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February 21, 2012

Heels grind up Pack

RALEIGH -- North Carolina methodically executed on offense in the second half against N.C. State on Tuesday, grinding the Wolfpack down until the Tar Heels eventually won 86-74 at the RBC Center.

The Tar Heels' leader on the court, sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall, rose to new heights even for him. He directed an offensive attack that shot 54.5 percent in the second half. Uncommonly, he also led the team in scoring.

Marshall made 7 of his 8 field goals, 4 of 5 3-pointers and had 13 assists with no turnovers credited to him, although he did appear to throw at least one pass out of bounds off Tyler Zeller's hands.

"It's really special," Coach Roy Williams said of Marshall's performance. "The kid played a phenomenal basketball game."

The Tar Heels (24-4, 11-2 in the ACC) started the game by making nearly everything it threw at the bucket. In turn, UNC raced to a 14-4 lead. The Wolfpack eventually tied it at 30, but every time N.C. State drew close, Carolina settled down and executed offensively.

This was especially the case in the second half.

"What was big for us in the second half versus the first half was we attacked inside," Marshall said. "When you attack inside they start getting a lot of cheap fouls. I think it frustrated them.

"That's Carolina basketball, working inside-out."

Free throws played a big role in the second half, an obvious extension of Carolina shooting fewer jump shots and attacking the basket more.

UNC went 13-of-15 from the line in the second half and 18-of-24 for the game.

Carolina did shoot the ball well from the outside, though. UNC went 10-of-19 from 3-point range.

The rest of the team seemed to enjoy Marshall's performance as much or more than he did. Harrison Barnes, who scored 20 points, broke into a big grin when he was asked to discuss what Marshall did.

"I was just thinking about it," Barnes said. "He scored like [Derrick] Rose. They couldn't stop him. That was great for him. It got his confidence up. We're going to need that as the season winds down."

Marshall became the second-fastest person in ACC history to get to 500 assists. He now has 505. Only former N.C. State player Chris Corchiani reached 500 quicker.

Marshall's assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.01 makes him tops in league history, ahead of former Wolfpack point guard and coach Sidney Lowe.

His 22 points came on the first game this season when all five starters scored in double figures for UNC.

John Henson gave the Wolfpack fits with 14 points, 13 rebounds, an assist and two blocks. He affected many more shots with his presence.

Zeller blocked four shots and scored 12 second-half points en route to 14 for the game. He also had eight rebounds.

Reggie Bullock continued to do what he has since entering the lineup as a starter and played outstanding defense. He held Wolfpack scorer Scott Wood to 1-of-5 from the field and three points.

Bullock also found his range with his jump shot. He went 3-of-6 on 3-pointers and scored 11 points to go with eight rebounds.

But there was no doubt as to the star of this game. Marshall said he enjoyed contributing so much offensively in addition to his usual passing.

"It felt good to be able to go out there, play confidently and help my team win," Marshall said. "That's the main thing. When my teammates command the double-teams that they do, I'm going to be open sometimes."

The other factor is the same that plays out in most games now, and that is Carolina's size. N.C. State is particularly susceptible. The Wolfpack shot 36.1 percent in the second half and appeared to wear down from the Tar Heels' relentless execution and size.

"They stepped up and took good shots and made them," Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said. "They made them early, and they made them late in the game. We just didn't have enough offense on our end, and they stepped up and made big shots."


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