Commentary

Instant Analysis: Michigan State-UNC

Originally Published: April 6, 2009
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

DETROIT -- ESPN.com provides instant analysis from Monday night's NCAA championship game between Michigan State and North Carolina at Ford Field.

The Tar Heels won their fifth national championship by blasting the Spartans 89-72 in front of a crowd of 72,922, the largest to ever watch an NCAA tournament game.

HOW THE GAME WAS WON: The Tar Heels were a unanimous selection for No. 1 in the preseason ESPN/USA Today coaches poll and were a popular favorite to win the national championship. The Tar Heels looked truly unbeatable twice this season, first when they routed Michigan State 98-63 at Ford Field on Dec. 3 and against the Spartans again on Monday night.

North Carolina simply had too much balance and firepower for the Spartans. Guard Wayne Ellington and forward Danny Green knocked down 3-pointers early in the game, and UNC kept going to forwards Tyler Hansbrough, Deon Thompson and Ed Davis in the paint. UNC led by 21 points at halftime -- the largest lead at the half of a national championship game -- and the Spartans never got closer than 13 points the rest of the way.

TURNING POINT: The Tar Heels won the game early in the first half, and really spent the last 30 minutes trying to protect their sizable lead. Michigan State pulled to within 62-46 with about 12½ minutes to play, and the pro-MSU crowd started to get back into the game. But then Green made a 3-pointer from the right corner to put the Tar Heels back in front by 19. It really seemed like a dagger that took the crowd -- and the Spartans -- out of the game for good.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: You could go with Ellington or point guard Ty Lawson as UNC's biggest performer on Monday night. Ellington scored 19 points and went 3-for-3 on 3-pointers. But Lawson was simply terrific, helping the Tar Heels control the game's tempo from the start.

Lawson, a junior from Clinton, Md., scored a game-high 21 points with six assists and four rebounds. He also set an NCAA championship game record with eight steals. Lawson broke the former steals record of seven, set by Duke's Tommy Amaker against Louisville in 1986 and Oklahoma's Mookie Blaylock against Kansas in 1988. His eight steals also tie the record for any NCAA tournament game.

PLAYER OF THE GAME II: Hansbrough, the Tar Heels' four-time All-American, scored 18 points with seven rebounds. He shot 6-for-14 from the floor and made 6 of 10 foul shots. After winning a national championship as a senior, Hansbrough will now truly be remembered as one of college basketball's greatest players.

Hansbrough finished fourth in career scoring in the NCAA tournament with 325 points. He passed Michigan's Glen Rice and Cincinnati's Oscar Robertson on Monday night. Hansbrough, Green and the rest of UNC's senior class finished with 124 victories, the most by a four-year class in UNC history.

STAT OF THE GAME: The Spartans had 21 turnovers in the game, and the Tar Heels converted them into 25 points. You simply can't make that many mistakes against a team like UNC and expect to win the game.

DISAPPEARING ACT: After breaking out of a monthlong slumber to score 18 points with nine rebounds against Connecticut in the national semifinals, Michigan State forward Raymar Morgan pulled another disappearing act against UNC. He scored only four points on 1-for-2 shooting and was never much of a factor. He reinjured his broken nose during the first half and lay on the court for several minutes.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Ellington was named the Final Four's most outstanding player. Lawson and Hansbrough joined him on the all-Final Four team, along with Michigan State guard Kalin Lucas and forward Goran Suton.

BIG CROWD: The finals crowd of 72,922 at Ford Field is the second-largest to ever watch a college basketball game. A crowd of 78,129 watched Michigan State play Kentucky at this very venue on Dec. 13, 2003. Tonight's crowd is also the largest to watch an NCAA tournament game or session, beating the previous record of 72,456 set here for Saturday night's national semifinals. Ford Field drew a two-day crowd of 145,378, the biggest in Final Four history.

RARE AIR FOR WILLIAMS: UNC coach Roy Williams became only the 13th head coach in NCAA history to win multiple national titles. He is only the fourth active coach to win multiple titles -- Duke's Mike Krzyzewski (three), Connecticut's Jim Calhoun (two) and Florida's Billy Donovan (two) are the others.

HALFTIME ANALYSIS: The Tar Heels had a 55-34 lead at the half and seemed to be well on their way to winning their fifth national championship.

HOW THE HALF WAS WON: The first half looked eerily similar to North Carolina's 98-63 rout of the Spartans in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in this same building back on Dec. 3.

The Tar Heels just appear to be that much better than Michigan State. UNC carved through MSU's defense, shooting 52.9 percent from the floor and 44.4 percent on 3-pointers. UNC turned the ball over four times in the first 20 minutes and was very efficient in its half-court sets.

UNC's 55 points in the first half were the most ever scored in a half in NCAA championship game history.

TURNING POINT: Michigan State took a 3-2 lead 50 seconds into the half, and then it was all Tar Heels for the next 19:10. UNC led 8-5 and then went on a 14-2 run to take a 22-7 lead with about 14 minutes to go. The Spartans were never really close after that.

PLAYER OF THE HALF: UNC coach Roy Williams believed junior guard Wayne Ellington needed a big weekend at the Final Four to improve his stock with NBA scouts. Mission accomplished, to say the least.

After scoring 20 points and grabbing nine rebounds against Villanova in Saturday night's national semifinals, Ellington lit up MSU for 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting in the first half -- including 3-for-3 on 3-pointers.

Much of Ellington's damage came against Spartans senior Travis Walton, the Big Ten defensive player of the year, who locked down Louisville's Terrence Williams and Connecticut's A.J. Price earlier in the NCAA tournament.

PLAYER OF THE HALF II: Four-time All-American Tyler Hansbrough scored 11 points and grabbed two rebounds for the Tar Heels, but they got an unexpected contribution from junior forward Deon Thompson. He had nine points on 3-for-6 shooting and grabbed three rebounds.

STAT OF THE HALF: The Spartans had 14 turnovers in the first half, and the Tar Heels converted the miscues into 17 points.

STAT OF THE HALF II: The Tar Heels outscored the Spartans 16-6 in the paint. Along with Hansbrough and Thompson, the Tar Heels are getting a nice effort from freshman forward Ed Davis, who scored seven points with five rebounds in the first half.

WHAT NORTH CAROLINA HAS TO DO TO WIN:
1. Keep playing the way it's playing. Michigan State can't slow the Tar Heels down.
2. Make its foul shots. After missing 15 free throws against Villanova in the national semifinals, the Tar Heels went 15-for-19 from the foul line in the first half.
3. Keep Danny Green out of foul trouble. Green picked up two early fouls and then a third in the first half. He scored only three points and needs to be more involved in the second half.

WHAT MICHIGAN STATE HAS TO DO TO WIN:
1. Keep its composure. This certainly wasn't the start MSU wanted against UNC, after losing so badly to the Tar Heels back in December. The Spartans will have a tough time getting back into the game if they don't remain confident.
2. Keep Korie Lucious in the game. Izzo might have waited too long to put the freshman into the game in the first half. He quickly knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to give the Spartans a chance.
3. Take better care of the basketball. The Spartans aren't going to beat anyone when they turn the ball over 14 times in the first half.

Mark Schlabach covers college basketball and college football for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

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