Tar Heels continue championship defense against pesky Patriots
(Sports Network) – Fresh off their first-ever NCAA Tournament victory, the
11th-seeded George Mason Patriots now battle the defending national champion
North Carolina Tar Heels in second-round action from Dayton Arena. After
failing three previous times to collect a win in the NCAA Tournament, the
Patriots finally broke through, defeating Michigan State, 75-65, on
Friday. The Patriots captured the Colonial Athletic Association regular-
season title this year, and own an impressive 24-7 mark. Unfortunately,
the team was bounced from the CAA tourney with a semifinal-round loss to
Hofstra, but despite the setback, George Mason became just the second
team in CAA history to be selected to the “Big Dance” with an at-large
The Tar Heels battled their way through their first-round matchup with
Murray State, slipping by the Racers, 69-65. It was the 12th victory in
the last 14 games for UNC. Unlike George Mason, North Carolina has a
tremendous resume’ in college basketball, as the team is in the midst of
its 38th overall NCAA Tournament appearance, while sitting just one win shy
of 90 victories in the event. UNC owns a stellar 23-7 record, which
includes a 12-4 mark in ACC play. The team finished two games behind Duke in
the conference standings, and although the Tar Heels narrowly fell to Boston
College in the league tournament, they still earned a three seed in this
tourney. This bout marks just the second-ever meeting between these two
schools on the hardwood. In the only other matchup, North Carolina dismantled
George Mason, 115-81, back in 2003.
The Patriots proved to foes in the CAA this year that they could beat you at
both ends of the floor, but the question coming into this tournament was can
the Patriots continue to be solid against strong opponents? After watching
George Mason play Michigan State it is obvious that the squad belongs. In the
10-point victory over the Spartans, the Patriots shot a sizzling 59.2 percent
from the field, and although the team was dreadful from the foul line (12-
of-26), it made up for its short comings by dominating the glass, 40-24.
Folarin Campbell led the way with 21 points and seven assists, while Will
Thomas posted a double-double consisting of 18 points and 14 boards. Jai Lewis
and Lamar Butler both chipped in 13 points in the win.
GMU currently has five players averaging double digits in the scoring column,
with Lewis leading the way at 14 ppg, complementing his 7.9 rpg perfectly.
Tony Skinn and Thomas have also made solid contributions, with Skinn
averaging 12.8 ppg and Thomas pitching in with 11.8 ppg and 7.1 rpg. Butler
and Campbell round out the group with 11.5 and 10.6 ppg, respectively, with
Campbell also handing out 110 assists.
The Tar Heels have been an offensive force this season, averaging 80.0 ppg
while shooting 48.1 percent from the floor. UNC is connecting on 37.8 percent
from behind the arc, and the team has dominated the glass to the tune of a
+8.3 rebounding margin. The Heels’ offensive success has continued here in the
NCAA Tournament, as they shot 45.8 percent from the floor and an impressive
20-of-25 from the foul line in their first-round win over Murray State. UNC
committed 17 turnovers in the win, but won the battle on the boards, 37-33.
The ACC Freshman of the Year, Tyler Hansbrough poured in 24 points and
collected nine rebounds to lead the Tar Heels, while Danny Graves finished
with 15 points. Reyshawn Terry also had a solid performance, scoring nine
points while coming down with nine rebounds.
On the season, Hansbrough is averaging 19.2 ppg and 7.4 rpg. Because of his
tremendous play throughout the year, Hansbrough became just the sixth
freshman in ACC history to be selected to the All-ACC First Team, and the
first-ever to make the squad unanimously. Terry and David Noel have also made
solid contributions this year, as Terry is posting 14.5, while Noel is
chipping in 12.6 ppg to go along with 103 assists and 89 steals.