CHAPEL HILL, N.C. If you're a Duke fan, the forearm with which your Gerald Henderson decked North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough was: (A) a nudge; (B) an accident; (C) a blatant offensive foul on Hansbrough.
If you're a North Carolina fan, the forearm with which Henderson knocked your Hansbrough to the floor was: (A) vicious; (B) intentional; (C) the most effective forearm since Ric Flair used his on Dusty "The American Dream" Rhodes in 1974, '78, '83, '87, '91 and '94.
From my seat at ringside in
the Smith Center, the blow was fascinating. Come on, the North
Carolina-Duke game had gone precisely the way it was supposed to, the Tar Heels quietly blowing out the visitors, 86-72.
Then the alarm sounded. With 14.5 seconds left, Hansbrough grabbed an offensive rebound, went up and, long after the ball had left his hands, was slammed by Henderson's forearm. Hansbrough, a presence all day with 26 points and 17 rebounds, went down hard.
When he got up, he wanted Henderson. His lip was turned down. When the lip turns down, buddy, it is on.
A freshman who has become Duke's top reserve, Henderson is 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds. Hansbrough, a sophomore, is 6-9 and 245.
Officials kicked Henderson out of the game. Escorting him to the locker room was a five-man entourage.
Hansbrough was escorted to his locker room only by athletic trainer Marc Davis, who had one hand on the big man's jersey. You ever see people that are walked by their dogs? That was Davis.
Hansbrough's nose was red and bulbous and had white cotton coming out of each nostril that was so long and thick it made him look like a walrus.
"I told him his nose looked normal," says North Carolina guard Bobby Frasor, in whose mouth sarcasm is an art.
Duke, believe it or not, says the forearm was an accident.
"I was not trying to hurt anybody," Henderson says.
"I know he didn't do it on purpose," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski says. "He just doesn't do that."
Krzyzewski also says it's "unfortunate those players were in the game." He adds, "We probably both should have had our walk-ons in."
North Carolina coach Roy Williams is less than thrilled when told about Krzyzewski's comments regarding "those players" still being on the floor.
Williams says he had a substitute, Mike Copeland, about to check in for Hansbrough.
"It's not my fault that Tyler got the offensive rebound," Williams says.
Why was Hansbrough in a game whose outcome had long been determined? Because the opponent was Duke. This wasn't Miami or Florida State out there. North Carolina-Duke is the biggest rivalry in college basketball. Of course Hansbrough was still in the game, and of course Henderson was, too.
As good as this was, it offered potential that still is untapped. When Hansbrough got on a ladder after the game to cut down a strand of the net, Henderson could have blindsided him with a metal folding chair (Flair versus Rhodes '79, '82, '86, '88 and June 1990).