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Monday, March 30, 2009

Tar Heels oust Sooners, advance to Final Four

Posted by on Mon, Mar 30, 2009 at 4:01 PM

TV/ CBS—It was billed as a clash of the titans between former and present national players of the year Tyler Hansbrough and Blake Griffin, but it was North Carolina's team that proved dominant.

In Sunday's Elite Eight mach-up against Oklahoma, the Tar Heels ran out to an early lead and never looked back, beating the Sooners 72-60 and advancing to their second consecutive Final Four.

And Carolina did that despite little help from Hansbrough. Appearing somewhat over-excited throughout the game — including on one comically failed dunk attempt in the second half when he flirted clumsily with the physically impossible — Hansbrough was saddled by foul trouble and finished with only eight points and six rebounds.

Griffin, meanwhile, received special treatment from UNC's defense yet still managed 23 points and 16 boards. Many experts predict that he'll become the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft this summer, and what likely was his final college game surely didn't damage his reputation.

The fizzled Griffin/Hansbrough showdown aside, though, it was Danny Green and Ty Lawson who proved decisive. Shaking off a horrid weekend at the ACC Tournament, Green continues to shine and notched 18 points on an efficient 6-for-9 field goals. Lawson enjoyed another huge outing and arguably has been the best player in the tournament, finishing with a total of 19 points, five rebounds, five assists, three steals and only one turnover.

As a team, the Heels shot 51 percent from the field, including 62 percent in a dazzling second half. Their defense also continues to be more intense on the perimeter, and at least partially as a result Oklahoma shot only 2-for-19 from three-point range.

Carolina will play Villanova on Saturday night with something to prove. Win or lose, the Heels will try to erase the horrific memories from last year's Final Four disaster against Kansas, when the Jayhawks jumped out to a surreal 40-12 lead.

The opportunity this year will be the last for this core group of players, and Carolina appears to be playing its best basketball of the season.

To review the UNC/Oklahoma box score, click here.

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