UNC’s Lawson likely to miss Duke game
By By AARON BEARD, AP Sports Writer
CHAPEL HILL — Roy Williams went to the training room Tuesday morning to see how point guard Ty Lawson was recovering from a sprained left ankle. The answer was enough to give the North Carolina coach reason for concern.
Lawson’s status has become the biggest variable in the latest matchup of college basketball’s most intense rivalry. With a healthy Lawson, the third-ranked Tar Heels can run with their typical zeal and better handle the second-ranked Blue Devils’ perimeter pressure. If the speedy sophomore is limited or can’t play at all, North Carolina will be a different team.
Lawson was hurt about four minutes into Sunday’s 84-73 overtime win at Florida State and didn’t return. He missed practice Monday and was unavailable for comment before Tuesday’s practice because he was receiving treatment. Afterward, team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Lawson was unable to participate in team drills and managed only some light shooting on his own while wearing an air cast, though he has not been ruled out.
It is the second time this season Lawson’s ankles have been a hot topic leading up to a game. He sat out at Ohio State in November after spraining his right ankle against BYU in the Las Vegas Invitational.
But this time, the Tar Heels (21-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) have less depth to handle it. Reserve Bobby Frasor, who started against the Buckeyes and could play both guard positions, was lost to a season-ending knee injury in December.
That leaves the Tar Heels with senior Quentin Thomas, a career reserve and the only active player remaining from the 2005 NCAA championship team. He would likely inherit the starting role if Lawson is out with junior swingman Marcus Ginyard also to see time at point against the Blue Devils (19-1, 7-0).
Either way, both teams sound ready to run in a matchup of two of the nation’s top offenses. North Carolina ranks second nationally in scoring at 91 points per game, while Duke ranks third at 85.7. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is preparing his team as though Lawson will play at full strength.
Still, while Williams and his players sound confident in Thomas, it’s unclear whether the Tar Heels will operate as efficiently if Lawson is sidelined. They have a clear edge up front with All-American Tyler Hansbrough (6-foot-9, 250 pounds) along with sophomores Deon Thompson (6-8, 240) and Alex Stepheson (6-9, 235) against a small and quick Duke team that is getting by with Lance Thomas (6-8, 220) inside.
But Duke’s perimeter pressure has been good enough to deny entry passes against bigger teams all season. Hansbrough had trouble getting the ball — he scored his first field goal midway through the second half — against the Seminoles after Lawson’s exit.
For now, the Tar Heels sound like they expect Lawson to be out.