When taking a look at the last 25 years of Carolina Basketball, it seems fitting that we should feature a performance from the greatest season by a Tar Heel point guard in that timeframe. With all love and respect to the many MANY terrific Carolina point guards that have graced us since 1993, none of them did what Ty Lawson did in 2009.
Tyler Hansbrough was a First-Team All-American and Wayne Ellington was the MVP of the Final Four (more on that later), but Ty Lawson was Carolina’s best and most important player on the 2009 National Championship team. Deservedly, he was named ACC Player of the Year and won the Bob Cousy Award for best point guard in college basketball. And he would save his best for last.
Coming off a 22 point 8 assist performance against Villanova in the Semifinal, Lawson would follow it up with a virtuoso showing against Michigan State. He didn’t shoot well, finishing just 3-10 from the field, but he did EVERYTHING else. He set the Final Four record for steals with 8, seven of them coming during Carolina’s blistering first half.
On top of that, he added 21 points, 15 of them coming from the free throw line, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and only one turnover on a night when Carolina committed just 7 to Michigan State’s 21. With all due respect to Wayne Ellington (whose hot-shooting in the Final Four came RIGHT on time), Lawson was robbed of the Final Four MVP. He averaged 21.5 ppg, 7 apg, and 5 spg.
The theme of the 2009 postseason was “Can Ty Go?” He had been clutch all season in big games for the Tar Heels but had been hobbled by a toe injury in March. With him out of the lineup, the Tar Heels fell to Florida State in the ACC Semifinals. With him back in the lineup. Carolina won all six tournament games by at least a dozen points. Now THAT’S an impact player.