CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina junior forward Tyler Hansbrough wasn't the first option for a last-second, game-winning shot attempt against Virginia Tech in Saturday's ACC tournament semifinal.
Shoot. He wasn't even the second option.
But he simply turned out to be the best one.
Hansbrough caught the ball on a bounce after Ty Lawson's driving one-hander caromed off the rim and was tipped away from a pair of Hokies. Hansbrough then coolly squared up and hit a 12-footer from the baseline with 0.8 seconds left for a dramatic 68-66 win before a largely Tar Heel crowd among the 20,035 fans at the Charlotte Bobcats Arena.
"That's why he's the (ACC) player of the year," said a disappointed Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg.
"When he goes up to shoot it, I feel good," added UNC coach Roy Williams. "I think he's going to make everything."
Hansbrough wasn't perfect in scoring 26, but certainly timely as the top-seeded and top-ranked Tar Heels (31-2) will look for their 17th league tournament title in today's finale against Clemson.
With the game tied and 21 seconds left, the Tar Heels elected to have Lawson, still trying to regain his form after spraining his left ankle last month against Florida State, drive to the basket.
Sophomore guard Wayne Ellington, who had hit a pair of clutch 3-pointers in the final minutes to pull his team even, was supposed to run off a Hansbrough screen at the top of the key as a possibility for Lawson to find.
"I just ran over to where Ty was going to shoot and, luckily, the ball had a good roll out to me and I just caught it and let it fly," Hansbrough said. "I'm pretty glad it went in."
The No. 4-seeded Hokies (19-13) never got off a miracle shot as their inbounds pass was deflected, spoiling a stellar performance. They held the high-powered Heels to their second-lowest total (they scored 65 in a win at Ohio State) on 40 percent shooting.
"I couldn't be more proud of our basketball team," said Greenberg, who must wait to see if his young team will receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. "If anyone watched that game that knows anything about basketball, if you don't think that this team is one of the top 65 teams in the country, you're certifiably insane because I don't know who else could come into this environment and basically play a road game & and play those guys the way we just played them."
Brian Landman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3347.