A quick choice by Ty Lawson in January extended North Carolina’s run of success against Florida State. Any decision on the star’s status for the ACC tournament requires more deliberation.
If Lawson sits again, the first opportunity for heroics will continue to go to Tyler Hansbrough as the top-ranked Tar Heels try to secure a spot in the ACC title game and earn their 11th straight win over the 22nd-ranked Seminoles on Saturday.
Lawson (toe) didn’t play in Friday’s conference tournament quarterfinals, but the Tar Heels (28-3) avoided an upset by holding off Virginia Tech 79-76.
Hansbrough scored 28 points, including the go-ahead basket with 36.1 seconds left, and made a defensive stop in the final seconds as North Carolina stayed alive in its quest for a third straight ACC tournament title.
The reigning national player of the year will lead the way for the Tar Heels again if Lawson continues to rest. Lawson, the ACC player of the year, was in uniform against the Hokies but North Carolina decided to have him sit out rather than risk his health for the NCAA tournament.
It was the first time the ACC player of the year missed his team’s tournament opener.
Senior Bobby Frasor took over at point guard and had four points, four rebounds, three assists and one turnover in 37 minutes.
“I was surrounded by a band of scorers,” said Frasor, who started every game as a freshman before Lawson arrived the following year.
North Carolina might have had its winning streak against Florida State (24-8) snapped earlier this season if not for an incredible play by Lawson. He was supposed to take a timeout but instead took an inbounds pass with 3.2 seconds left and raced downcourt before making a game-winning 3-pointer at near full speed, giving the Tar Heels an 80-77 victory Jan. 28 in Tallahassee.
Lawson had 21 points and nine rebounds as North Carolina extended its run over the Seminoles to 10 in a row since a 90-81 overtime loss Jan. 22, 2004. The Tar Heels have won 21 of 24 in the series since 1996-97, and beat Florida State 82-70 in last year’s ACC tournament quarterfinals.
Hansbrough had 22 points in that contest, but struggled in this season’s matchup with the Seminoles. The senior forward fell short of double figures for the first time in 56 games, finishing with only eight points.
Florida State also narrowly avoided an upset Friday, beating Georgia Tech 64-62.
Derwin Kitchen scored the go-ahead layup with 7.7 seconds left as the Seminoles ended a streak of 11 straight losses in the quarterfinals. They advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 1992, their first year in the ACC.
Toney Douglas once again led Florida State, finishing with 25 points. The senior guard is the conference’s second-leading scorer, averaging 20.9 points.
Douglas was outstanding in this season’s first matchup with North Carolina, scoring a game-high 32 points. He’d averaged 11.4 points and shot 24.3 percent in his previous five matchups with the Tar Heels.
“We always want to play the top team in the league and in the country,” Douglas said.
The winner of this contest will face either No. 9 Duke or Maryland in the championship game Sunday.