UNC finds fuse that helps Heels blast off

acarter@newsobserver.comMarch 3, 2012 


UNC's Kendall Marshall (5) drives to the basket against Duke's Michael Gbinije (13) during the second half on Saturday March 3, 2012 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C. Marshall lead all scores with 20 points.

ROBERT WILLETT — ROBERT WILLETT - rwillett@newsobserver.com

— Two things happened that helped North Carolina play with a sense of anger and aggression Saturday night in the Tar Heels’ 88-70 victory against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The first happened inside the North Carolina locker room before the game began. Roy Williams gathered his team and pointed to a board, where he’d written the word “attack” three times. He wanted his team to be relentless, and to never stop playing that way.

The second happened just before tip-off, when Duke showed a replay of the shot that the Blue Devils’ Austin Rivers made to beat UNC back on Feb. 8 at the Smith Center. As Duke fans celebrated a reminder of the moment, a kind of rage grew within Tar Heels point guard Kendall Marshall.

“When they showed the big-time shot Austin hit,” Marshall said later, “I just brought my team together and told them I thought it was extremely disrespectful.”

Marshall said he did it because he wanted the No.6 Tar Heels (27-4, 14-2 ACC) to play like they were mad, like UNC “had a chip on our shoulder,” Marshall said. And North Carolina did indeed play that way, perhaps no player more so than Marshall.

North Carolina used an early 18-1 run to build a 22-5 lead that silenced a Cameron Indoor Stadium crowd that wanted to be loud but had few reasons to be. Marshall led UNC with 20 points and 10 assists, and Tyler Zeller finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

John Henson had 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Tar Heels, who had three players post double-doubles for the first time since North Carolina’s triple-overtime loss at Wake Forest in 2003, which was Williams’ first season. The Tar Heels’ entire starting lineup scored in double figures, and UNC’s 54.5 percent shooting percentage was its best in an ACC game.

The primary difference between this game, though, and the last one that UNC and No.4 Duke (26-5, 13-3) played came on the outside. During the Blue Devils’ 85-84 victory at the Smith Center last month, they attempted 36 3-pointers and made 14 of them.

They found it considerably more difficult to shoot well from the outside on Saturday night. Duke made just 6 of 21 attempts from behind the 3-point line, and the Devils at times abandoned their perimeter game during the second half in favor of working the ball inside.

“Duke missed some shots that make a lot of times,” Williams said.

Perhaps so, but UNC also defended the perimeter better than it did during the teams’ first meeting.

“We went over that all day in practice the last couple of days,” the Tar Heels’ Reggie Bullock said of defending against the 3-point shot. “And we just wanted to do those things and just contain the 3-point shots.”

Said Marshall: “We made sure we went over the top every single ball screen. We just wanted to be aggressive, offensively and defensively.”

The Tar Heels were that. The victory gave them their 19th outright regular-season championship, and the 18-point margin represented the Heels’ most lopsided victory at Cameron since 1989, when they defeated Duke by 20.

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