Rapid Reaction: UNC 87, Creighton 73
March, 18, 2012
By Robbi Pickeral | ESPN.com
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A quick look at UNC-Creighton:
Overview: North Carolina’s John Henson returned. Teammate Kendall Marshall kept going.
With the 6-foot-11 forward back in the starting lineup after missing three games with a sprained left wrist, and the not-so-one-dimensional point guard turning in his sixth straight double-digit scoring game, the top-seeded Tar Heels toppled No. 8 seed Creighton 87-73 to advance to their 31st NCAA tournament regional semifinal.
The Tar Heels led by as many as 19 in the second half, but when the Bluejays pulled to within 11 with about five minutes left, UNC's Harrison Barnes buried back-to-back 3-pointers to seal his team's trip to St. Louis.
Creighton's Doug McDermott, Barnes' former high school teammate, finished with 20 points, but the Tar Heels just had too many weapons.
Marshall (18 points, 11 assists) and Henson (13 points, 10 rebounds) finished with double-doubles. Barnes finished with 17 points. Reggie Bullock added 13 points.
Turning point: The score was tied 11-11 in the first half when Henson got the ball and Creighton’s Grant Gibbs slapped down on it, hitting Henson’s wrapped wrist in the process. Henson exchanged words with the guard, earning a technical.
His teammates responded to his anger. After the Bluejays made one of the two technical free throws, UNC pushed on a 28-12 run to take its largest lead of the half (39-24). Marshall scored nine in a row for the Tar Heels at one point during the breakaway, and the baby-blue clad spectators were as loud as any of those at the Smith Center this season.
Key player: Henson, who did all the aforementioned things wearing tape and a molded splint on his left wrist.
Key stat: The Tar Heels recorded only seven blocks in their three games without Henson. Sunday, they had nine.
Miscellaneous: One of the biggest cheers of the game came with about a minute left in the first half at Greensboro Coliseum, when UNC fans applauded Lehigh (which upset rival Duke on Friday) as it entered the building.
What’s next: Top-seeded UNC will play No. 13 seed Ohio on Friday in St. Louis in the Midwest Region semifinals.
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.