Lawson says he'll play through pain

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Ty Lawson's toe is still a concern for top-seeded North Carolina. At least now the nimble point guard is used to playing through the pain.

Lawson said Thursday his right big toe is feeling about how it did last week. That didn't make coach Roy Williams too happy, but Lawson expects to be ready when the Tar Heels face Gonzaga on Friday night in the NCAA round of 16.

"I played with it last week. I know what pain's coming. I'm already used to it, so I'll just play through it like I did last week," Lawson said. "It still hurts. I can't do what I normally do, but I realize what I can't do with it and I just play to my strengths."

Lawson missed three straight games before helping the Tar Heels 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.

"The first time in the Duke game he played, it was very swollen," Williams said. "This time it's not swollen, but it's been painful."

Injured or not, Lawson certainly was a factor against LSU, scoring 21 of his 23 points in the second half of an 84-70 win.

Still, Williams had hoped the toe would improve a little more before his team's next game.

"On a scale of one to 10 -- 10 being the greatest -- how was it? Yesterday, he said, 'A six,'" Williams said. "How was it Saturday before the LSU game? He said about an eight, so that's not encouraging to me."

Lawson, the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year, 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.

He missed the Tar Heels' two ACC tournament games and their NCAA opener against Radford.