UNC's Hairston cleared to play in semifinals - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

UNC's Hairston cleared to play in semifinals

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -

North Carolina guard P.J. Hairston suffered a gash on his left hand Friday against Florida State and had to get stitches, North Carolina coach Roy Williams said, raising questions about how effective he can be Saturday in the ACC semifinals against Maryland.

Williams said late Friday night that he had no idea about Hairston's availability, but Hairston was cleared to play on Saturday. How much he can play, and how well, is uncertain.

Hairston was injured late in UNC's stunning 83-62 win in the quarterfinals. Hairston, who is from Greensboro, led UNC with 21 points and made 7 of 11 shots.

"We're extremely concerned now," Williams said late Friday. "His hand is torn up. They are stitching it up. It doesn't look good.

Williams said Hairston tore the webbing in his hand, apparently, Williams said, after the ball slammed into his hand. Officials had to stop the game to wipe blood off the Greensboro Coliseum floor.

Hairston's play has been critical to Carolina's late-season success. Williams moved Hairston into the starting lineup, and giving UNC a smaller, quicker team that has been successful. Williams said he didn't know who he would play if Hairston is limited, but said he'd probably need to play a bigger lineup.

Hairston's injury dampened what had been a superior effort by the Tar Heels only six days after a brutal home loss to Duke. Carolina came into this tournament expecting to see the Devils in the semifinals, but instead will face Maryland.

Tar Heels guard Dexter Strickland said the team watched the Duke-Maryland game on TV in their locker room, and the Heels were glad to see the Devils dismissed from the bracket.

"We were rooting for Maryland," Strickland said, comparing Duke and Carolina to "the Bloods and the Crips."

With Duke out, Carolina put on an inspired effort Friday. The Tar Heels played aggressive defense, passed the ball well on offense and watched as freshman point guard Marcus Paige had 10 assists and one turnover.

Paige said he was trying to be aggressive with the ball, and that he turns it over more when he is too passive.

"When I stay aggressive, I turn it over less," Paige said.

Carolina beat Maryland 62-52 in Chapel Hill Jan. 19 and won at Maryland 79-68 March 6.

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