- Robbi Pickeral, College Basketball
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Raise your hand if you thought this would be the third-place game of the Maui Invitational.
No. 9 North Carolina advanced to tonight’s 7:30 p.m. ET tipoff by blowing out Mississippi State by 46 points, and then being dominated by Butler in a matchup that saw the Tar Heels trail by as many as 29. UNC, which will certainly drop in the polls Monday, had been the favorite to win the tournament.
Meanwhile, 30 years after pulling one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history (toppling then-No. 1 Virginia on Dec. 23, 1982), now-Division-II Chaminade pulled another stunner in its opening game, beating Texas. Illinois beat the Silverswords in the semifinals to push Chaminade to the consolation game.
“It's very exciting,” Chaminade senior Bennie Murray told reporters Tuesday night about playing UNC, “but we can't just look at it like that. We've got to look at it like another game. I say it all the time: These guys put their shorts and their jerseys on just like us. So we're coming out not to ask for autographs and to look up to these guys; we're coming out to beat them. So that's what's on our minds.”
A few things to watch at the Lahaina Civic Center tonight:
After beginning his career at Valparaiso (where he scored four points in a 22-point loss to North Carolina in 2008), and playing his sophomore season at Citrus College, the guard shot his way into national highlight packages with a 32-point, nine-rebound performance against Texas. (He also scored 19 against Illinois.) After sitting out last season because of injury, the 6-foot-4 senior is averaging 21 points and seven rebounds entering this game, and would like nothing more than to pull another upset.
“I played North Carolina before, my freshman year,’’ Haskins told reporters after the loss to Illinois. “So I'm trying to get a little revenge right now, Tyler Hansbrough.”
WHICH UNC SHOWS UP?
Will it be the Tar Heels of Tuesday’s first half, when they managed only one offensive rebound, didn’t get to the free throw line, took questionable shots and looked as if they were resting on the laurels of Monday night’s blowout over Mississippi State? Or will it be the Tar Heels of the final 10 minutes against Butler, when they picked up their aggressiveness and cut a 29-point deficit to as little as six?
Preparation and mental focus will be key, coach Roy Williams said after the loss.
“We're probably not nearly as exciting as we were last night [Monday against Mississippi State],’’ Williams said. “And I hope to dickens we're not as bad as we were when we were down 29 tonight.”
The UNC sophomore has been a spark off the bench during this tournament, following an 18 point performance (on 4-for-7 3-point shooting) against MSU with 15 points (on 2-for-8 3-point shooting) against Butler. During UNC’s second-half rally against Butler, the wing scored 11 points during a 14-2 run.
It’s been a positive turnaround for Hairston, who struggled with both his accuracy and confidence the second half of last season. The Tar Heels need him to making shots, and an impact.
59dJeff Goodman and Jeff Borzello