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2009 NCAA Tournament: Championship Game Recap

North Carolina wins National Championship over Michigan State


When the preseason predictions came out in October and November, pundits agreed North Carolina clearly was the best team in college basketball.

The Tar Heels arguably had the best player in the country in Tyler Hansbrough. They had the best point guard in Ty Lawson and the best defensive player in Marcus Ginyard. In short, there were just no weaknesses. Plus, many players were driven to return to the program after losing to Kansas in the 2008 Final Four.

Despite losing Ginyard to a season-ending foot injury, dealing with a bit of a flat spot in January and then nursing Lawson through a toe injury in the ACC tournament and first round of the NCAA tournament, North Carolina lived up to the billing. The 2008-09 Tar Heels won the fifth national title in school history as they easily handled Michigan State, 89-72, before a record crowd of 72,922 Monday at Detroit's Ford Field.

Really, what fans watched was vintage UNC basketball. The offense was extraordinary as four players reached double figures. The defense harassed and created 21 Spartan turnovers -- Lawson had a championship game record 8 steals. And this team just didn't beat itself. In fact, North Carolina (34-4) won all six tournament games by double figures. The last time that happened was in Duke's 2001 title season.

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And it started quickly when UNC jumped out to an early 12-5 lead. Then the lead grew to 17-7, 22-8, 36-13 and 55-34 at the half, breaking a 42-year record in the history of the title game. As much as you thought the UNC 98-63 blowout on Dec. 3 could not repeat itself, it definitely looked that it could.

To Michigan State's credit, the Spartans didn't quit. Michigan State (31-7) could only get as close as 13 points, but it was simply too much of a big hole for the Big Ten Champions to overcome.

One of Michigan State's goals was to limit Lawson. That didn't happen. Lawson scored a game-high 21 points, handed out six assists and turned it over only once. Wayne Ellington carried the first hal as he scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half. Meanwhile MSU guards Kalin Lucas and Travis Walton combined for 10 assists and 10 turnovers.

But this was the reason why Hansbrough, Lawson and Ellington wanted to come back. They knew they were good enough to win a national championship. Should they decide to go to the NBA, they can feel content that their college careers are complete.

As for coach Roy Williams, he has now become one of 13 to have won multiple championships. When a coach does that, the words legendary and legacy enter the conversation. He has won as many as his mentor Dean Smith.

As for Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, he knew he was up against a monster team in which he didn't enough answers to stop North Carolina.
Appropriately, the best team at the start of the season finished that way by lifting some hardware. North Carolina played a level of basketball that few could match.


UNC Basketball Notable:

  • By winning its fifth title, North Carolina tied Indiana for third all-time. UCLA has 11. Kentucky has 7.
  • The Tar Heels have won their last three national title games they appeared in, 1993, 2005 and 2009.
  • Ellington was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.


By Kevin Lonnquist
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

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