UNC wins in OT, but Lawson's left ankle is bigger concern

Updated: February 4, 2008

AP Photo/Phil Coale

The indefinite loss of point guard Ty Lawson, who hurt his ankle on Sunday, is a big concern for UNC.

Key Shot

This is why losing Bobby Frasor for the season was a meaningful blow to North Carolina.

Less than four minutes into the Tar Heels' eventual 84-73 overtime win at Florida State on Sunday, point guard Ty Lawson got his left leg twisted under him as he was dragged down during a loose-ball scrum. His subsequent scream, removal from the game and ice-pack-to-upper-ankle treatment for the remainder of the afternoon is the stuff of potential nightmares for the Heels, who have been thin at the 1 since Frasor tore his ACL against Nevada in December.

Without Lawson, North Carolina looked rudderless for much of the afternoon, finishing with a galling combo of nine assists and 21 turnovers. Fill-in Quentin Thomas had a serviceable nine points, six assists and five boards, but the Heels aren't winning the national title with Thomas playing 36 minutes.

They almost didn't even win on Sunday. Carolina survived thanks to muscle (a 54-26 rebounding edge), masonry (FSU went 6-for-31 from 3-point range and Toney Douglas shot 3-for-20 overall) and its main man (Tyler Hansbrough, who went for 22 points and 21 rebounds despite not making a field goal for the game's first 30 minutes). And don't think the result wasn't important. A loss would have pushed Carolina two games behind Duke in the ACC standings, meaning a split of their season series likely would lead to a Blue Devils regular-season crown and a leg up for the coveted Raleigh/Charlotte path in the NCAA Tournament.

Still, Lawson's health is more critical than this one game. Or the Duke game Wednesday, if he's even able to play. Lawson's status for Wednesday's game against Duke won't be known until Tuesday, the next time the Tar Heels are scheduled to practice, a North Carolina spokesperson told ESPN.com's Andy Katz on Sunday night.

Simply put, Lawson is probably the least dispensable player on any of the national title contenders. He makes the Carolina fast break go, makes great decisions with the ball (6.0 assists and 2.5 turnovers a game) and is an efficient scorer, too (14.1 points per game; 1.51 points per shot). He's also averaging more than 31 minutes in ACC play, and the Heels don't have anyone capable of carrying that nightly load at anywhere near his level of effectiveness.

Earlier this season Lawson missed all but two minutes against BYU in Las Vegas and then sat out the subsequent game at Ohio State. Yes, North Carolina won both games, but they were two of the Heels' three lowest-scoring games of the season.

On Sunday, Carolina showed again that it can survive a game without Lawson. But given the growing body of evidence, the Tar Heels don't want to have to prove that any more than necessary.

Key Notes

Tyler Hansbrough had 22 points and 21 rebounds in North Carolina's 84-73 overtime win at Florida State. It was his first career 20-20 game, and he is the seventh player to record a 20-20 game this season. The last North Carolina player with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game was Sean May, who had 26 points and 24 rebounds in a 75-73 win over Duke on March 6, 2005, his final game in the Dean Dome.

• Florida State's Ryan Reid hit a 3-pointer with 8.1 seconds remaining in the second half to force overtime against North Carolina. In 48 career games, the 6-foot-9 forward had never attempted a shot from beyond the arc.

• Since the creation of the ACC in 1953-54, this is only the second time North Carolina has won two conference road games in overtime in the same season. The first season was the 1956-57 season, when the Tar Heels won in overtime at South Carolina and at Maryland. They finished 32-0 and won the national championship.

• Senior point guard Quentin Thomas, playing a career-high 36 minutes for the injured Ty Lawson, scored a career-high nine points and had six assists for only the sixth time in his career.

• Freshman J.J. Hickson of North Carolina State posted his eighth career double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds in the Wolfpack's 67-65 win over Wake Forest. The Wolfpack are 4-4 in those games -- though this was the first time Hickson has had more rebounds than points in a double-double.

• NC State has played three conference home games this season, and the Wolfpack are 2-1 in those games. All three of the games were decided by one possession, and the combined score in the three games is Wolfpack 220, Opponents 219.

• NC State's Ben McCauley (11 points) dunked home the winning bucket at the buzzer in the Wolfpack's 67-65 win over the Demon Deacons. The Wolfpack are 5-0 this season when he scores in double-digits and 9-7 when he doesn't.

• There were 12 games on Super Sunday, and the home teams went 6-6. While only four of the 12 games were decided by single digits, home teams outscored their opponents 823-815.

• George Washington's Noel Wilmore made 6 of 7 shots from 3-point range and scored a career-high 18 points at Temple on Sunday. His previous career high for 3-pointers in a game was three.

D.J. White of Indiana had 26 points and 13 rebounds for his 24th career double-double in the Hoosiers' 75-63 win over Northwestern. In addition, he was 9-for-11 from the floor (81.8 percent). He has shot better than 80 percent from the floor in six career games, and the Hoosiers are 6-0 in those games. All six of those games were at home.

• Wisconsin's Trevon Hughes had 20 points and six steals in the Badgers' 63-47 win at Minnesota. The six thefts ties a career high -- accomplished on two previous occasions. The Badgers are 3-0 when he scores 20 points and gets six steals.

