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January 9, 2012Miami is bringing an experienced team to the Smith Center on Tuesday for a 9 p.m. tipoff against third-ranked Carolina, and the Hurricanes know they can compete.
Unlike Boston College, which started five freshmen in Saturday's 83-60 loss at UNC, the Hurricanes return many of their important players from last season.
Led by senior guard Malcolm Grant (13.9 points per game) and junior guard Durand Scott (13-2 ppg), the Hurricanes (9-5, 0-1 in the ACC) should probably have defeated the Tar Heels twice last year, once in Coral Cables, Fla., and later at the ACC Tournament in Greensboro.
"With Malcom and Durand, they really are too fantastic guards," Williams said. "They try to drive and get 3-point shots for people."
Carolina (14-2, 1-0) needed final-second heroics from Harrison Barnes with a 3-point shot with 6.6 seconds left in Miami and a layup from Tyler Zeller on the final play of the game in Greensboro at the tournament for the victory.
Zeller's layup gave the Tar Heels their only lead of the day.
"This is college basketball," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "The difference in winning and losing is so small. Last year we played Miami twice. We beat them twice. Harrison made a 3 basically at the buzzer at their place.
"Then [Zeller] hit one at the buzzer in the ACC Tournament. We won one game by two and one game by one. They have most of those players back, and it's going to be a big-time game for us [Tuesday night]."
The Tar Heels (14-2) played well against Boston College on Saturday, but their concentration wavered at times.
"Most games, you have mixed feelings," Williams said. "I didn't like our defensive play for a while in the second half, but I thought we did some really nice things."
Kendall Marshall may not have played his finest game against BC, but he managed to pass 11 assists to three turnovers, a career game for many collegiate point guards. His performance was impressive, given how hard the Eagles tried to keep him from passing the ball. They played soft on defense and clogged the lane.
"He is so willing to pass the basketball," BC coach Steve Donahue said. "With that kind of talent around him, that makes him dangerous. He does not care about scoring, and that is such an advantage for them."
Marshall threw one poor pass on an attempted ally-oop to Barnes on the break, but Williams conceded he overreacted when he pulled Marshall from the game and chewed him royally after that pass.
"He made a really bad pass for us on Saturday when we had a lob dunk for Harrison called," Williams said. "Harrison on top of John [Henson] wouldn't have caught it. I chastised [Marshall] and took him out of the game. I even talked to Kendall about it [Monday] afternoon. I have no problem for getting on a kid for making a decision, trying to thread the needle for a pass. Make the easiest play you can make, and before you know it know it the easiest play will get you a layup.
"But that one, I told Kendall, I shouldn't have even jumped him. I knew he didn't want to turn it over. I've never had a player who wanted to miss a shot. But as a point guard, I think that is a very easy play to make. He didn't make it, and I let my emotions get in the way. I told him, 'I think it was good for me get on him because I'm always praising him so much.'
"I told him today, 'I'm still going to get on your rear for making a bad decision, but I'm not going to get on you for making bad execution. You just made a mistake.'
"Kendall just looks at me and nods, like he's OK. He had 11 assists and three turnovers, and two of them were bad turnovers. But for us, he runs the club and does so many things."
There is no doubt the criticism got to Marshall, who is usually stoic in such situations.
"He told me maybe he recruited the wrong guy to make that pass," Marshall said after the game. "That got to me because passing the ball is what my game is all about."
On Monday, Williams conceded that Marshall is pretty darn good at pass it.
"He's had some games where I've had to sit back and say, 'Man, as a passing point guard, I've never had a guy who can do any better than he does," Williams said.
The Tar Heels will need Marshall to lead them and do provide his usual sterling performance against the Hurricanes, who lost by one at No. 16 Virginia (51-50) on Saturday.
Barnes led the Tar Heels with 25 points on Saturday in his most balanced game of the season. Williams said that he wants to see Barnes continue to be aggressive offensively.
"Right now he's shooting over 50 percent from the 3-point line and 50 percent from the floor," Williams said. "I said, 'Why don't you take the open shot? If there is a path there, I want you to take it. You can't be Moses and create on if there is not one there.'"