- Robbi Pickeral, College Basketball
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ST. LOUIS -- If North Carolina had managed to pull out a win Sunday, point guard Kendall Marshall said, maybe he would have been able to return for the Final Four.
But he sat out his second straight game with a fractured right wrist, he said, “because if I did play I wouldn’t have been effective.”
“If I’m just standing off to the side, catching and passing, it was a struggle,’’ he added. “Maybe with three or four more days, maybe I could have helped the team. But I can’t really catch a pass right now.”
Coach Roy Williams said he had some hope after Saturday’s practice that the sophomore point guard -- who fractured his wrist last Sunday, had surgery Monday and had the cast removed Wednesday -- might be able to contribute in the NCAA Regional Final game against Kansas.
“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,’’ Williams said after Sunday’s 80-67 loss to the Jayhawks. “ 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.”
SWITCHING IT UP: The Tar Heels said they had not seen a triangle-and-two defense all year, so Kansas coach Bill Self’s decision to switch to it in the second half made a big impact.
“I don’t know what they were playing, but they sagged the big man into the lane,’’ forward John Henson said. “And I think that really disoriented our defense. Me and [Tyler Zeller] couldn’t figure it out, and that’s why we’re here right now.”
Small forward Harrison Barnes said that what makes the triangle-and-two so difficult is that there is always “help” defense present. On one play, the sophomore said, he got Jayhawk Travis Releford to bite on a pump fake. But after he had taken one dribble, there was another defender there.
Barnes said the triangle-and-two was not on UNC’s scouting report.
Self said the Jayhawks played that defense the last eight or nine minutes of the game. During the final eight minutes, UNC scored only three points.
WHITE DELIVERS: Freshman point guard Stilman White, who made his second straight start in place of Marshall, was red-eyed after the game, disappointed in the outcome and wondering what more he could have done.
But Williams said he was proud of his former third-string ballhandler who finished with four points, seven assists and zero turnovers.
In two NCAA tournament starts -- the only starts in his career -- White had 13 assists without a turnover.
“My gosh, the little rascal sitting beside of me, Stilman, just competed his rear end off,’’ Williams said after the game. “It wasn't smooth for him because it's hard all of a sudden to be thrust into this role, three practices before this regional. But, boy, he did some really good things, and I just admire him and admire what he did and admire how he competed. And you look down there and he played 28 minutes today and 32 yesterday, that's 60 minutes. And the little rascal had zero turnovers and hadn't been in this position all year.”
BRIEFLY: Williams said he expects he’ll have initial discussions with his players about the NBA draft by the end of the week. … Henson used a pain-relieving shot, and numbing cream, on his still-healing left wrist before the game. He also sprained his right ankle early the game, and never looked quite comfortable playing on it.
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.
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