for this game

Lawson's big first half helps North Carolina rout Rutgers

Dec 17, 2007 - 4:21 AM PISCATAWAY, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Ty Lawson and North Carolina certainly showed no signs of an 11-day layoff on Sunday.

Lawson scored 19 of his career-high 26 points in the first half as the top-ranked Tar Heels finished a season-long six-game road trip with a decisive 93-71 triumph of Rutgers at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.

Lawson shot 7-of-9 in the first half and finished with six rebounds, five assists and four steals.

"In the first half (Lawson) was aggressive, doing a great job defensively," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "When he attacks the basket he helps us get some easy baskets and also he has the ability defensively to really bother the other teams."

Tyler Hansbrough had 20 points and 11 rebounds before a late scare and Wayne Ellington added 13 points for the Tar Heels, who were playing their first game since a 106-71 victory at Pennsylvania on December 4.

With the win, North Carolina (9-0) continued its best start to a season since beginning the 1997-98 campaign with 17 straight wins.

"There's a reason they're the No. 1 team in the country," Rutgers coach Fred Hill said. "They're an extremely talented ball club, they've got great players at every position, they've got great depth and they're a really hard team to slow down."

The Tar Heels jumped out to a 7-2 lead less than four minutes into the contest and never trailed during the game.

Leading by eight midway through the first half, Lawson took over for North Carolina, scoring 14 of his team's next 17 points to help the Tar Heels take a 39-23 lead with 2:25 to play in the half.

"He's the guy that makes them go," Hill said. "I thought early on ... we had the tempo real good, but then he got them into a stretch where it was bang, bang, bang, bang he puts 10 points up on the board and you're down 17, 18, 19 points."

Lawson's final hoop of the first half - a layup in traffic with 23 seconds to play - gave North Carolina its largest lead of the opening 20 minutes, 47-26. The Tar Heels were also helped by a 21-2 advantage in points off turnovers in the first half.

"We feel very fortunate because there were parts of the game, particularly in the first half where we were really good defensively and got them to turn the ball over and turned it into points for us on the other end," Williams said. "And that was such a margin that it was hard for them to come back."

North Carolina started the second half on an 8-2 run and led by as many as 29 with 9:03 remaining, negating any chance of a comeback by the Scarlet Knights (7-4).

The Tar Heels did have a scary moment late in the second half when Hansbrough left the game with a concussion.

The junior forward attempted to take a charge on Rutgers guard Earl Pettis, when he went down and hit his head against a photographer's knee at the base of the basketball support under the hoop and stayed down for a couple minutes.

"First time in the history of college basketball that a guy got a concussion with no foul called ... that'd better be all I say," Williams said.

Hansbrough was helped to the locker room, but was not taken to the hospital for any further observation.

Rutgers leading scorer J.R. Inman was held to just 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting, while Corey Chandler scored 23 to lead the Scarlet Knights, who lost for the first time in seven home games this season.

"We did an outstanding job in the half court," Hill said. "In the first half, they had eight fast-break layups. You take away those layups, we did an outstanding job in the half court. The problem is you can't get them to play in the half court because they're so good at getting up and down the floor."