Thursday, February 28, 2008

Without Lawson, other Tar Heels improve

North Carolina is 6-1 in the ACC point guard Ty Lawson played and 5-1 in ACC games he has missed because of a sprained left ankle.

Coach Roy Williams said Thursday that’s a testament to the way Lawson’s teammates have improved since his injury.

“The kids take some ownership when I say, ‘We’re not going to have Ty, so you’ve got to play better,’ ” Williams said.

Obviously Lawson’s replacement, Quentin Thomas, plays a role in that. He has added about five points to his scoring average with Lawson out.

Tyler Hansbrough has scored at least 23 points in every game Lawson has missed and has scored more than 30 twice in Lawson’s absence. North Carolina has improved its defense and its halfcourt offense since Lawson was hurt.

Despite that, Williams has no doubt North Carolina will be a better team when Lawson returns. There’s a chance Lawson will play a few minutes Saturday at Boston College.

Williams said the team will have to adjust again, but said Lawson can help the Tar Heels score the easy fast-break baskets Williams believes are critical in the NCAA tournament.

“We haven’t gotten nearly as many easy ones as you get with Ty,” Williams said. “. . .I still think when you get down to tournament play, you’ve got to get some easy ones.”

Location, location, location?

A lot of North Carolina fans would love to see the Tar Heels in Charlotte for the East Regional if they can win their first two NCAA tournament games.

Williams said Thursday that he cares more about how his team plays than where his team plays.

“Some people may really look at it (site assignments) and think it’s important,” Williams said Thursday during his weekly news conference. “I try to focus on something that I can have a little bit of say in, and that’s how my team is playing. I don’t look at those things.”

Williams mentioned that in 1995 while he was coaching Kansas, everybody told him how great it would be to play in a regional in Kansas City. Playing in front of Kansas fans didn’t seem so important after Virginia upset the top-seeded Jayhawks.

Syracuse ordinarily wouldn’t be atop Williams’ list of places to visit, but he believes it’s a great place because the Tar Heels defeated Villanova and Wisconsin there to reach the Final Four on the way to the 2005 NCAA title.

“If they send my butt to Slippery Rock and we’re going to win two (games), I’m for it,” Williams said.

– Ken Tysiac