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Injury may not keep Tar Heels’ Lawson out of NCAAs

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Ty Lawson is starting to feel better, just in time for North Carolina.

The speedy point guard said his troublesome toe is still achy after returning to the lineup over the weekend, but he plans to play in the Tar Heels’ game against Gonzaga on Friday. And coach Roy Williams also sounds optimistic, too, that the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year will be ready for the NCAA tournament’s round of 16.

“It’s getting better,” Lawson said Tuesday. “I’m walking on it better. Hopefully in a couple of days, it’ll be back to 100 percent.”

Lawson had missed three straight games with a jammed right big toe before helping the top-seeded Tar Heels (30-4) rally past LSU in Saturday’s second-round game in the South Regional.

He experienced some minor swelling in the toe afterward, but nothing like what followed the regular-season finale against Duke that forced him to the sideline.

He participated in the team’s shootaround Monday and expected to go through some drills during practice this week. But the team has been cautious, keeping him out of practice for almost two weeks, in addition to missing both of the Tar Heels’ ACC tournament games and their NCAA opener against Radford.

Williams said the injury will linger.

“It’s here,” he said. “It’s going to be here. It’s not going to go away. It’s going to hurt the whole rest of the season until he can take that time off.”

Lawson injured the toe in practice two days before the Duke game and needed a painkilling shot beforehand. He nearly had a triple-double in 36 minutes in the win, but the toe swelled unexpectedly afterward.

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