It wasn’t easy, but North Carolina proved it could win without its star point guard.
The fifth-ranked Tar Heels will likely be without Ty Lawson again on Tuesday when they visit struggling Virginia.
Lawson sprained his left ankle in an 84-73 overtime win at Florida State on Feb. 3 and has missed North Carolina’s last two games. The Tar Heels’ up-tempo offense looked out-of-sync in an 89-78 home loss to No. 2 Duke on Wednesday, and center Tyler Hansbrough, who had 28 points, didn’t get much help.
On Sunday, Hansbrough had 39 points - one shy of his career high - and 13 rebounds, but he had a little more assistance in North Carolina’s 103-93 double-overtime win over Clemson.
Wayne Ellington chipped in 28 points and Danny Green had 14 for the Tar Heels (22-2, 7-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who came back from a 15-point deficit.
“Fellas, it wasn’t looking good. We were looking at a 30-point butt-kicking there about 5 or 6 minutes into the game,” coach Roy Williams said. “If I live to be 106, I won’t be any more proud of a group of kids than I am of that bunch right there.”
Hansbrough, who scored 13 points in the overtimes, was named ACC player of the week for the sixth time this season, matching Duke’s J.J. Redick (2005-06) for second-most in a season. North Carolina’s Antawn Jamison (1997-98) set the record with seven.
“Tyler’s an animal. He was everywhere. That’s why they call him ‘Psycho T,’” Ellington said. “He’s so aggressive, and he’s after it all the time.”
The Tar Heels could need another big night out of Hansbrough with Laswon likely out.
“I don’t know that there is a timetable,” Williams said Monday. “I think we’ve just got to wait until he starts feeling better with it. The kid’s not been hurt very often and kids that haven’t been hurt think that sometimes things have to be perfect before they come back.”
Making matters worse, Marcus Ginyard sprained an ankle against the Tigers and is nursing an injured toe on his left foot. With Lawson sidelined, Ginyard has been backing up senior Quentin Thomas, who played a career-high 46 minutes against the Tigers.
The Tar Heels are 1-6 in their last seven games at Virginia (11-11, 1-8). However, the Cavaliers have dropped six straight and nine of 10, and are mired in last place in the conference.
Virginia is coming off Saturday’s 80-64 loss to Wake Forest. Sean Singletary, who leads the team with 18.6 points per game, scored 21 and Ryan Pettinella added 12 and 11 rebounds.
Following Thursday’s 82-51 home loss to Clemson, Virginia coach Dave Leitao shuffled his starting lineup, but it didn’t seem to help.
“There’s only one result, and that’s to score more points than the other team,” coach Dave Leitao said of the changes. “And when that doesn’t happen, then it doesn’t work.”
The Cavaliers are trying to avoid their first seven-game losing streak since 2002-03 and their first 1-9 start in ACC play since 1976-77.