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SOUTH REGIONAL

North Carolina stomps Gonzaga

Tar Heels point guard Ty Lawson puts on a clinic in 98-77 South Regional semifinal.

March 28, 2009|David Teel

MEMPHIS, TENN. — North Carolina Coach Roy Williams insists otherwise, but Ty Lawson's jammed right big toe sure appears healed.

Lawson conducted an offensive clinic Friday night as the Tar Heels raced past Gonzaga, 98-77, in the NCAA South Regional semifinals. A junior point guard, Lawson scored 19 points on seven-of-nine shooting, passed for nine assists, grabbed five rebounds and committed only one turnover.

The toe ailment sidelined Lawson for three games, two in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and one in the NCAA. He returned last Saturday with a 23-point, six-assist, no-turnover performance against Louisiana State in the second round.

Yet on the eve of the Gonzaga contest, Williams said that Lawson's condition had declined during the week. All Lawson, the ACC player of the year, did before the first television timeout was make two three-point baskets and assist on a Danny Green dunk and three-pointer.

The top-seeded Tar Heels (31-4) are headed to a regional final for the fourth time in five years. Sunday they encounter second-seeded Oklahoma in a game that matches this season's national player of the year, Sooners forward Blake Griffin, against last season's, Tyler Hansbrough.

Hansbrough was typically efficient Friday with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Ranked second nationally in scoring, North Carolina shot 52.9% and made 11 of 19 three-point attempts.

Gonzaga (28-6) is 0-4 in tournament games against top seeds.

The Bulldogs have earned 11 consecutive NCAA bids, but their sole regional final came 10 years ago, when they lost to eventual national champion Connecticut.

Guard Jeremy Pargo led four Gonzaga double-figure scorers with 16 points.

North Carolina's offense was borderline flawless during the first half, when Lawson scored 17 points on six-of-seven shooting. The Tar Heels shot 59.4%, made six of nine three-point tries and committed only three turnovers.

Lawson's three-pointer with 7:46 remaining in the half gave North Carolina a 39-27 edge, and Gonzaga never again drew within single digits.

When the Bulldogs cut it to 68-57 early in the second half, the Tar Heels scored nine points in a flash. Bobby Frasor, scoreless until then, hit back-to-back three-pointers, and Wayne Ellington converted a three-point play on a fastbreak started by Ed Davis' block.

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dteel@dailypress.com

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