DETROIT (AP) – The horn had barely sounded when Danny Green ran onto the court waving a towel, followed closely by Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and the rest of their North Carolina teammates. They ran to midcourt and mobbed each other while jumping around on the Final Four logo.

This is the moment they came back to school for, the chance to storm the court with confetti and streamers drifting down from the roof of cavernous Ford Field. Now, after Monday night’s 89-72 win over Michigan State, North Carolina’s quartet who all considered a jump to the NBA as underclassmen last year have accomplished what they came back to school to do.

They’ve won the program’s fifth NCAA championship.

Hansbrough finished with 18 points, the final game of a career in which he set the Atlantic Coast Conference’s scoring record and the storied program’s rebounding mark.

Lawson had 21 points and a championship game-record eight steals, while Ellington scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half to help the Tar Heels to a commanding lead on the way to being named the Final Four’s most outstanding player. Green had just six points before fouling out with 1:41 to play.

Still, the statistics didn’t matter. Not to a group that had carried the Tar Heels to a regional championship game in 2007 and a Final Four last season only to fall short each time in incredibly frustrating fashion.

This time, the experience of those failures carried them through, both when they roared out of the gate to take a double-digit lead in the first 4 minutes and when they had to make enough plays to turn away the Spartans’ desperate but ultimately futile comeback attempts.

The moment was particularly sweet for Hansbrough, who has talked openly about how badly he wanted to win a championship from the moment he arrived in Chapel Hill in 2005. He became one of the few four-year stars seemingly left in the college game and the first returning AP player of the year since Shaquille O’Neal in 1991.

Lawson, Ellington and Green all opted to enter the NBA draft so that they could work out for teams. But coach Roy Williams said none of them had the guaranteed draft position they wanted – he said Ellington and Green didn’t figure to be first-round picks – so they opted to come back for another push.

It paid off Monday night, when they completed a dominating run through the NCAA tournament in which they won every game by at least 12 points. They were the first team to win every game by double figures on the way to the title since Duke in 2001.

North Carolina rolled to a 15-5 lead in the early minutes, then stretched that margin to as many as 24 points in the first half before taking a 55-34 lead into the break. And each time Michigan State tried to rally in the second half, the Tar Heels had an answer.

When the Spartans closed to within 68-53, Lawson penetrated through the defense and found Hansbrough for a layup with about 9 minutes left. When Michigan State clawed even closer to 78-65, Lawson blew by his defender and made a double-pump layup in the final seconds of the shot clock. It was as close as the Spartans would get.


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