ATLANTA — Top-seeded North Carolina defeated No. 8 Maryland 85-69 in the ACC tournament quarterfinals on Friday here at Philips Arena. The Tar Heels advanced to play No. 5 N.C. State today in the semifinals at 1 p.m.
A look back at UNC’s victory against the Terrapins:
Why the Tar Heels won: This wasn’t a conventional victory for UNC. John Henson, the junior forward who recently earned first-team all-ACC honors, suffered a left wrist injury about six minutes into the game. Henson left the game not long after and underwent an x-ray at halftime. He played just seven minutes and, meanwhile, Tyler Zeller was hampered by foul trouble. So UNC relied on Friday on its bench like it hasn’t all season. James Michael McAdoo, the freshman forward, finished with 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds, and the Heels’ bench produced 25 points – the most it had scored against any ACC opponent this season. UNC held Maryland to 38.7 percent shooting, and the Tar Heels excelled in points off of turnovers and fast-break points, outscoring Maryland 37-13 in those two categories.
The good: It hasn’t been an easy road for McAdoo. Expectations were enormous for the freshman, and not only did he have difficulty living up them, he also had difficulty even feeling like he was that much a part of the time earlier this season. McAdoo played his finest game of the season on Friday, though. Then there was Kendall Marshall, who set a new single-season ACC record for assists. He finished with 13 points and 12 assists, which gives him 311 assists and counting. Early in the first half, Marshall broke Craig Neal’s record of 303 assists – a record that had stood since 1988. Overall, UNC played at its preferred pace on offense and the Tar Heels’ defense made things difficult for the Terrapins, too.
The bad: The worst thing, by far, to come out of this game for UNC is Henson’s injury. His halftime x-ray came back negative, which is a positive sign, but his wrist will continue to be evaluated and monitored. It’s unclear whether he’ll be available for the Tar Heels’ game on Saturday in the ACC tournament semifinals against N.C. State. Whether Henson is available will depend on how much pain he experiences on Saturday morning, a UNC spokesman said on Friday.
Key stat: 12. That’s how many assists Marshall had on Friday in what was another performance in a long line of similar ones. Given how easily Marshall racks up assists, it’s sometimes easy to take these kinds of performances for granted and forget about the historic season he’s putting together. Marshall’s 12 assists give him a record-setting 311 for the season and he still has a ways to go.
Key stat II: 25. UNC’s bench was a question mark entering the postseason and, at times, was a weakness during the regular season. But the Tar Heels’ reserves came through with perhaps their best performance of the season. The 25 points they combined to score was a high against an ACC opponent and even those players who didn’t score much – or at all – provided something positive.
UNC player of the game: McAdoo. During the past month he has become a far more confident, more assertive player. McAdoo played timidly and lacked poise during the early part of the season but he continues to progress. His performance today suggests that he could play a major role for UNC during the rest of the postseason.
Quotable: “We’ve had some discussions about what you’re going through is what a lot of people go through – of the difference in high school basketball to the ACC is a big difference. I can’t tell you exactly when it is, but even when he was struggling, I kept putting him in the game. So one day I finally told him, I said, hey – I must think you’re pretty good because you’re not playing very well and I keep putting you in. So why don’t you go ahead and play well?” –UNC coach Roy Williams, on McAdoo’s progression