SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Ty Lawson led six players in double figures with 19 points, including Tyler Hansbrough who had 13 in his season debut, and No. 1 North Carolina defeated UC Santa Barbara 84-67 Friday night.
Hansbrough missed the first two games for Carolina (3-0) because of a stress reaction in his right shin. Last season's national player of the year had been held out of practice and exhibition games since the injury was diagnosed in October.
He was in the starting lineup for the Tar Heels' first road game of season, a sellout in the 6,000-seat Thunderdome. The last time the Gauchos hosted a No. 1 team was in 1991, when they lost 76-55 to defending national champion UNLV.
James Nunnally scored a career-high 19 points off the bench for the Gauchos (1-2), who fell to 0-3 against Carolina.
Hansbrough had played in all 108 games in his first three years for Carolina before missing the first two this season. He finished with seven rebounds, two assists and one blocked shot.
Wayne Ellington added 17 points, Deon Thompson 12 points and 10 rebounds, Danny Green 11 and Ed Davis 10 for the Tar Heels, who controlled the boards, 34-24.
North Carolina opened the game on an 18-10 run, with Hansbrough scoring seven points -- all on free throws -- and coming up with key assists in his first minutes of the season.
But then Hansbrough went to the bench for a breather and the Gauchos put together a 17-7 spurt to take a 27-22 lead. Greg Somogyi, a 7-foot-2 center, got things going with a dunk, then Jesse Byrd scored six points in a row and Paul Roemer tossed in two 3-pointers that had the student section delirious.
Hansbrough soon returned and having their floor leader back brought the desired effect. The Tar Heels regrouped and closed the half on a 23-10 run to lead 45-37. They scored 13 in a row, including seven straight by Lawson that gave them the lead for good.
The Gauchos came out strong to start the second half, twice drawing within five, both times on baskets by Nunnally, whose jumper had them trailing 53-48.
But Carolina's talent and speed eventually wore down Santa Barbara.
Hansbrough's return came just in time for Carolina, which plays four straight road games before returning home on Nov. 30.
Freshman 7-footer Tyler Zeller is likely out for the rest of the season with a broken left wrist he suffered late in Tuesday's win against Kentucky.
Zeller started the first two games in place of Hansbrough.
Top defender Marcus Ginyard is out until December after having foot surgery.
After the game, the Tar Heels headed to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational, where they'll play Chaminade on Monday.
Santa Barbara's rabid students were warned by the public address announcer before tip-off to keep their chants clean. They shouted expletives at Hansbrough as he warmed up and then did so again during a timeout in the second half.
One of the referees heard them and yelled, 'No," at the students, who quieted down.