Point Production

Point Production

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Selecting a point guard as the nation's best would be a difficult task this season. After all, different offensive systems require unique skill sets. But there are two unequivocal truths in the current landscape – North Carolina's transition game requires perfection at the point, and Ty Lawson is making it look easy.

While Texas' D.J. Augustin (20.4 points per game) is responsible for carrying the Longhorns' scoring load, Davidson's Jason Richards (8.4 assists per game) is more geared toward simply directing the Wildcats' offense as their teams enter the second month of their respective conference schedules. But Lawson (14.1 ppg, 5.7 apg) has shown the ability to do both in Roy Williams' up-tempo system that borders on organized chaos.

"Nobody I've ever had pushes the ball faster on the dribble than Ty does," Williams said following last week's 98-82 victory over Miami. "And not only does he push it, he makes really good decisions when he gets down there and he has the ability to take it to the basket and score."

North Carolina ranks second nationally in scoring 91.4 points per game, while ranking first in kenpom.com's adjusted offensive efficiency rankings (123.4 points per 100 possessions). Putting that many points on the board while averaging less than six 3-pointers per contest provides a glimpse into the breakneck pace that Lawson sets on the court.

The Clinton, Md. native's recent statistics have been mind-boggling – a 2.45 assist-to-turnover ratio on the season, a 5.13 ratio over the past six games, and even more recently, 20 assists to just one turnover in the last two ball games.

"Tywon has really matured," Williams said. "His game has grown. He's understanding offensively what we want him to do, even more so with each and every week. I think he's just getting better and better."

Lawson scored 16 points, dished out 10 assists and forced three steals in Thursday night's 91-69 win over Boston College, but only one of those numbers stood out to the sophomore point guard.

"Everybody's scoring and that's making our team better, so getting 10 assists is better than 16 points," Lawson said.

But that's not to say that the 5-foot-11, 195-pounder is unable to score when he deems it necessary. When Old Dominion's seasoned veteran Brandon Johnson dropped 12 quick points on him in Las Vegas over Thanksgiving weekend, Lawson responded with a career-high 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting.

And when he sensed his team needed an offensive spark at Miami in the early going last Wednesday, the sophomore scored 15 points in the first half to give the Heels a seven-point lead at the break.

Lawson is as quick to divert praise as he is racing up the court for a lay up after a made basket, indicating that his recent play is a direct benefit to the Tar Heels' increased efforts on the defensive end of the floor.

"We've just been playing well on defense, I think," Lawson said. "When I get out into the open court, I love it. Getting somebody open for a shot or an easy dunk or a lay up – things like that. Our defense is really helping me out on the offensive end."

Those types of comments provide a glimpse into the leadership role that Lawson has slowly grown comfortable in during his two seasons in Chapel Hill.

"He's more of a leader now," assistant head coach Joe Holladay said. "He does a lot of little things that people don't see that he didn't use to do… At times [during] his freshman year, he would slow down because he was tired or he just decided to slow down. Now, he's pretty consistent with trying to push it every time, so I think he has progressed in all areas for us."

Lawson's rapid development is intriguing not only because of how good he has become in less than 18 months on campus, but because it raises the question as to how much better the speedy point guard can possibly get.

One thing's for sure, though – North Carolina's hopes for a national championship run rest firmly on Lawson's shoulders, and fortunately for the Tar Heel basketball program, there's no better option to run the secondary break across the country.

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