With Larry Drew II gone from North Carolina’s basketball team, freshman point guard Kendall Marshall didn’t just cover his own average production.
He covered Drew’s, too.
“I just thought Kendall was sensational,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “Sixteen assists. Three turnovers. I think he stepped up, and we need him to.”
Marshall scored nine points and his career-high 16 assists set a UNC freshman record. It’s also the most assists by a UNC point guard in an ACC game.
“(Harrison Barnes) looked up at the scoreboard and he looked at me and told me I set the record, and I was like, ‘Wow,’” Marshall said. “Just thinking about all the great point guards that have come through here, it’s a good feeling.”
Marshall supplied his career game at just the right time — in the midst of adversity. Williams said the past 48 hours have been difficult, but it was his words that stuck with Marshall most in the days leading up to Sunday’s game.
“He told me, ‘Tough times don’t last, but tough players do,’” Marshall said.
Against Florida State, Marshall pushed his toughness to the limit. He sat out only four minutes and vomited at halftime, which he said drove him even harder.
The only thing Marshall wished he had at the end of the game was an oxygen mask.
“Hopefully I can get (his minutes) down a little bit,” Williams said. “In ’05, Raymond Felton averaged 34 minutes a game, but Raymond is a different animal.”
But Marshall wasn’t the only Tar Heel to step up. It’s still too early to know the full effect of Drew’s absence, but sophomore Dexter Strickland did his part to fill it.
“The biggest change for somebody is Dexter, who is all of a sudden having to spend two days of practice trying to work on the one spot and the things that he has to do there,” Williams said.
Strickland started the game at shooting guard, but was relieved early to help Marshall.
Strickland started strong and led all UNC scorers with 10 points at halftime. He finished with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
“I played the one when I first came here, so just to go back and just re-do what I did last year wasn’t that bad,” he said. “I’m just trying to go out there and do whatever I can to help my team.”
Strickland logged 35 minutes, which, like Marshall, is well above his season average. No Tar Heel had played more than 33 minutes in a game this season. Williams said UNC’s rotation, like its team, is still a work in progress.
The news surrounding UNC all weekend was clearly the loss of its most veteran Tar Heel. On Sunday, the storyline was just as clear.
“The story in this game was our inability to handle Marshall and his ability to create easy opportunities for his teammates,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said.
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