Hansbrough leads Heels past Racers

Saturday, March 18, 2006

DAYTON, Ohio -- A whole new Carolina cast looked nothing like defending champs the first time out in the NCAA tournament.

Murray State, a team with all of one NCAA victory in its history, took third-seeded North Carolina down to the closing seconds Friday night before the Tar Heels pulled out a 69-65 first-round victory.

Underscoring how much North Carolina (23-7) has changed in a year: Four freshmen scored the Tar Heels' final 29 points. Tyler Hansbrough led the way with 24 overall, his 14th 20-point game -- a Carolina freshman record.

It wasn't secure until Marcus Ginyard -- yes, another freshman -- made two free throws with 16.5 seconds left for a 69-65 lead.

The Tar Heels play George Mason in the second round of the Washington Regional.

Fourteenth-seeded Murray State (24-7) was trying to become the first team in 10 years to knock out a defending champion in the first round. The last champ to make such an early exit was UCLA, which was seeded fourth when it lost to Princeton 43-41 in 1996.

Heading into the first round, coach Roy Williams fretted that his team would have that wide-eyed look when it took the floor. He was right. The Tar Heels trailed 31-30 at halftime.

Murray State's horrible history at tournament time made it all the more surprising. The Ohio Valley champions are 1-12 in NCAA play, and haven't won a game since their 1988 upset of North Carolina State.

More daunting, their conference had lost 16 straight games in the tournament. Now make that 17 in a row.

Trey Pearson led Murray State with 18 points, but missed a critical 3-point attempt in the closing seconds.

Williams' Kansas and North Carolina teams now have won at least one game in the last 17 NCAA tournaments, matching Carolina's Dean Smith for the record. This one was played in an arena where he suffered one of his most crushing NCAA tournament losses.

Williams and top-seeded Kansas was beaten by a Texas-El Paso 66-60 in the second round in 1992, when many thought the Jayhawks could win a national title.

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