Lawson Update and Additional Thoughts UNC-OSU

First of all, Ty Lawson has told  Andy Katz following the game last night that he is playing on Saturday:

Carolina nation can exhale. Ty Lawson will play Saturday at Kentucky.

“I’m definitely playing Saturday,” Lawson said late Wednesday night after the Tar Heels’ 66-55 win over Ohio State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Lawson said he could have played against the Buckeyes, but moving laterally on defense was still an issue during the day. So, he said, with some more time off and a bit more ice, he’ll be good to go.

So, it seems that’s the end of North Carolina’s experiment of playing without their jet-quick point guard. And, while it wasn’t done on purpose, the No. 2-ranked Tar Heels are certainly better off for going through the exercise.

Of course Lawson is not the final say on the issue and UNC has said as much this morning according to 850 the Buzz.

As I have indicated, I am not crazy about pressing the issue. UK is beset by injuries and should be a game the Heels win without too much trouble.  UNC then plays Penn on December 4th followed by a 12 day exam break.  I think the Heels can get by without him and then he gets almost two weeks to make sure it is 100% before playing Rutgers.

Concerning the game, Katz noted that this stretch of two games without Lawson could end up being huge.

This win, coupled with the Tar Heels’ 73-63 victory over BYU last Saturday in Las Vegas in which Lawson played only two minutes because of the rolled right ankle, may end up being two of the most significant wins for the Tar Heels.

I agree.  These two wins are far more beneficial the way they transpired than they might have been had UNC breezed through them.  The Heels found out they are wholly capable of shutting opposing teams down with defense.  The question remains as to whether this team can play with optimal offensive execution and the kind of defense they played against BYU and Ohio State.  It is possible these two games become the watershed moment where UNC finds it’s defensive game and takes a step up to being a complete team.  Time will tell where that is concerned.

Another positive that really stuck out to me was how the Heels did adjust on offense to various facets of the scoring going down the tubes.  It is difficult to call a 38% shooting night anything positive in terms of offense but UNC took what the Buckeyes gave them.  I touched on this in my initial analysis but it bears repeating and that is the way UNC handled the OSU zone speaks volumes on how far this team has come from a year ago.  Last season the Heels lost to Gonzaga in a game very similar to this one.  The Bulldogs had the Heels schemed correctly on defense with a zone that blocked access to Hansbrough and kept him frustrated all night with a taller opposing center.  Hansbrough had only five shots and UNC chose to shoot 26 times from beyond the arc on their way to a close loss where they played poorly defense and never found an offense.

Fast forward a year where UNC faces a similar situation with a team packing a zone and using a larger center to trouble Hansbrough.  This time UNC does a much better job in solving the zone.  You can credit coaching for this but also the players for exuding patience in a high pressure game on a hostile court.  Whereas last season Hansbrough shot the ball five times, this season they found him for 19 shots.  The only downside was he was not shooting well and Ohio State did a good job of contesting his shots.  The difference maker was Deon Thompson who hit 7-12 and took advantage of the hole in the middle of the zone to get some open looks.  The decision to move a Tar Heel player into the middle of the zone was paramount to overcoming it since it was not going to via penetration without Lawson and UNC wisely decided not to simply bomb threes all night in hopes they would make enough to entice OSU in another defensive set.  UNC attempted 18 threes which is average for them this season and five of those belonged to Bobby Frasor who was left open and hoping one or two would fall to keep the defense honest.

The point is UNC showed their experience and maturity out there playing a team that had won 28 straight home games coming into this one.  The Heels played with composure and did a great job not forcing the issue in the face of a difficult defensive set. For the most part the Heels made good decisions with the basketball as evidenced by the limited number of turnovers(11) In the end it was about sitting back and waiting for the right opporunities    Had UNC made more of their open looks, this game would have been a blowout but sometimes the shots do not fall.  The question for a team who has sights on a national championship is how they weather the games when the shots do not fall, a key player or two is off their game or out of the game due to foul trouble/injury.  Speaking for myself I like the answer through six games.

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10 Responses to Lawson Update and Additional Thoughts UNC-OSU

  1. C. Michael says:

    Last night’s game also reminded me how much I hate Big 11 basketball. In what was easily UNC’s most physical game of the year, 2 teams combined for 23 FTA!! That scrum towards the end of the game, where 8 of the 10 players on the court were, literally, on the court was not basketball… it was rugby. I know ref’s always get criticized for calling too many fouls, but IMO, calling too few is much worse.

