The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday June 5th

Peppers' Foul Shots Help UNC Torch Golden Eagles

"He's decided not to enter the NBA draft -- that's the press release today," North Carolina coach Matt Doherty said following the Tar Heels' 84-54 victory against Marquette on Saturday.

OK, so Doherty was joking.

Peppers released a statement Thursday that said he would return to North Carolina's football team for one more year. The redshirt sophomore led the nation with 15 sacks this season.

Against Marquette, Peppers turned in a different sort of impressive numbers: 13 points and nine rebounds.

Although Peppers ultimately decided to stay in school, Doherty said he had anticipated having Peppers for the rest of the basketball season either way.

"We talked a little bit about the benefits of playing basketball versus dropping out of school," Doherty said. "You get a semester closer to graduation (by staying in school) and the exposure you get on the basketball court.

"If an NFL scout wants to see him at a combine, what better opportunity than to see him on a basketball court and see the things he can do athletically."

Maybe those scouts should have had their televisions tuned in to watch Peppers wreak havoc on Marquette.

Peppers used his size (6-foot-6, 270 pounds) to draw fouls all afternoon, and he sank 9-of-10 from the line.

"People look at his body, they know they have to be physical with him," UNC center Brendan Haywood said. "They're probably more physical with Julius than they are with me because he's such a physical specimen. It doesn't matter, he just keeps playing."

Peppers also exhibited composure when he got hit by Marquette's 6-10 center Greg Clausen while trying to dunk.

Instead of losing his temper and tangling with Clausen (Doherty said later, "I'd hate to have to break up that fight."), Peppers calmly got up, went to the free throw line and took his shots.

Saturday's game marked a whole bunch of season highs for Peppers. In addition to his points and rebounds, Peppers also played 21 minutes.

Doherty left him in until there was 2:11 left on the clock because he wanted Peppers to secure the first double-double of his career. Doherty later subbed Jim Everett in because he didn't want to embarrass Marquette or risk injury to Peppers for one more board.

Peppers went to the bench after playing his most impressive game of the year, joined the Tar Heels in the fun of the win and the fun of playing college basketball.

"It feels good knowing I don't really have to make any tough decisions until after next year some time," Peppers said. "It's a lot of stress off of me, and I've got the mindset to concentrate on basketball."

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