Catch Me If You Can

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. --- The postseason play of North Carolina freshman sensation Ty Lawson has been vital to the Tar Heels' 2007 ACC Tournament title and push for a national championship. In order to advance past Friday's regional semifinal, UNC will need another strong performance from Lawson, who discussed his ascension to becoming one of the nation's top point guards.

Lawson's style has flourished in Williams' roadrunner offensive attack, which in most cases either leaves opponents behind early or withers them down to total exhaustion by game's end.

Lawson's assault is spread nicely throughout several statistical categories. In the opening two rounds of the NCAA Tournament last week, he averaged 16 points, 4.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 1.5 turnovers. His 20 points and eight assists in Carolina's 81-67 defeat of Michigan State on Saturday helped wear down the Spartans' do-it-all guard Drew Neitzel, who could barely lift the ball over his head by the time the final buzzer sounded.

The top-seeded Tar Heels (30-6) will square off with No. 5-seed Southern California (25-11) at approximately 9:57 p.m.

""Ty Lawson is the key to us," USC coach Tim Floyd said. "They are going to run it at us, we know that. We are going to have to score some points in this game."

Lawson is a self-admitted cartoon junkie and Coach Roy Williams calls him Dennis the Menace. Sometimes the maneuvers he pulls off on the court don't seem lifelike either. Much of that is due to his combination of speed and strength, all rolled up in one 5-11, 190-pound package that has been raised on the basketball court and tutored by the best.

You can see him do things, but often his actions are hard to keep up with at normal speed.

"I rely on (quickness) to get around players, and I've developed my shot, so they can't lay back off of me because I'm so quick," Lawson explained. "When I go into the lane…if I get a bump first, then they don't have as much of a chance to block it. I just pull up and jump as high as I can, and put the ball high on the backboard before they get the chance to block it."

Yet, believe it or not, he wasn't always the fastest kid on the block. He just sort of grew into it.

"When I was younger, I really wasn't as quick as I am now," Lawson said. "But all of a sudden, people just started telling me I was quick."

Along with developing his physical attributes, Lawson credits the advanced skill elements to his high school relationship with Texas super frosh Kevin Durant, who prepped with Lawson at powerful Oak Hill (Va.) Academy.

"That helped me," Lawson said, "because we used to sit in the gym and play one-on-one all the time. He had long arms and tried to block my shots – that helped me out a lot going (into college), and it helped my basketball skills out."

Their game format – named "three dribbles" – also enabled Durant to hone his outside game, Lawson says, because the 6-9 Durant couldn't just back-in and post up the smaller Lawson.

"That's probably why he got his outside game like that, because he can dribble, crossover and take other guys to the basket," Lawson said.

The Trojans will try to put speed bumps in front of Lawson and the Tar Heels with their multiple defensive sets, which have held 20 of their 36 opponents to less than 40 percent shooting.

"We have tried to prepare for the things that we have seen Tim's teams in the past do and try to prepare for unusual things," Williams said. "It's a challenge for our team but I don't mind that."

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