WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP)—Ty Lawson heard coach Roy Williams nag him at halftime about how frequently he was shooting.
But the veteran North Carolina coach didn’t want his freshman point guard shooting less often—instead, he wanted him to shoot more.
“When I’m open, I need to take it,” Lawson said. “Everybody’s been telling me I need to shoot more. I probably take two, three shots a game, sometimes four shots. (Williams) said, ‘Take the open shots and we’ll be a much better team.”’
Lawson got the message, scoring all 15 of his points in the second half of the fourth-ranked Tar Heels’ 88-60 rout of Wake Forest on Wednesday night.
Fellow freshman Wayne Ellington led the way with 18 points to break out of a scoring slump. He was kept under double figures in three of five previous games and hadn’t scored more than 12 in Atlantic Coast Conference play.
“It all started on the defensive end of the court, we got some big stops in the passing lane and came down on offense and got easy looks, instead of forcing our own shots,” Ellington said.
Tyler Hansbrough added 13 points for the Tar Heels (18-2, 5-1), who outscored the Demon Deacons 46-23 in the second half en route to their third straight win and 15th in 16 games.
Danny Green and freshman Brandan Wright added 12 points apiece for North Carolina, which won its second straight against Wake Forest.
It was the Tar Heels’ most lopsided victory over the Demon Deacons since a 29-point romp in 1986, and their largest margin of victory in a road game against them. The latest rout helped North Carolina improve to 3-6 in its last nine meetings with Wake Forest.
“It’s hard to say we’ve come a long way after losing by 30, but we’ve taken some positive steps,” senior center Kyle Visser said. “We played pretty hard for most of the game.”
Statistically, this one shaped up as a mismatch from the start—with the ACC’s best offense matching up against its worst defense—but the Demon Deacons hung with the Tar Heels for little over a half before wilting.
“Wake Forest was more determined than we were” in the first half, Williams said. “They kept getting all the loose balls on the long rebounds.
After halftime, North Carolina shot 57 percent and held Wake Forest to under 26 percent shooting.
“It’s up to us to get the crowd going,” coach Skip Prosser said. “We did it in the first half, and we didn’t do it in the second.”
Visser—the only remaining player who was part of the Chris Paul-led team that reached No. 1 in 2005—had 16 points to lead Wake Forest (9-10, 1-6), which started two freshmen, lost its fifth straight and fell deeper into the ACC cellar.
“I’m not despairing yet, because those young guys will be good players for us,” Prosser said. “They call it growing pains because they’re often painful, and tonight was exceedingly so.”
The Tar Heels needed Lawson twice in the final 20 minutes to help fend off the Demon Deacons.
“It’s great for all of us—once he gets going, we get going,” Ellington said. “It starts with the point guard. Once he gets going up and down the court, and starts getting everybody involved, we all feed off of that and start playing a lot harder.”
After Wake Forest pulled to within 44-41 in the opening moments of the second half, Lawson scored six straight points to give the Tar Heels some breathing room.
Then after Jamie Skeen’s 3-pointer pulled the Demon Deacons within 52-46 with 16 minutes left, Lawson hit a 3 to start a 30-6 run over about a 10-minute stretch to seal the outcome.
“(Williams) told me that going into the second half (to) shoot more because I was open on a couple of those,” Lawson said. “I was trying to drive and go too deep. He was like, ‘Just take the open shot.”’