Tudor: Marshall-Drew backcourt rotation worked out well for Heels

Staff writerJanuary 18, 2011 

UNC19-SP-011811-RTW

UNC's Larry Drew II (11) makes a steal from Clemson's Demontez Stitt (2) in the first half on Tuesday January 18, 2011 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.

ROBERT WILLETT — ROBERT WILLETT - rwillett@newsobserver.com

— Kendall Marshall got his first start at point guard Tuesday night for North Carolina, but the team’s personnel chemistry didn’t change significantly.

Neither did Clemson’s basketball fortunes in Chapel Hill.

With Marshall and former starter Larry Drew II splitting minutes almost equally and even on the court at the same time for brief stretches, the Tar Heels pushed their home winning streak to 55 in the series with a 75-65 win.

Drew finished with eight points, one assist, two turnovers and a career-best four steals in 23 minutes. Marshall had five points, five assists and three turnovers in 22 minutes.

Mix it all up and what Carolina coach Roy Williams had at game’s end was another late-night playmaker omelet.

Drew, a 6-foot-2 junior, played better defense, which Williams fully expected.

Williams said Marshall, a 6-3 freshman, got the start because he’s been better of late handling the ball and directing the offense.

“No matter who started, they knew they both were going to play a lot,” Williams said. “Larry has been sensational on defense, but Kendall’s assist-turnover ratio has been better. I wanted us to do a better job of taking care of the ball.”

Clemson coach Brad Brownell called the situation “a nice combination” for Carolina to have.

“I think I saw exactly what Roy sees,” Brownell said. “Larry Drew puts more defensive pressure on you and Marshall’s size allows him to see over the top of the defense. But they’re both good players.”

Favored by seven points, the Tar Heels (13-5 overall, 3-1 ACC) no doubt would have whipped the Tigers (13-5, 2-2) regardless of which guard started.

There’s a lot of parity behind Duke in the conference, but not so much that Clemson can yet be expected to win in Chapel Hill.

Of more importance in the long run is the question of the Tar Heels’ ceiling this season – an issue related largely to point-guard production.

Based on what was seen and said Tuesday in the Smith Center, no one seems to think a full-time floor leader will emerge.

“We have a two-headed monster,” Marshall said. “Larry and I each have our pluses, I think. It lets us keep a fresh player out there all the time.”

Drew learned Monday, following the team’s 20-point loss at Georgia Tech a day earlier, that Marshall would start.

“It didn’t change the way we prepare for the game,” Drew said. “I want to do what’s best for the team, and so does Kendall. We work together.”

Freshman guard Reggie Bullock, whose first-half offense gave the Heels a spark, echoed the general opinion in the locker room.

“It worked out perfect,” Bullock said. “Kendall got us going, and Larry came off the bench with his intensity and played well all-around.”

Against the Tigers, there were more minutes throughout the UNC rotation simply because wing-guard Leslie McDonald sat out the game with an injury. Then late in the first half, all-purpose reserve Justin Watts suffered an ankle injury that kept him on the bench.

Given that situation, Williams and the Heels needed all able bodies on deck.

But with four league road games before Feb. 13, there’ll be no luxury of playing Clemson in the Smith Center. The balancing act at the point could become more problematic.

caulton.tudor@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8946

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