in 19 minutes in the semifinal win over Oregon, and Williams said the decision on whether he would play against Notre Dame wouldn’t be made until he saw if Hansbrough had any pain during warmups.

“Coming in, I wasn’t really sure I would play. I wanted to loosen it up a little bit,” Hansbrough said. “I went over to Coach and told him I was ready to go, but I wasn’t really sure until warmups.”

Then came the game.

“They really come at you with a lot of guys. It’s a heck of a basketball team,” Brey said. “Lawson did a great job in transition and then we were digging out of a hole the whole game.”

No. 6 Texas 70, Oregon 57

At Lahaina, Hawaii, Damion James had 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead Texas over Oregon in the third-place game at the EA Sports Maui Invitational.

The Longhorns (4-1) lost 81-80 to Notre Dame in the semifinals, a game that ended with A.J. Abrams’ shot from beyond halfcourt bouncing off the front of the rim. The third-place finish matched their best in three appearances in the Maui Invitational.

Instead of playing catch-up as they did in the loss to the Fighting Irish, Texas took command this time with a 21-1 run during which Oregon (3-3) couldn’t make a shot from the field and barely connected from the free throw line. The versatile James, who was 9-of-11 from the floor, scored the last seven points of the spurt.

Justin Mason added 18 points for the Longhorns and Gary Johnson had 12 points and eight rebounds.

No. 10 Purdue 71, Boston College 64

At New York, E’Twaun Moore scored 19 points and Purdue withstood a late rally to beat Boston College in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off.

Purdue will play No. 11 Oklahoma for the championship on Friday.

JaJuan Johnson added 12 points, Keaton Grant had 11 and Robbie Hummel 10 for the Boilermakers (5-0), who led by 19 with about 6 1/2 minutes left before the Eagles started whittling the lead. Tyrese Rice had 17 points for Boston College (3-2).

No. 11 Oklahoma 77, UAB 67

At New York, Blake Griffin scored 32 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to help Oklahoma beat Alabama-Birmingham in the other NIT Season-Tip Off semifinal at Madison Square Garden.

Trailing 62-60 with 5:09 left in a back-and-forth game, Oklahoma (5-0) closed with a 17-5 run. Griffin scored five points during the spurt and keyed a three-point play by Austin Johnson by stealing the ball and pitching it ahead to his teammate on a fast break. That gave Oklahoma a 67-62 lead with 4:01 left, and the Sooners cruised from there.

Paul Delaney III scored 23 points to lead UAB (4-1), which was looking to match the school record for consecutive wins to start a season set by the 1983-84 team.

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