Hairston injured in ACC victory against Boston College

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P.J. Hairston leaves the court after his injury.

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — P.J. Hairston was the only bright spot in the North Carolina men’s basketball team’s loss to N.C. State on Saturday.

He dropped 19 points in just 17 minutes of play and hit some big-time 3-point shots that kept the Tar Heels close.

Tuesday night at Boston College, he picked up right where he left off. Hairston was one of the first reserves off the bench as he came in about three minutes into the game, and he quickly made his mark on the Tar Heels’ 82-70 win.

“It’s always good when P.J.’s making shots,” freshman point guard Marcus Paige said of his sophomore teammate. “We’re such a better team. He brings such a lift off the bench, and he’s such a great player that when he’s making shots we’re a tough team to beat.”

As strong as his start was, his stay on the floor was cut short by a nasty collision with Dexter Strickland and Patrick Heckmann.

With just a touch more than four minutes left in the first half, Hairston and Strickland leapt to contest Heckmann’s layup attempt. Hairston caught the worst of the collision, as Strickland’s elbow struck his head.

“That was my fault, man,” Strickland said after the game. “I apologized to him because I should have been in help position at the time. All I remember, I jumped up to contest the shot, and I felt his face hit my elbow and my hip, and I just saw him go down.

“I was hurt so I knew it hurt him. He’s talking now, he said he’s still a little dizzy, but hopefully we’ll have him for the next game.”

The game was stopped for several minutes as Hairston tried to collect himself and get off the floor. Two teammates tried to carry him off, but Hairston was too limp and they nearly dropped him. Referee Karl Hess immediately turned to the Conte Forum floor staff and requested a stretcher.

Hairston, who was not available for comment after the game, was diagnosed with a concussion at halftime.

The Tar Heels were trailing 5-2 when Hairston entered the game. That deficit was erased in just two short minutes.

Hairston made his first four attempts from beyond the three point line and nearly made a fifth but was fouled in the act of shooting. He made two of the three free throws to give him 14 points in just eight minutes on the floor.

Despite playing a total of just 12 minutes, during which UNC outscored Boston College by 15 points, Hairston was the second leading scorer for the Tar Heels. He and Strickland, who played one of his best contests of the new year, both finished the night with 14 points.

James Michael McAdoo led the Tar Heels with 17 points, though it took him 20 shots, to go along with his 10 rebounds.

“I don’t really get caught up in how many shots one guy is taking as long as they’re good shots,” coach Roy Williams said. “I wouldn’t have minded if P.J. had to take 40 if he was going to make four out of every five.”

It was clear that Hairston was the game-changer.

In the three minutes before he came in the game and the 24 minutes after he left it, Boston College out-scored the Tar Heels by three points.

“I tell you what he looked like he was about as hot as I’ve ever seen him in my life,” Williams said. “And we would have liked to have had him longer. They feel like he does have a concussion, so who knows what the next step is going to be.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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