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Monday, March 12, 2012
TMA: Henson should be 'fine'

By Robbi Pickeral

The Morning After: Thoughts, notes and anything else that didn’t quite make this space after North Carolina’s latest game (in this case, the fourth-ranked Tar Heels' 85-82 loss to Florida State in the ACC tournament title game on Sunday).

ATLANTA -- North Carolina coach Roy Williams said after his team’s loss to Florida State in Sunday’s ACC title game that he thinks forward John Henson will be OK to play in the NCAA tournament.

“We expect John will be fine next weekend; you don’t know, because I’m not inside his wrist to see what’s going on,’’ he said.

Henson, the team’s starting power forward and the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year, sprained his left wrist during Friday’s quarterfinal game against Maryland when he fell on it after being fouled. He sat out Saturday’s semifinal win over NC State, and was in uniform for Sunday’s game only in case of an “emergency situation.”

What would have counted as an emergency?

“If we had a one-point lead and the ball was underneath their basket, three seconds to play I would’ve put him in to guard the guy taking the ball out of bounds,’’ Williams said. "It helped us win the Washington game in the NCAA tournament last year, but that would’ve been it. If we had four guys foul out maybe I would’ve put him in the middle of the zone and told him to stand still.

“But basically he felt better [Sunday], but he wasn’t confident, and then it didn’t have to get to the level of I had to decide whether he was going to be effective or not effective. If he wasn’t confident with it then, in my opinion, there’s no need to put him out there.”

UNC earned a top seed in the NCAA tournament and will open play against either Lamar or Vermont on Friday in Greensboro, N.C.

BUILDING MOMENTUM: A loss might have halted some teams’ momentum. The Tar Heels are hoping Sunday’s defeat actually helps theirs.

Although they opened the game as the aggressee, rather than the aggressor, the team was pleased with the way it played over the final 12 minutes, cutting a double-digit deficit and having a chance to send it to overtime on a P.J. Hairston 3-pointer (it missed).

“The way we finished the game, hopefully we can build off that,’’ sophomore Harrison Barnes said. “This whole weekend, I thought we competed better as a team. We came out here, competed, had a lot more focus than last year. That’s kind of nice as we’re going forward.”

PRAISE FOR HAMILTON: Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton became the first African-American coach to win the ACC tournament.

Williams praised the fellow North Carolina native for being a great coach, period.

“I’m sure that Leonard’s proud of that, but I think we’re also at the time it’s just … he’s a coach,’’ Williams said. “We kid a little bit about both of us just being homeboys from North Carolina. He swears up and down that Gastonia is a lot bigger than Asheville and things like that, but Leonard and I got to know each other when I was an assistant at North Carolina and he was an assistant at Kentucky.

"He’s a wonderful coach, he’s fun to be around, he’s dedicated to the game. In my opinion, he’s gotten a bad rap over several years about being just a great recruiter and not being able to coach. I mean, he coaches his rear-end off. They led the nation in defensive field goal percentage I think three out of four years. He’s a guy that I enjoy. He’s a guy that’s done a great job at Florida State and people should recognize what a fantastic coach he is.

"And I’m not saying anything about being the first African-American, because guys our age remember when that was really different -- and I hope that we get the game of basketball that it doesn’t get to be as different anymore. When I look at Leonard Hamilton, I look at a peer that I have a great deal of respect for and look at him as a friend and, yes, he’s African-American and I’m white redneck or whatever, but I look at him as a friend.”

ANOTHER RECORD FOR MARSHALL: UNC point guard Kendall Marshall finished with nine assists Sunday, giving him 31 for the tournament. That broke the old three-game tourney mark of 29, set by former UNC guard Ed Cota in 1999.

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.