Saturday, March 21, 2009

Heels' halfcourt practice pays off

North Carolina's experience playing without Ty Lawson in Atlanta last weekend proved vital in Greensboro on Saturday.

Lawson was back in the lineup, but between his sore toe and LSU's defense, Carolina wasn't able to get moving in the first half and found itself mired in a halfcourt game.

It was exactly the kind of game the Tigers wanted, and the Heels ran past them anyway, 84-70.

Earlier in the season, that might have been a problem for Carolina without those easy fast-break buckets. After playing without Lawson in the ACC Tournament, the Tar Heels looked far more comfortable in a slower-paced game. Only 12 of their 84 points came in transition.

No player showed that development more than Wayne Ellington, who carried a large share of the offensive load for the Tar Heels in Atlanta and has again in the NCAA Tournament.

Even without the benefit of Lawson's quick-strike passes, Ellington continued to generate points, taking good shots from outside and getting to the rim on his own when possible.

When LSU made its run early in the second half, Lawson played a key role in the Heels' response, but they showed how much they learned during his absence before that. -- Luke DeCock, (Raleigh) News & Observer