Friday , Mar , 23 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Tar Heels battle Trojans in East Regional semifinals

East Rutherford, NJ (Sports Network) – The top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels
have reached the “Sweet 16” as expected, and they will battle the fifth-seeded
USC Trojans for the right to advance to the “Elite Eight”. Awaiting the
winner of this game is a meeting with either second-seeded Georgetown or
sixth-seeded Vanderbilt.

USC has been one of the most impressive teams in the tournament thus far,
as it beat Arkansas by 17 points in the first round before crushing Texas by
19 in round two. The Trojans have won a school-record 25 games this season
and are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002 and 13th
showing overall. The club is 11-14 all-time in this event, and it will
compete in the round of 16 for the first time since 2001 and second time
since 1979.

North Carolina cruised by Eastern Kentucky in the first round, and while
Michigan State put up a serious fight in the second round, the Heels pulled
away down the stretch for an 81-67 triumph. They won both the ACC regular
season and tournament titles this year, and they are a No. 1 seed for the
11th time overall and eighth in the last 17 years. UNC, which is 91-37 all-time
in the “Big Dance”, has won the national championship four times, and the
team has made 39 appearances in the tourney, second only to Kentucky in that

UNC holds a 7-1 series lead over USC, but the Trojans did win the most recent
meeting by a score of 74-59 last season

All five starters scored in double figures for USC in the victory over Texas in
the second round. Nick Young led the way as usual with 22 points, and Daniel
Hackett came through with 20 points. Freshman forward Taj Gibson posted 17
points and 10 rebounds, while Lodrick Stewart and Gabe Pruitt finished with 10
points apiece. The Trojans entered the game as slight underdogs, as Texas
possesses arguably the best player in the nation in freshman standout Kevin
Durant. Although Durant did post 30 points and nine rebounds, USC limited the
Longhorns to 37.5 percent shooting from the floor. A 27-13 edge in points from
the foul line also played a major role in the victory for the Trojans. In the
first-round win over Arkansas, Young scored 20 points. Gibson netted 18 points
in that clash, and Pruitt added 11 points. Young remains one of the most
underrated players in the nation, as he is averaging 17.6 ppg this season on
52.7 percent shooting from the field, including 45.3 percent efficiency from
three-point range.

North Carolina sophomore forward Tyler Hansbrough is one of the four finalists
for the Naismith National Player of the Year Award. The standout, who suffered
a broken nose in the regular season finale against Duke, wore a protective mask
throughout the ACC Tournament and in the first game of the NCAA Tournament.
Hansbrough found the mask to be a major distraction though, and he decided to
ditch it for the Michigan State game in round two. The result was one of the
best performances we have seen by any player through the first two rounds of
this year’s tourney, as Hansbrough exploded for 33 points and nine rebounds.
Rookie point guard Ty Lawson added 20 points and eight assists with only one
turnover, and Reyshawn Terry provided 14 points for the Heels. Defensively, UNC
limited the Spartans to 37.3 percent shooting from the floor. Hansbrough is
averaging 18.6 ppg and 7.9 rpg this season, and he gets plenty of help from a
trio of freshmen, as Brandan Wright (14.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Wayne Ellington (11.9
ppg) and Lawson (10.5 ppg, 5.6 apg) are all outstanding contributors.