Dime’s Aron Phillips e-mailed the crew earlier today: “Ty Lawson has been getting as much coverage as Cyrano de Bergerac‘s nose.” Although I wouldn’t have gone for the random French literature reference, Lawson’s injured toe has been one of the major story lines of this NCAA Tournament so far. After missing UNC’s first-round win over Radford, the junior point guard returned for today’s game against LSU.
Lawson played limited minutes in the first half, at least once going to the bench after his toe got stepped on. In the second half, he went off for 21 of his 23 points, leading UNC to an 84-70 win. Wayne Ellington also scored 23 for the Tar Heels, and Tyler Hansbrough had 15 points and eight boards. LSU’s Marcus Thornton scored 25.
On the other end of the South bracket, Blake Griffin dumped 33 points and 17 boards in Oklahoma’s 10-point win over Michigan.
But the game of the day so far (by far) was Purdue’s 76-74 win over Washington. In the first half, the Boilermakers picked UW apart with their motion offense (something UW hadn’t seen in the Pac-10 all year) and bottled them up defensively in getting out to a double-digit lead at the break.
Down by as much as 14, the Huskies rallied behind Jon Brockman (20 pts, 18 rebs), who controlled the paint in the second half. Not missing anything inside and cleaning up everybody else’s mess, Brockman helped get UW within two a few times down the stretch; but Purdue center JaJuan Johnson made a couple huge blocks in the final minute, and Isaiah Thomas missed a (probably ill-advised) transition layup instead of setting something up on Washington’s last good possession before Purdue closed it out at the line.
Johnson finished with 22 points and four blocks in the win. Thomas scored 24 points for UW, and Quincy Pondexter went for 20 points and 10 boards.
Oklahoma plays tomorrow’s Syracuse/Arizona State winner, North Carolina plays the winner of Gonzaga/Western Kentucky (in progress), and Purdue will play UConn in the Sweet Sixteen.