Doug Gotlieb, the ESPN college basketball analyst proclaimed to the viewing world that without Kendall Marshall, UNC would not survive St. Louis. Tar Heel players took exception to Gotlieb’s smugness–namely, Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and Jon Henson.
Even with Carolina hitting only 7 out of 22 from behind the arc, third string Stillman White starting at point, and Ohio’s Walter Offutt dropping 26 points, Chapel Hill survived in overtime—holding OU scoreless in extra time.
Watching that game, I was struck by just how excited both the coliseum and play-by-play announcers were by the idea that Ohio could win. The crowd was on their feet when Ohio hit a shot or when Carolina turned the ball over. Long story short: UNC beat the Bobcats in a tough road victory.
Much speculation surrounded whether Kendall Marshall would be available and healthy in time for Sunday’s tip-off against Kansas. He was not; showing swelling and pain during practice. Roy Williams wouldn’t risk it.
UNC played fast and played well. Tying it up against Kansas at half, 47-47, everything looked kosher. That was, until, the Tar Heels went frozen from behind the three-point line—eventually succumbing to interior pressure from the Jayhawks and not able to feed the ball to Zeller or Hinson. Harrison Barnes struggled terribly, going 1-12 at one point. Kansas finished the game in the final two minutes with a 12-0 run against Chapel Hill.
But you know what? UNC still almost won. Under the circumstances, against a very talented squad (that boasted a huge local fan base,) and on an incredibly poor shooting night…UNC still almost won.
Carolina’s most important player got bit by the injury bug in the most important part of the post-season. They still won three out of four halves of basketball against talented shooting teams.
UNC should choose to look back on this season with a positive perspective. They’ve earned it.