DETROIT — There was a team of destiny out there, all right. It’s the North Carolina Tar Heels, and the final chapter of their story was about as heartwarming as a demolition derby.
Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and North Carolina won a national championship a season or more in the making, stomping out Michigan State’s inspirational run Monday night with an 89-72 blowout that wasn’t even that close.
Hansbrough scored 18 points, Wayne Ellington had 19 and Lawson led all scorers with 21 and also had a record eight steals — and now they and Danny Green can all head to the NBA feeling good about their decision to return to school to bring home Carolina’s fifth championship, and the second for coach Roy Williams.
All those upperclassmen, save Hansbrough, came back in part because their draft prospects didn’t look so good. They also didn’t want their college careers to end on last year’s embarrassing loss to Kansas in the Final Four. That was a dud of a game in which they trailed 40-12 in the first half.
This time, North Carolina led 36-13 around the time “Dancing With The Stars” was starting on another network. At least nobody knew how that one was going to end.
“We’ve been working so hard since last year when we fell short,” said Ellington, named most outstanding player. “I wanted to redeem myself. We worked so hard.”
Michigan State (31-7) simply never got any momentum. From the start, it was clear there was no way Carolina was losing control of this one, no chance for the Spartans to serve up that definitive ray of sunshine and warm-and-fuzzy smile for a state that’s been battered by the ailing economy.
The Tar Heels (34-4) were up 55-34 at halftime, breaking a 42-year-old title-game record for biggest lead at the break and setting the mark for most points at the half.
“We handled injuries, handled some losses” this season, Williams said. “The youngsters standing behind me are great, great young men. I’m the luckiest coach in America, I can tell you that.”
This collection of NBA talent was too, too much from wire to wire, from the start of the tournament, to the very end.
Carolina won every game by double digits, something that hasn’t happened since Duke did it in 2001.
Lots of basketball fans saw this coming, including America’s No. 1 Hoopster-in-Chief.
Yes, President Barack Obama picked the Tar Heels to take it all in his much-publicized bracket.
Magic Johnson, Michigan State’s Spartan-in-Chief, joined Larry Bird at centre court to present the game ball, a tribute to the 30-year anniversary of their historic matchup and Michigan State’s first title.
From there, it was pretty much all “Showtime,” all the time — but not for Michigan State. Heck, Magic didn’t even stick around for the end of the game. He was spotted walking up the tunnel with 3 1/2 minutes left.
Spartans coach Tom Izzo tried to call a timeout to stop the onslaught with 6:45 left in the first half. His team came out and promptly turned it over — one of 14 in the first half, compared to only 12 baskets.
Goran Suton led the Spartans with 17 points, and Kalin Lucas, the Big Ten player of the year, had 14 — most scored once the game was out of hand, which was very early in this one. Michigan State pulled within 13 a couple times late in the second half, and the crowd of 72,922 — mostly pulling for the Spartans — tried to make some noise.
But for most of the game, cavernous Ford Field had the atmosphere of a Lions game, save the few thousand Tar Heel fans whose Carolina Blue team put in a much better blue-collar effort than the team that was supposed to pride itself on that.
As for that 98-63 beatdown Carolina put on Michigan State in this same building back on Dec. 3? No fluke. In fact, Detroit might want to give Ford Field a nice, long break. The Lions went 0-16 here last season, and there was no halt to the suffering on this night.