No. 1 North Carolina Beats Rutgers 93-71

Monday, December 17th 2007, 7:17 am
By: News On 6

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) _ Highly ranked teams spend most of November and December at home, keeping the fans happy and the ranking safe with easy wins against overmatched opponents.

Apparently nobody told No. 1 North Carolina.

The Tar Heels capped a six-game stretch away from home with a 93-71 victory over Rutgers on Sunday night. They return to the Smith Center to face Nicholls State on Wednesday, their first home game since Nov. 20.

The Tar Heels (9-0) are off to their best start since 1997-98 when they won their first 17 games on the way to the Final Four.

``It feels good,'' North Carolina coach Roy Williams said of the start that includes just two home wins. ``I enjoy sleeping in my own bed and now I might be able to convince my wife to cook supper one time.

``It's been a challenge for our team. Six straight away from our building. The travel, going through exam period, playing in some tough places. It's been a difficult stretch for our guys and I feel really, really good about the record and what we have accomplished and I think we've gotten a lot better.''

They started the road trip with wins in Las Vegas over Old Dominion and Brigham Young and then beat Ohio State, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Rutgers on their homecourts.

It was also North Carolina's first game after taking 12 days off for final exams.

In the only other Top 25 games Sunday, No. 14 Texas A&M routed Arkansas-Pine Bluff 64-37, and No. 21 Arizona beat Fresno State 69-50.

Ty Lawson scored a career-high 26 points for North Carolina and Tyler Hansbrough had 20 points and 11 rebounds before leaving the game when he hit his head against a TV cameraman's knee and the bottom of the basket support while trying to take a charge from Earl Pettis with 5:47 to play and the Tar Heels leading by 23 points.

Hansbrough stayed down on the floor for a couple of minutes before being helped up by Williams and the trainer and being taken to the locker room. He didn't return.

``A little dizzy,'' Hansbrough said when asked how he felt. ``I took a pretty good blow when I fell, but I'm feeling better.''

Hansbrough was asked if he lost consciousness.

``I don't remember,'' he said. ``They said that maybe I have a mild concussion but they're not sure yet.''

Williams said Hansbrough had a concussion and then sounded like a coach complaining about the lack of a foul call on the play.

``First time in the history of college basketball a guy got a concussion with no foul called, and that better be all I say,'' he said with a laugh.

Freshman Corey Chandler had 23 points for the Scarlet Knights (7-4), who had won three of their last four, the loss coming at Nebraska.

Rutgers, which came in averaging 65.8 points, spread the floor on offense, trying to use as much of the shot clock as possible. It was a great strategy against a team like the Tar Heels, who came in averaging 89.9 points.

The problem for Rutgers was that its young guards had trouble completing passes 25 to 30 feet from the basket. The Tar Heels picked them off to start easy fastbreak baskets that allowed them to pull away early.

North Carolina finished with 14 steals and Rutgers committed 20 turnovers, which the Tar Heels converted into 30 points.

``There is a reason they are ranked No. 1 in the country,'' Rutgers coach Fred Hill said. ``They're a tough team to slow down. The game plan was to control tempo, but that's a very difficult thing to do. We did it to the best of our ability, but that's a very deep and talented team.''

The Tar Heels, whose biggest lead was 73-44 with 8:58 to play, finished with a 27-4 advantage on fastbreak points, many after steals and tipped passes by Lawson.

``Ty's a jet for us,'' Hansbrough said of the sophomore guard whose previous career high was 23 points this season against Old Dominion. ``He kept us going tonight and played real well.''

The last time North Carolina played a game in New Jersey, the Tar Heels left feeling as bad about a loss as a team could. They had a 10-point lead with 6 minutes left over Georgetown but lost in overtime in the East Regional final at the Meadowlands, about 40 miles away.

``We're trying to put that past us,'' Lawson said. ``Still, Coach brings it up and we still cringe thinking about it. So we all put it past us.''

It was the Tar Heels' ninth straight win in the series. The Scarlet Knights won the first meeting between the schools in the 1920-21 season. North Carolina beat Rutgers 87-48 at home last season.

The loss was Rutgers' first in seven home games this season and it dropped the Scarlet Knights to 0-10 against teams ranked No. 1.

No. 14 Texas A&M 64, Ark.-Pine Bluff 37

At College Station, Texas, Josh Carter scored 16 points and Texas A&M used stifling defense to improve to 7-0 at home and 9-1 overall.

The Aggies held Arkansas-Pine Bluff (4-6) scoreless for nearly 10 minutes to start the game, and the Golden Lions went without a basket for an 8 1/2-minute span in the second half.

Marcelle Goins led Pine Bluff with 14 points.

No. 21 Arizona 69, Fresno St. 50

At Tucson, Ariz., Jerryd Bayless scored 21 points for Arizona in its fourth straight victory and second since coach Lute Olson announced he would extend his personal leave of absence through the end of the season.

Chase Budinger added 16 points, and Jordan Hill had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Wildcats (7-2).

Kevin Bell had 12 points for the Bulldogs (5-5).