Players, coach, fans celebrate championship at UNC
Posted April 7, 2009 5:01 a.m. EDT
Updated December 9, 2009 3:15 p.m. EST
Chapel Hill, N.C. — North Carolina has brought another NCAA men's basketball championship trophy home to campus.
The Tar Heels joined thousands of blue-clad fans at the Dean E. Smith Center on Tuesday for a rally to celebrate the program's fifth national title and its first since 2005.
Coach Roy Williams was the last to arrive, and he entered carrying the trophy and the net he helped cut down at Ford Field in Detroit.
“These young men behind me have done something that will last forever," Williams told the crowd. "They’ve been on magical ride, and they took me for a fantastic ride, and I loved every minute of it.”
An estimated 15,000 people packed into the Dean Dome to welcome home the team, returning from the Final Four in Detroit.
North Carolina claimed its second NCAA title under Williams, smashing Michigan State, 89-72, at Ford Field in a game that was far from the tense battle many expected.
The Heels led 55-34 at halftime – the 55 points was a championship game record – and slowed the pace in the second period to let the clock drip away. Ty Lawson finished with 21 points, Wayne Ellington 19, and Tyler Hansbrough 18.
"There's not much to say, but we're national champs," Hansbrough said. "And it's the best feeling in the world to know that when I come back and watch games at the Smith Center, I'll always look up and be able to remember this team and what we were a part of and what we were able to accomplish this year."
With its trouncing of Michigan State Monday night, this season's UNC team put its name in the record books as one of the NCAA's most dominant teams.
Carolina's 21-point halftime lead was the largest ever halftime margin and the 17-point winning margin is the largest in a championship since Duke in 1992. UNC's total point margin for six games, 119, is the second highest ever.
Now, the questions turn to the composition of next year's team.
Seniors Hansbrough, Danny Green and Bobby Frasor will depart. Freshmen Ed Davis, Larry Drew, Tyler Zeller and Deon Thompson, as well as sophomore Will Graves and senior Marcus Ginyard, have said they plan to return.
Before leaving Detroit Tuesday morning, Williams said he doesn't have a specific timetable when juniors Lawson and Wayne Ellington will decide if they will go to the NBA.
Williams said he hasn't spoken to the Tar Heels stars about their decision. Both players entered their names in the 2008 draft but returned to school this season.
Soon after the team's 2005 title four underclassmen opted for the NBA – Rashad McCants, Sean May, Raymond Felton and Marvin Williams – decisions the coach expected for the most part.
Williams has an idea what Lawson and Ellington will do, but "not with the conviction that I had last time," he said.
For the 30,000 fans who rushed Franklin Street following North Carolina's victory Monday night and the thousands still reliving the sweetness of a national championship, that is a worry for later.
On Tuesday, they were lining up to buy commemorative T-shirts and sports apparel to celebrate this year's team. Soffe, an apparel manufacturing company in Fayetteville, worked overnight to send out 23,000 units of clothing to department stores and local stores that sell UNC merchandise.