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March 14, 2009

UNC falls to Seminoles in ACC semifinal

ATLANTA - Roy Williams wasn't interested in any silver linings.

But North Carolina's coach did begrudgingly admit that if his team did have to lose in the ACC semifinal, the extra day of rest certainly wouldn't hurt the ailing Tar Heels.

So that was the good news and the bad news for No. 1 seed Carolina, which lost 73-70 to fourth-seeded Florida State but likely played its last game this season without point guard Ty Lawson.

"It's not going to help my sleep tonight, but if it helps my players' bodies, we'll take it," Williams said. "The extra day may help, but I'd rather win."

The Tar Heels (28-4) certainly could have used Lawson, who was sidelined for the second straight game with an injured big toe, or a full-strength Deon Thompson who played 22 minutes on a sprained ankle he suffered a day earlier against Virginia Tech.

Wayne Ellington led UNC with 24 while Tyler Hansbrough had 22 and 11 rebounds, but that wasn't enough to match an FSU offense, led by Toney Douglas' 27 points, that shot 66.7 percent in the second half.

After the game Lawson said he had tried pushing off his foot a little bit before the game and it was feeling "a lot better."

"It will probably still be a little bit sore next week, but I'll be able to play Thursday," Lawson said.

Despite the disparity in shooting percentages - UNC shot 37 percent overall - Carolina had a chance to tie the game at the end.

Bobby Frasor, who once again filled in for Lawson, hit a free throw to put the Heels up 70-69 with a minute to go before the Seminoles (25-8) responded by going to the line twice and making all four shots.

Ellington, who had already hit four 3-pointers in the game, put up a three with a few seconds remaining but couldn't get it to fall.

"They did a pretty good job defending me coming off the screen," Ellington said. "I couldn't get a clean look."

Danny Green, who was 1-for-12 shooting in the game and a combined 3-for-25 in the two games here at the Georgia Dome, grabbed the rebound, but his last-second 3-point attempt never had a chance.

"I just didn't find my touch this weekend," Green said. "Hopefully I'll find it in the future."

Hansbrough became UNC's all-time leading rebounder when he grabbed his seventh of the game a minute into the second half.

It was the 1,168th rebound of his career, pushing him past Sam Perkins, and he did it against a brutally physical Florida State front line.

But there was no celebrating that without getting to celebrate another victory.

"We didn't play up to our standards," Frasor said. "We didn't play the way we want to play. We didn't get contributions from everyone. We can easily play better. We will watch the film and learn from it. The ultimate goal starts next weekend, and that's what we have our eye on."

The national championship, of course, has long been the Tar Heels' prized aspiration. And much is made of the fact that, with the exception of last year's UNC squad, Williams' teams only get to the Final Four in years they do not win the conference tournament.

So perhaps this loss provides a sprinkle of superstition to go along with the extra day of rest the banged-up Heels could use.

Williams just wants to make sure that his team doesn't slip again, even when they have Lawson back.

"There's no tomorrow now," Williams said. "The next time you feel this way at the end of the game, you're done."


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