Tyler Hansbrough knows a thing or two about physical post play in college, and he has the bloody YouTube video to prove it.
The former North Carolina standout ended his career as the ACC’s all-time scoring leader, putting up 2,872 points to finish 12th NCAA history while making a living in the paint. Along the way, he racked up 982 free throws on 1,241 attempts – figures that sit first and second, respectively, in the NCAA.
So it was that as Ohio State freshman Jared Sullinger was being introduced to the physical style of play he would face on a nightly basis in the Big Ten, his head coach placed a phone call to Tar Heels head man Roy Williams for some guidance on how he steered Hansbrough through his four-year career in Chapel Hill.
“I told (Matta) the biggest thing for Tyler that I can remember (was) Tyler was able to finish plays and knew that he was going to be whacked, knew he was going to be hit but wasn’t concerned about getting fouled,” Williams said. “He was concerned about making the basket. I think that’s one of the greatest skills that Tyler had.”
Now in his second season with the Indiana Pacers, Hansbrough said it took some time to adapt to the physical style of play at the Division I level.
“I remember we went to Wake Forest and they had this guy named Eric Williams who was a lot bigger than me,” he told BuckeyeSports.com. “He was just huge. I remember going up against him and I was like, ‘Man. This guy is something else.’ It took me about the whole first half to realize it and then start playing a little better in the first half.”
The game was Hansbrough’s 12th in the ACC. He finished with 17 points and six boards, going 5 for 7 from the free-throw line, while Williams had 19 points and eight rebounds as the Tar Heels earned an 83-72 victory.
Matta first mentioned the topic regarding Sullinger following OSU’s physical home win Feb. 3 against Michigan. In the game, the freshman went to the line 11 times and took a number of blows at both ends of the court.
Although he went out of his way not to overtly criticize Big Ten officials, Matta said too much physicality is often allowed in conference games. To illustrate his point, the head coach referenced former Buckeye big man Greg Oden.
“It’s like a Big Ten coach told me after Oden left, he said, ‘We told our guys to foul him every single time. They won’t call every one,’ ” Matta said, adding, “I’m not saying that’s the case at all (this year).”
Although he did not want to single out any particular team or player, Hansbrough said the game is officiated differently at that level.
“In college, they just let you bang down low,” he said. “There’s a lot of fouls that go uncalled, I’m not going to lie to you. He can’t worry about that because he’s not going to get every call or every foul.
“There were games where I felt they were definitely beating on me more and the refs aren’t calling it and it’s really frustrating, but you have to work through that. You can only control what you can do. You can’t control what the refs do.”
Things are a little different for the likes of Sullinger and Hansbrough. Each is listed at 6-9 where Oden stands 7-foot. Although Hansbrough pointed out that he has plenty of size – “I’m not a midget,” he said – players of his height have to work harder to score in the paint as they encounter players of taller stature.
It was during a 2007 home contest against rival Duke that Hansbrough was sent to the locker room, dripping blood along the way, after he was viciously fouled by Blue Devils guard Gerald Henderson in the waning seconds of the contest.
Opponents have drawn blood from Sullinger as well, but not quite to the same extent. While playing 35 minutes in a key road win against Minnesota, the freshman battled in the paint for a few moments with a wad of tissue paper lodged inside his nostril. He finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Neither player retaliated, although both likely wanted to. Williams said he sees shades of Hansbrough in Sullinger.
“Jared’s got that same kind of strength, that body that he can absorb the blow,” the coach said. “So many big guys just try to draw fouls and they still have to go to the line. Jared Sullinger is really good and he’s a gifted youngster. I told Thad he would be able to adapt to a lot of the different things that the other teams would do to him.”
Then there is the matter of hitting the free throws. For the season, Sullinger has hit a respectable 71.1 percent of his attempts. He has shot at least 10 in seven games this season, setting a high-water mark of 23 free throws in a Dec. 9 win against IUPUI in which he scored an OSU freshman record 40 points.
Hansbrough was a career 79.1-percent free-throw shooter at UNC.
“Tyler Hansbrough was a fantastic free-throw shooter,” Williams said. “I’ve only seen about three of Ohio State’s games but I think Jared’s a really good free-throw shooter too. He’s the kind of guy that looks to me like he enjoys getting fouled and he goes to the line and he makes you pay. It is a huge asset if a guy that can play that physically can go to the line and make those free throws.”