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Off the cuff: North Carolina had opportunities to win despite playing without field general Kendall Marshall but anyone who knows basketball knows that it was an uphill battle for the Tar Heels to win that game without him.

It took a season-high 63.5 percent in the first half to even tie Kansas 47-47 at the half. You wouldn't think Carolina would shoot that well after a halftime to adjust and the Heels didn't, hitting only seven of 31 shots in the second half. A lot of that is the perimeter shooting problem that UNC has had all year but most of it, despite the best efforts of Stilman White, was due to Marshall not being there to run the offense effectively.

Doctors had said that Marshall would not injure the fractured wrist more by playing but that his availability would depend on his pain and comfort level. Coach Roy Williams said the wrist was sore after workouts Saturday and that he just had too much discomfort to play against Kansas.

Willis Reed he's not. Maybe there is more we don't know, but if discomfort not inability to play was the reason Marshall didn't go, it's disappointing. Even if he could have played 15 minutes, it would have been a lift to the Tar Heels.

Marshall probably thought his teammates would pull out one more win without him and then he'd be back for the Final Four. Well, there is no Final Four and now Marshall, just a sophomore, could decide to turn pro. Is that really how he wanted his college career to end or would have giving it a go been more appropriate?

After the game Coach Williams was asked if Marshall was even remotely close to being able to go. "I thought he was yesterday. We let him run up and down the court and catch and pass a little bit. And I really got a little excited at that point. But I think that it got even sorer last night after just that little activity. We weren't even on the court probably 25 minutes doing anything. At that point during practice I thought he had a chance to go. But last night, I got less confident, and then this morning it just didn't feel right for him. You hate that for that kid. You hate it for our program, hate it for our team. But Kendall Marshall is all about winning and is all about team. And if you've ever watched him play, you realize that he's one of those point guards that cares about his team maybe more than anybody I've ever seen. So you hate it for him."


Coach Williams was asked if he'll look back on the season and say, "what if" in relation to the Carolina injuries this season.

Williams responded, "I think I do all the time. You're asking the worst person in the world for that because Coach Smith, smartest guy I ever known in my life, he said his biggest worry about me was how hard I took the losses as an assistant. He said they're a heck of a lot tougher as a head coach. Yes, I'll play it over for a long time. I'll say what if for a long time. But we still had a chance. We just didn't play as well as we needed to play. This team, I looked two days ago, Ohio, the top nine guys played, they had one guy miss one game. Kansas the top eight guys had one guy miss one game. Last four years, we have had more adversity than I've ever seen in my entire life. But, boy, I've had great kids. So to answer your question, I'm going to play this game over and over and over. But I'm also going to consider how lucky I am to coach. And last year particularly and this year, it's been such a fun group of kids. It was last year, the way they came together down the stretch was maybe as good as it's ever been. But coaching's what it is."

As for the "what if" factor, Carolina lost Leslie McDonald before the season, then lost Dexter Strickland fairly early in the season, and played without John Henson for several games and then without Marshall at the end of the season.

Still, with Marshall, the Tar Heels are a better team than Kansas but without him they weren't.

Now the Tar Heels brace to see which underclassmen decide to turn pro. Former Tar Heel Eric Montross, who provides color commentary on the Tar Heels radio network, said that players that go to the NBA early do so because they dominate at the collegiate level. "Our underclassmen don't dominate at the collegiate level,'' he said.

Late Kansas run sinks Heels season
Ultimately, UNC can't overcome injuries

A shorthanded North Carolina team hung tough against Kansas for 37 minutes. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, the game is 40 minutes. Kansas advanced to the Final Four by outscoring UNC 12-0 over the last three minutes, coming away with an 80-67 victory. (3/25) Click here for a photo gallery.

It was decided that Kendall Marshall, who fractured a wrist a week earlier, couldn't go because of soreness in the wrist. John Henson, himself recovering from a wrist injury, sprained an ankle during the game, missing time on the bench and was hobbled when he came back.

Despite the adversity, Carolina had opportunities to win but could not put the ball in the basket in the second half. The Tar Heels shot 63.5 percent in the first half, leading to a 47-47 tie at halftime. That was the best the Tar Heels shot in a half all year.

Then, in the second half, the Tar Heels shot the second worse they did in a half all season hitting just seven of 31 shots. Not only did the Heels have trouble in the second half getting the ball down low to their star big men, mainly senior Tyler Zeller, but the perimeter shooting, a consistency problem all season, was worse than inconsistent. In fact, UNC managed only two of 17 three pointers.

Yet, down 54-47, the Tar Heels went on a 12-4 run to take a 59-58 lead with 12:38 left when Henson sweeped in a left-handed hook. Carolina led 61-60 with 12 minutes left but lost the lead on a pair of Kansas free throws and never led again.

In fact, the Tar Heels would score just six points the rest of the game. Still, Carolina had a chance to tie it but Harrison Barnes missed one of two free throws and Kansas led 68-67 with 3:58 to go.

That's when the wheels came off and Carolina didn't have another run in them. Kansas' Elijah Johnson banged in a three with time running down on the shot clock to give the Jayhawks a 71-67 lead with 3:04 left.

Barnes missed a slashing layup try with 2:45 left. Then, with a chance to cut into the deficit, Kansas' Jeff Withey, playing aggressively with four fouls, bodied up Henson and blocked his shot. That led to a break out when Tyshawn Taylor (22 points) got loose on the fast break, scored and was fouled by Stilman White.

The converted free throw opened the margin to 74-67 with just 1:59 left. After some wildly missed Carolina three pointers, a Kansas dunk and four free throws, the game was over.

Four players managed double figures for the Tar Heels, who were led by James Michael McAdoo's 15 points, four of which came on dunks after steals. Barnes scored 13 points but hit only five of 14 shots, including zero of five from behind the arc. Zeller, playing in his final game, scored 12 points and had four blocks while Henson scored 10.

The Tar Heels end the season 32-6 and will look drastically different next year without Zeller and possibly several underclassmen who could decide to turn pro.


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