SANTA BARBARA Calif. — It was a sight North Carolina fans players and coaches had waited a long time to see.
Tyler Hansbrough surrounded by three defenders under the basket ripped down a dunk complete with requisite double fist pump to cap it off.
After all it had been a while — six months of off-season two regular season games 23 minutes and 32 seconds of Friday's match-up with the University of California at Santa Barbara to be exact.
But aside from his second-half dunk Hansbrough couldn't find his form in the Tar Heels' 84-67 win against a feisty UCSB team.
Hansbrough finished with 13 points — one of six Tar Heels who hit double digits in the game — but only four from the floor" and his dunk provided his only points of the second half.
""I mean" it felt good but obviously everybody knows that I didn't play my best" he said after the game. But I was just trying to come out there and get back in the groove of things.""
And he didn't have much time to get used to the idea. Coach Roy Williams said he told Hansbrough he would start 15 minutes into warm-ups.
""He's felt great about it (in practice)" Williams said after the game. Tonight I couldn't keep him out — every time I took him out" he'd tell me he was ready to go back in.""
But Hansbrough had plenty of help Friday. Fellow forward Deon Thompson finished with 12 points and 10 boards.
Thompson's six-point run in the second half helped UNC keep at bay UCSB's upset bid.
Midway through the first half" a UCSB 11-0 run put the Gauchos up five" the largest deficit UNC has faced this season.
""I mean" we expect every team to come out and give us our best shot but we didn't expect them to shoot that high a percentage" Danny Green said of the Gauchos' 52 percent in the first half. But we knew they were going to come out gunning.""
So" the Tar Heels quickly answered with 13 points of their own.
Green Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington finished a combined 6-for-12 on 3-pointers" highlighted by Lawson's two in less than a minute to claim the lead back for UNC.
""We just tried to move the ball a little bit" Green said. Once we started getting into a little rhythm" they started getting some shots down — Ty did and Wayne did — and I hit one.""
But it was a nice one. Green knocked down the three after rebounding his own miss to put the Tar Heels ahead 38-29.
Williams said he couldn't say whether he will play Hansbrough in the Maui Invitational — which starts today with UNC's opening-round matchup against Chaminade.
Williams doesn't ""know that (he) can think about playing him three days in a row.""
Even if he doesn't play or" as was the case Friday doesn't make an effort he's happy with having Hansbrough back is worth more than numbers on a box score" Williams said.
""He brings a lot to our team" not just points and rebounds. I mean" he is a very intense young man.""
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