The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday January 29th

Haywood Makes Self At Home

He shows up in Raleigh to play N.C. State and gets verbally abused. His manhood gets challenged. His intelligence gets questioned.

It happens every year. At 7-feet and 268 pounds, Haywood is a whipping boy for Wolfpack fans, one of the toughest crowds in the ACC.

And Haywood loves every minute of the attention.

"It's very fun to come here," Haywood said after UNC beat N.C. State 60-52 Sunday at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. "I've never lost here. (Teammate) Michael Brooker has been here five years, and he hasn't lost here either.

"When we come to State, it's almost like playing another home game."

The Tar Heels have now won five consecutive times in Raleigh, but they didn't look so comfortable there for much of Sunday's matchup.

That is, until Haywood made himself at home in the paint during the closing moments. With N.C. State trailing 53-52 and the clock running with less than 90 seconds to play, Haywood took over.

He accepted a feed from point guard Ronald Curry, went strong to the basket and drew a foul from Kenny Inge. Haywood, a 49-percent free throw shooter on the season, knocked down both of his freebies.

The development was a surprise to just about everyone in the ESA -- except Haywood's teammates.

"Brendan has put so much work in on his free throws," Curry said. "We knew he would come through in that situation."

The free throws were huge, but Haywood was just getting started. He swatted away a 3-point attempt by Scooter Sherrill on N.C. State's ensuing possession, giving the Tar Heels the ball back.

Haywood raced out from the low block on the left side of the floor to meet Sherrill just as he was releasing the ball.

"He didn't see me coming from the baseline," Haywood said. "I knew we were up three, and I couldn't let him get it off."

After Curry missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Wolfpack had another chance to tie the game. Haywood cut off a drive by guard Anthony Grundy, deflecting the ball out of bounds with 34.7 seconds left.

N.C. State called timeout to set up a play, which resulted in Grundy throwing a lob to Damon Thornton for an attempted alley-oop. The duo was successful with the play early in the second half, but this time there was an obstacle.

Haywood broke up the lob, and Joseph Forte knocked down two free throws to seal the game after he corralled the loose ball.

"It was one of the options, and it was open, so he threw it," Thornton said. "I felt like it was mistimed a little bit, but I thought (Haywood) got his hand on it."

Haywood had done his share to help the Tar Heels hold on, but he rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Clifford Crawford on N.C. State's next possession for good measure.

That rebound gave him six -- to go with 10 points and five blocks -- for the game. Haywood's final numbers weren't eye-popping, but his play in the closing seconds was.

And no play was bigger for the Tar Heels than the two free throws he made to give them a three-point cushion.

"I'm happy for him," UNC forward Jason Capel said. "He works on his free throws a lot. It was a critical part of the game, and for him to step up and knock those down was huge for our team."

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.

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