Wrap-up: Heels Nip Huskies Late to Advance to Sweet 16
UNC 86, UW 83
It was a trendy upset pick, Washington over North Carolina, but in the end it was just that — an upset pick. After an excruciating 33 minutes, if you’re a Carolina fan, the Heels defense suddenly picked up, and UNC was able to get over the hump the Huskies had up until that point expertly kept just out of reach to pull out the win.
After not hitting a single field goal in the ACC Tournament (yes, that’s correct), Dexter Strickland stepped to the foul line with 5.4 seconds left and Carolina leading by one. Kendall Marshall had just missed the front end of his one-and-one in the Heels’ previous possession, and a great defensive play by John Henson had put the ball with Strickland before he was fouled. As Scott Fowler pointed out, this is not exactly the person any UNC fan would have liked to be approaching the charity stripe — at least prior to the shots.
Strick swished both attempts, didn’t even look fazed.
We should all be ashamed that we didn’t have faith in our team, but c’mon, how many of you were confident he’d hit both? It wasn’t the clutch-master, Harrison Barnes. It wasn’t the team’s best free-throw shooter, Tyler Zeller. It didn’t matter. While at times in the second half it seemed the game might just slip away, you couldn’t help but feel this team would come back. It’s done it all year. Those experiences might finally be paying off, and it couldn’t be more evident that with Dex’s clutch free throws. There is a feeling on this team that everyone will do what they need to in order to win.
That has this Tar Heel fan feeling very giddy with the team heading to Newark, N.J., for the third round, though as Strickland proved, giddy is not in the this Tar Heels team’s vocabulary.
- Washington played a damn good game, but so did the Heels. Normally, if Carolina is losing, it’s because its giving up a ton of turnovers and playing bad basketball, but in this game the Tar Heels only had nine turnovers in the entire contest. Washington, which averages nine 3-pointers per game, hit six in the first half to keep them ahead of Carolina at the break. As UNC’s defense finally clamped down those trey numbers came back down to Earth for the Huskies, and UNC was able to take the lead in the well fought match. Roy Williams said after the game, “If you are a basketball guy, you had to enjoy that basketball game.”
- From Tar Heel Blue: Freshman point guard Kendall Marshall had 13 points and 14 assists. The 14 assists are the most ever by a Tar Heel in an NCAA Tournament game. The previous mark was Kenny Smith’s 12 against Notre Dame in the 1987 East Regional semifinal in Charlotte. It was Marshall’s second double-double of the season, the fifth time in the last eight games he’s had 10 or more assists. Marshall’s point-assist double-double was the first in an NCAA Tournament game since Ed Cota had 20 points and 10 assists in a loss to Weber State in 1999. Marshall now has 76 assists in his last eight games (9.5 per game during that stretch). Six of those games have come against teams participating in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. UNC is 16-2 with Marshall in the starting lineup.
- John Henson made some mistakes in the final 30 seconds, but he also came up with one of the biggest plays of the game with his tip of the inbounds pass that set up Strickland to get fouled with 5.4 seconds left. We won’t talk about why he thought it necessary to swat a ball as it was clearly coming down toward the basket.
Player of the Game: Dexter Strickland (13 pts, 6 rebs, 1 ast, 0 tos) Clutch free throws and increased energy on the fast break, he’s starting to look like the Dexter Strickland of the early season, the dangerous speed demon who’s also a lock-down defender.
Stat Stuffer (a.k.a. The John Henson Award): The Big Smile retains his title this game, 10 pts, 10 rebs, 4 blks, 2 stls.