Lawson's return once again puts Tar Heels in Final Four driver's seat
Scooping a loose ball in the defensive half of the court,
It was signature Lawson: North Carolina's point guard was back.
After playing tentatively on his injured right big toe and scoring just two points on 1-of-5 shooting in the first half, Lawson exploded in the second half, adding 21 points then on 7-of-8 attempts. He finished with six assists and no turnovers, as North Carolina, the East Region's No. 1 seed, withstood a second-half surge from No. 8 LSU en route to the 84-70 win.
"Once the adrenaline got going and the crowd got behind us, I felt like [the toe] was getting better," said Lawson, who said he played at about 75 to 80 percent. "Plus, in the first half I didn't try to do too much on it."
Before the game, the joke was that his status was "toe be determined." On Friday, when having the precious digit wrapped publicly during an open locker session, scores of reporters stood and watched as the team trainer cozied it in gauze. There was enough uncertainty surrounding his participation tonight that the starting lineups announced shortly before tipoff still listed "Frasor or Lawson" at point guard, in case
"I kidded the little fella, called him Dennis the Menace," said UNC coach
With about seven minutes left in the first half, Lawson sat on the bench, grimacing, with his shoe off and his toe being tended to by the trainer.
"I was just trying to get back in there," Lawson said. "I was thinking, What can I do to be able to go in? Then coach asked, 'Are you ready?' So I just ran in the game."
But in the second half Lawson was the story, though he had great support from junior guard
Ellington certainly benefited from the increased threat Lawson posed and noted that it was natural for his teammate to need some time to catch up to NCAA tournament play.
"He hadn't played in a little while," Ellington said of Lawson, "so it took him time to get loose and back in the rhythm of things."
Resting comfortably on the green room couch after the game, Lawson told reporters that he's been assured he won't do further damage to the toe by playing and that it's simply a matter of learning to play with the pain.
Not since Packers wideout
And it looks like UNC can continue its run, not limp, to Detroit.