The junior point sat at his locker following the 73-70 loss to the Seminoles with his right foot dunked in a trash can full of ice, and delivered an unwavering response when asked if he would be available for Thursday’s opening round of the NCAA Tournament in Greensboro, N.C.
“Definitely – I’ll be ready Thursday,” Lawson said.
The Clinton, Md. product jammed his right foot into a goal support in practice on March 6th, injuring his big toe. He managed to play 36 minutes in the victory over Duke on Sunday night with the help of a numbing shot, but witnessed significant swelling on Monday and Tuesday and was at times relegated to crutches.
But the swelling started to go down on Wednesday afternoon, and by Saturday, Lawson no longer needed his black slipper that he had worn all week long.
“I’m walking on it in a regular shoe now,” he said. “I was shooting today on it. I wasn’t really jumping on it, but it’s gotten a lot better from the last three days that I’ve been working with the doctors.”
Lawson earned ACC Player of the Year honors after leading the conference in assists (6.5), assist-error ratio (3.32 to 1) and tying for first in steals (2.10). His assist-error ratio is the third-best in ACC single-season history. He is averaging 15.9 points and shooting 53.8 percent from the floor, 46.7 percent from three-point range and 80.9 percent from the free throw line. He has the same number of steals (59) as turnovers.
For Lawson, watching Toney Douglas score 27 points from the bench generated some feelings of guilt on the sidelines.
“I’ll take a little bit of the blame, because I wanted to be out there,” Lawson said. “I felt bad for not being out there with my toe hurting like this. I’ve just got to get better, but I do feel bad that we lost this game.”
There was some speculation that North Carolina would hold Lawson out for the entire ACC Tournament, regardless of whether or not he could potentially play at less than 100 percent, but the junior disregarded that suggestion in his postgame interview.
“We wanted to win this tournament real bad, because we want to win every game,” Lawson said. “But they didn’t want my toe to flare up, so he decided to sit me out this game. Our big goal is to win the [NCAA] championship, so that might have played a little bit into it.”
North Carolina is expected to receive a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The bracket will officially be announced Sunday afternoon at 6pm on CBS.