• The Eastern Washington Eagles cannot be big fans of the state of Montana. In the past 11 days, the Eagles have played four games: losing 80-61 at Montana, 74-69 at Montana State, 64-57 to Montana State and finally 59-57 to Montana on Sunday. In the past four seasons, the Eagles are a combined 3-13 against Montana State and Montana.


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On Tap For Monday

• Louisville at No. 16 Marquette, 7 ET (ESPN)
• Villanova at Saint Joe's, 8 ET
• Missouri at No. 2 Kansas, 9 ET (ESPN)
• Gonzaga at No. 20 Saint Mary's, 11 ET (ESPN2)

For the full schedule, click here.

Top 25 Scores From Sunday

No. 4 North Carolina 84, Florida State 73 (OT)
No. 11 Indiana 75, Northwestern 63
No. 13 Wisconsin 63, Minnesota 47

For all scores, click here.

Top 25 Losses

With the new Top 25 polls coming out Monday afternoon, here is a look at the Top 25 teams that lost in last week's action.

• No. 2 Kansas (lost to No. 24 Kansas State)
• No. 7 Michigan State (lost to Penn State)
• No. 9 Wazzu (lost to Cal, No. 14 Stanford)
• No. 10 Texas (lost to No. 23 Texas A&M)
• No. 11 Indiana (lost to No. 13 Wisconsin)
• No. 18 Vanderbilt (lost to No. 22 Mississippi)
• No. 19 Florida (lost to Arkansas)
• No. 20 Saint Mary's (lost to San Diego)
• No. 21 Pitt (lost to UConn)
• No. 22 Mississippi (lost to South Carolina)
• No. 24 Kansas State (lost to Missouri)
• No. 25 Mississippi State (lost to Arkansas, No. 8 Tennessee)

For the Top 25 polls, click here.

Indiana romps Northwestern

Inside The Blog

By Hubert Davis
ESPN

UCLA can easily win the NCAA championship. The Bruins are one of the best defensive teams in the country, along with Kansas. Darren Collison looks healthy now, and when healthy, I think he -- not Texas' D.J. Augustin -- is the best point guard in the country. Russell Westbrook's size and ability at the guard position gives UCLA a guard tandem that no one can match up with.

Kevin Love is the real deal. He, along with freshman Nick Calathes, is the most skilled freshman in the country. He is a great player, but what impressed me was that he talks on defense, sets proper screens and makes the smart play, much like a senior would. He can definitely go pro and would be a guaranteed lottery pick, but I still think he should stay in college. He would be great on a good NBA team like the San Antonio Spurs or the Detroit Pistons, where he wouldn't have to be the go-to guy and he could continue his development. But being picked in the lottery means being picked by a losing team, and I fear he would struggle and get lost. I don't think he's ready to be a franchise player in the NBA right now.

I played 12 years in the NBA and had great coaches and played with great players and teams. I had a great time, but the best time in my basketball life I was playing in college. I think too many players miss the opportunity to play college basketball all four years because they want to head for the NBA. You can't get back the college experience, and I think it's priceless.

• Memphis, the only undefeated team in the country, almost lost to UTEP at home. The Tigers are the most athletic team in the country and everybody, with the exception of Shawn Taggart and Joey Dorsey, has the ability to break you down offensively and get to the basket. I don't think there is one team -- and that includes UCLA and Kansas -- in the country that can consistently guard them man-to-man, and that is why teams consistently play zone against them, forcing them to shoot from the outside. They missed 20 free throws and shot 1-for-17 from 3-point range. They don't have one guy on the team who is a legitimate outside shooter, and they have struggled from the free-throw line in the past couple of years. That is the No. 1 reason why I think Kansas is the best team in the country, despite Memphis being undefeated. I don't think that a team that struggles to shoot from the outside and the free-throw line can survive six straight games in the NCAA Tournament and win a championship.

For more of Davis' blog, click here.

Rivalry Week

Here is a look at some of the notable games from Rivalry Week:

Monday:
• Louisville at Marquette, 7 ET (ESPN)
• Villanova at Saint Joe's, 8 ET
• Missouri at Kansas, 9 ET (ESPN)
• Gonzaga at Saint Mary's, 11 ET (ESPN2)

Tuesday:
• Florida at Tennessee, 9 ET (ESPN)
• Butler at Valparaiso, 9 ET (ESPN2)
• Northern Iowa at Creighton, 9 ET (ESPNU)

Wednesday:
• Connecticut at Syracuse, 7 ET (ESPN)
• Texas at Oklahoma, 7 ET (ESPN2)
• Duke at North Carolina, 9 ET (ESPN)

Thursday:
• West Virginia at Pitt, 7 ET (ESPN)
• Indiana at Illinois, 9 ET (ESPN)
• Oregon at Stanford, 10 ET (ESPN Full Court)
• UCLA at Washington State, 10:30 ET

Friday:
• Siena at Marist, 7 ET (ESPNU)

Saturday:
• Oregon at Cal, 7 ET (ESPN Full Court)
• Boise State at New Mexico State, 7 ET (ESPN Full Court)
• Baylor at Kansas, 8 ET (ESPN Full Court)
• Georgetown at Louisville, 9 ET (ESPN)

Sunday:
• Saint Joe's at Xavier, Noon ET
• Southern Illinois at Creighton, 7 ET (ESPNU)