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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tar Heels topple Eagles to tip off easiest ACC stretch

Posted by on Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 1:52 PM

Hairstons timetable is uncertain
For a frustrated team, there’s no better tonic than Boston College. North Carolina fell to rejuvenated N.C. State for the first time in six seasons last Saturday, and the Tar Heels traveled to Chestnut Hill, Mass., last night to face a 9-11 opponent.

The anemic, announced crowd of 7,062 — a very UNC-friendly crowd, to boot — witnessed a casual 82-70 victory for the Tar Heels and a frightening concussion suffered by Carolina sophomore P.J. Hairston.

Toward the latter portion of the first half, Hairston collided with teammate Dexter Strickland’s elbow along the baseline and toppled stiffly to the floor. After a few minutes on his back, he began trudging to the locker room with assistance from teammates. He then appeared to lose consciousness, however, and ultimately the medical personnel on hand decided he’d require a stretcher.

Doctors diagnosed Hairston with a concussion and it’s unknown when he’ll return to action, but UNC typically — as it should — adopts a very conservative approach with head injuries. Earlier this season, Reggie Bullock sat out after suffering a mild concussion in practice.

Hairston’s injury proved doubly unfortunate, because he began the game on fire, scoring 14 points in only 12 minutes. The fanbase had arisen in unison to protest Roy Williams’ rotation patterns versus the Wolfpack — to wit, the team fared immensely better with Hairston in the game, yet he sat for an extended period in the second half — and against the Eagles he garnered heavy playing time early.

Carolina’s upcoming schedule at least should offer the squad a reprieve. By my ever-so-empirical calculations, the Heels must compile a 4-2 record during this second six-game period. If they hit that benchmark and finish 3-3 during the final six, that would earn them a 10-8 conference mark and likely a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

The Heels will face several easier opponents but won’t enjoy much margin for error. They’ve now scalped Boston College on the road and will host middling (at best) foes Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Virginia in Chapel Hill. They need to win all of those games, because their other two contests will be road trips to Duke and conference-leading Miami.

Carolina now has won four of its past five games. The Heels haven’t yet defeated any top ACC teams, but they’ve avoided any bad losses — falling only to NCSU and Virginia on the road, and Miami at home — and will host the Wolfpack and Blue Devils later this season.

Next up, UNC will welcome Virginia Tech to Chapel Hill on Saturday afternoon. Click here to view the UNC/BC box score.

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