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December 27, 2007

Lawson, Ellington shine in costly win for Tar Heels

CHAPEL HILL - The play of his top two guards should have had North Carolina coach Roy Williams smiling. Instead, he spent his post-game press conference fighting back tears.

While Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson had career games in the top-ranked Tar Heels' 106-70 victory against Nevada, the team lost Bobby Frasor for the season to a torn left anterior cruciate ligament.

"On the court, it was a really good night for us," Williams said. "But you sort of lose the thrill when you see a kid like Bobby Frasor (get hurt). It's not easy. It's not easy for any of us right now."

Tyler Hansbrough led the Tar Heels with 26 points, while Ellington and Lawson provided the big sparks for Carolina, which improved to 12-0 on the season.

Lawson had his first career double-double, scoring 16 points and dishing a career-high 10 assists.

"Everybody was knocking down shots," Lawson said.

That included Ellington, who didn't start after an airport mishap on his way back from Christmas vacation forced him to miss practice the day before the game.

Because Ellington didn't practice, Williams elected to start Danny Green in his place.

But missing his flight back to Chapel Hill was about all Ellington did wrong.

The sophomore hit 8 of 12 shots, including five 3-pointers, and tied a career high with 23 points.

"Me and Coach talked, and he told me, 'Come off and give us a spark,'" said Ellington, who has scored at least 13 points in every game this season. "I just played my game."

Nevada (7-5) kept the game close early, thanks to a hot start by leading scorer Marcelus Kemp, who finished with 19.

But Carolina's defenders soon started forcing him away from the middle of the floor and playing better on-the-ball defense to force Kemp from his comfort zone.

Defense also sparked the run that changed the game.

Three of Lawson's career-high five steals came in the final minutes of the first half, which the Tar Heels finished with a 13-2 run.

"You could see them kind of giving up and losing some confidence," Green said.

The run continued after the break, with Carolina scoring the first 11 points of the second half to open up a 25-point lead.

"I was just trying to elevate my intensity at the end of the half," Lawson said. "I felt like that run in the first half set up the run for the second half."

The Tar Heels shot 65 percent in the second half and had 14 assists on their 20 field goals in the period.

"We were really efficient offensively with the turnovers and made baskets," Williams said. "At the start of the second half, we moved the ball better."

The game was well in hand for the Tar Heels when Frasor went down midway through the second half.

Trying to save a steal from going out of bounds, Frasor went to the floor clutching his knee and writhing in pain, and then stayed down for a couple of minutes while the crowd chanted his name.

Eventually, he was able to get up and walk off the court under his own power while the fans at the Smith Center gave him a standing ovation.

That encouraged Frasor's teammates, but immediately after the game, they learned of the diagnosis that will cost the junior the rest of his season.

"Everybody's heart dropped," Green said.

Frasor has been plagued by injury throughout his career at North Carolina, but he was finally healthy again this year after suffering through foot problems all through the 2006-07 season.

That made the news that they would be losing him even tougher for his coaches and teammates to take.

"There are a lot of emotions going through your head," junior Marcus Ginyard said. "It was painful for us to hear, knowing what Bobby has been through."

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