Just a week away from a possible rivalry showdown for the ACC regular season title, banged-up North Carolina might get some good news and some bad news on the injury report this weekend.
Point guard Ty Lawson could be available for the third-ranked Tar Heels on Saturday, but the Heels could be without forward Deon Thompson when they look to preserve their unbeaten road record at struggling Boston College.
Lawson, who was averaging 13.6 points and 5.7 assists before his injury, has missed the last six games due to a sprained ankle, but he returned to practice this week and North Carolina coach Roy Williams said he could play “a few minutes” against the Eagles.
But the Tar Heels (26-2, 11-2) might be missing Thompson against BC. Thompson has been limited with a back injury and played just 14 minutes in North Carolina’s 89-73 win over Wake Forest on Sunday, scoring three points and grabbing just one rebound.
Guard Marcus Ginyard has also been struggling with a foot injury.
“There’s nothing we can do about it,” Tar Heels forward Tyler Hansbrough said. “We can’t sit back and say, ‘Some guys are hurt.’ That’s where some guys are stepping up.”
The first game Lawson missed was the Tar Heels’ 89-78 home loss to Duke on Feb. 6, but North Carolina has won five in a row since that game to catch the Blue Devils atop the ACC.
Both teams are 11-2 in ACC play, and would meet for the outright league title in the regular season finale in Durham next Saturday if both win their next two games.
With a win in Chestnut Hill, North Carolina would visit Duke with a perfect 12-0 road record. The Tar Heels haven’t won 12 straight on the road since a 15-game road winning streak from 1975-77, but they’ve been surviving close road games throughout the ACC season.
Two of their road wins have come in overtime, while another pair have come by just one point. They are one of just two road unbeatens in Division I, but have won three more games on the road than No. 2 Memphis.
“I enjoy playing on the road,” Williams said. “I know that I can control not letting things bother me. … I’m going to be even more competitive on the road because my concentration’s going to be even more.”
The Tar Heels haven’t played since beating Wake Forest last weekend, as Hansbrough scored 29 points and Danny Green added 15 points and nine rebounds off the bench. Quentin Thomas also had six points and seven assists, and has averaged 6.7 assists while starting in place of Lawson.
Hansbrough has carried even more of the load offensively with Lawson out, averaging 29.0 points in the last six games. The likely ACC player of the year comfortably leads the league with both 23.4 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per contest.
BC’s Tyrese Rice is second in scoring, averaging 20.4 points, but that hasn’t helped the Eagles (13-13, 4-9) as they’ve lost three straight and nine of their last 10. They were blown out 67-48 at Virginia Tech on Tuesday, when they shot just 31 percent from the field.
Rice led BC with 15 points in that game, but shot just 6-of-16 and was held without an assist for the first time in more than two years.
He was 1-of-9 from 3-point range when BC lost 91-69 at North Carolina on Jan. 31. The Eagles have lost three straight against the Tar Heels, who won 77-72 in their first-ever visit to Conte Forum last season.