N. Carolina's Phelps suffers severe bruise of lower back


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- North Carolina point guard Derrick Phelps suffered a severe bruise of the lower back yesterday in the semifinals of the ACC tournament when he fell hard to the floor after being fouled by Virginia's Jason Williford.

Phelps remained on the ground behind the basket and was helped from the court at the Charlotte Coliseum on a stretcher. Preliminary X-rays showed no fracture, and Phelps, who had some numbness in his thighs, had increased strength in his legs within an hour after the incident.

"I was going for the ball, I thought it was a good hustle play," an obviously shaken Williford said after the Cavaliers had lost to the top-ranked Tar Heels, 74-56. "The crowd got on me pretty good like I was a dirty player. I went over to shake his hand, and make sure he was all right."

While Dean Smith wasn't upset with the play Williford made -- "it wasn't a flagrant foul," Smith said -- the North Carolina coach would like to see the rule changed that allows such a foul to occur. In this case, when a defensive player fouls the man with the ball coming from behind even if, as in Williford's case, he was going for the ball.

"The NBA's got it in," said Smith, who is on the NCAA's officiating committee that game rule. "You've got to penalize [the offending player] more than just going to the foul line."

But one of Phelps' teammates was upset with Williford's play.

"It was a hustling foul," senior forward George Lynch told the Associated Press. "But you have to look at where any time we're up 10 or 12 that late [with 1:52 to go], there's no way one foul is going to make a big difference in the game. It has a possibility of hurting us in the next game.

"Any time the player is ahead of you that in the open, I think you should at least try and break his fall or try to catch him. He didn't even try to catch him. He just walked away. And that's uncalled for in the game of basketball."

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