Rapid Reaction: UNC 102, Long Island 87


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- North Carolina’s recent run to ACC regular-season title was dominated by the play of Kendall Marshall at the point, Harrison Barnes on the wing and Tyler Zeller in the post.

But if John Henson is suddenly a legit offensive scorer on a consistent basis then the Tar Heels suddenly just got even stronger as a threat to knock off Ohio State in the East Regional.

Henson scored 28 points to control the middle against Long Island University in a 102-87, 2-15 victory in the second round of the NCAA tournament at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte.

Henson showed why he has unlimited potential with a wide array of scoring moves. He has always been able to score on the fast break or on the offensive glass, but he wasn’t as aggressive throughout the season, hunting for his shot. He was against the Blackbirds.

But Henson has quietly increased his shot production the past week. Henson had attempted more than 12 shots in a game only one time prior to March 12 -- when he took 15 in a loss at Duke on Feb. 9. Henson took 13 in the win over Clemson in overtime in the ACC tournament semifinals and 15 in the ACC tournament title game loss to Duke. He attempted 16 in the win over LIU Friday night.

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, watching the game courtside in case the Huskies beat Georgia in the nightcap, said he couldn’t get over the length of the Tar Heel frontline. A lot of that has to do with Henson. He has always been a lanky fellow that needed weight. But he has been able absorb contact at this level and finish.

If he can continue this growth the Tar Heels become an even more difficult matchup with Zeller and Barnes.

Key stat: The Tar Heels won this game despite shooting under 20 percent on 3s. The Tar Heels don’t have a Wayne Ellington-type to consistently knock down 3s. That puts even more emphasis on UNC to score inside or in the mid-range.

Turning point: The Tar Heels never let the NEC’s Blackbirds to get close enough in the second half to feel like the game could really turn. UNC was always able to keep LIU at arm’s length.

Balance: The Tar Heels now have a big four with Zeller scoring 32, Henson 28 and Barnes 24 while Marshall dished out 10 assists and had three turnovers.

What’s next: The Tar Heels move onto the third round to play either Washington or Georgia with a chance to advance to the East Regional semifinals in Newark.