  2. MDtarheelfan says:

    Good win for the Heels. I agree with the defensive step up and breaking down the zone. Another hack attack on Tyler. Couldn’t believe some of the shots he made anyway. Fraiser has got to hit the open shot, but overall good job. Wish Quinten would play better. Would like others opinions on what they think of his career at UNC. I think he is a good player but with the wrong team. WE looked like the future go to guy. Glad he is taking it the hole more. Everyone else looked solid. Cats look out.

  3. Josh Bowling says:

    I do not mind a hack attack on Tyler, as long as he is duely rewarded his free-throw shots. I know he attemps many a game, but look on the possessions in which he doesn’t draw the foul, and see if there is any difference.

  4. DeanForever says:

    Deon returnith!!! Wayne Ellington is actually becoming that slasher-type scorer that THF professed to have sorely missed (I beleive Carter and Jordan were the two names mentioned). He’s not the finisher that either of those two were, but he is drawing more and more contact on those drives to the lane; thus, getting to the line. His shot is money, and he will have ample opportunities to take his guy off the dribble as more and more of the attention will focus on Tyler and Deon.
    THF-excellent breakdown of the UNC offensive adjustments. I’m glad that you called attention to the fact that Deon was shifted to the middle to help draw in the defenders away from the peremiter.
    The importance of this win cannot be overstated enough. Greg Oden or no, this Buckeye team will mature over the course of the year and dart in and out of the top 25. Tack this win ahead of both the ten-point victory over a top 25 BYU team and thesluggish, defensive victory over a top 25 Davidson team.
    Still, Kentucky cannot be overlooked. They are limping into this one, but if they get hot from behind the arc, they have a fighting chance. I’d have to say that they have lost much of their mystique (not to say their hard-earned respect) by not getting to the Final Four in over a decade. I love the Ginyard/Green combo on Patterson, which should give the freshman absolute fits. The interior game for UNC should flourish, while Ellington can take any of their gaurds along for the ride.
    Then Rutgers, and Penn…and home sweet home.

  5. DeanForever says:

    Good Lord my spelling miscues are inexcusable…I’m squeezing this in between my shifts to watch the baby boy (he just had a portrait taken in UNC gear). Nice.

  6. Tar Heel alum and fan says:

    I don’t understand the bashing of Quentin Thomas. I think he has been a solid sub at the toughest position – runs the offense with up-tempo and has cut down on the mistakes that had plagued him in the past.

    The Kentucky Post had this to say about him and Frasor:

    Frasor and Thomas aren’t as flashy as Lawson, but have filled in admirably as the Tar Heels wait for his return.

    I completely agree.

  7. Tar Heel Fan says:

    The trouble most people have with Thomas is they still wake up in a cold sweat during the night after having a nightmare of Thomas running the point for Felton during his freshman season. He pressed so much and tried to mimic Felton’s speed that he often dribbled too far in on a break or simply threw the ball away. His A/TO ratio was 1 during his freshman season but during the past two is has been above 2 until this season when it has slid a little to around 1.8. Thomas learned to slow down and make better decisions after he got away from Felton’s speedy shadow. I will say his style of play is a little haphazard but the stats do not show him to be any worse than Frasor on offense. I think the two can combo quite well because they bring different skills.

  8. Tar Heel alum and fan says:

    Not looking too positive:

    Williams ‘skeptical’ that Tar Heels point guard Ty Lawson will play at Kentucky

    November 30, 2007

    CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Top-ranked North Carolina might be without point guard Ty Lawson for a second straight game when the Tar Heels travel to Kentucky on Saturday.

    The speedy sophomore has been unable to practice fully this week due to an ankle he sprained against BYU in last week’s Las Vegas Invitational, coach Roy Williams said Friday. Lawson missed the Tar Heels’ win at Ohio State on Wednesday.

    “I’m more skeptical of him playing … than I was after the game on Wednesday night,” Williams said. “And maybe it’s wishful thinking, I thought he would have made more significant improvement. But if he’s not close to 100 percent, I’m not going to play him. That’s where you just make things linger.”

    If Lawson can’t play, junior Bobby Frasor would likely start again for North Carolina (6-0), while senior Quentin Thomas would also see extended time.

  9. Tar Heel Fan says:

    And that’s fine. UK is beat up and should not be a problem with Frasor/Thomas at point. Heels then play Penn, another team they can beat without Lawson. 12 days off follows the Penn game which means Lawson can get fully healed up before the last road game at Rutgers and the Little Debbie homestand through December.

  10. Josh Bowling says:

    Dean, I was the one who pressed the issue about needing Ellington to become another Brian Reece, Vince Carter, MJ. THF made Ellington look like a saint compared to me. ;Wayne has definately silenced me!!! If he keeps it up, he could be mentioned with the others.

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