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Tar Heels answer critics with rout of Michigan State

Michigan State’s magic goes poof ; UNC dominates from start

North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough celebrates after his team's 89-72 victory over Michigan State in the NCAA championship game Monday in Detroit.

North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough celebrates after his team's 89-72 victory over Michigan State in the NCAA championship game Monday in Detroit.

DETROIT – Later, they will understand better what Monday night means.

Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington and the other North Carolina Tar Heels who completed their long mission with such ease Monday night.

Oh, they could read a scoreboard. 89-72, when the confetti dropped at Ford Field. They felt the glow and heard the music, after yanking the karma away from Michigan State. And Hansbrough hugged Roy Williams hard enough to curl his Tar Heel blue tie.

But while a fast-lane offense can win a national championship, only time can make the saga truly whole.

Then they will comprehend how this came to be. How the stars had to align for them to endure the pressure of expectations that left no margin for error. Who else out there played this season with a zero-tolerance policy? Even the president of the United States picked them to win.

They finished the job by routing an opponent that had grown to believe the title was its manifest destiny. Most of the crowd roared for Michigan State and felt magic in the air.

Then North Carolina jumped to 34-11 lead.

The 55-34 halftime margin was the largest in championship game history. The Tar Heels had more points after one half than North Carolina’s first champions scored in three overtimes against Kansas in the 1957 title game.

What national champion isn’t special? But this one had striking elements – real life, the perfect location for an upset, and a blue-blooded program now even more honored, after a devastating last bow that should silence every critic.

“They can say what they want,” Hansbrough said. “I’m national champion. Who can say they’re national champions? I can.”

Michigan State, bringing its B game, never had a chance. The Tar Heels followed a first-half tour de force with cruise control the second. The game took on the air of an inevitable march – with 69 free throws shot. “Longest 12 minutes of my life,” Hansbrough said of the end.

Destiny rests its case.

Do the North Carolina players really comprehend yet?

Someday they will.

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