By Andrew Jones FOXSportsSouth.com January 13, 2011
Chapel Hill, NC — North Carolina coach Roy Williams has done a pretty good job squashing the notion that there’s a point guard controversy on his team.
That task got a lot harder Thursday night as freshman Kendall Marshall sent an undeniable message to Williams and his staff that he, not Larry Drew, is the man for the job.
With Drew saddled in foul trouble, Marshall played 24 of the game’s 40 minutes, and he delivered throughout, scoring nine points and handing out nine assists with no turnovers in leading Carolina to a 64-61 victory over Malcolm Delaney and Virginia Tech at the Smith Center.
The Tar Heels struggled getting quality shots for much of the night, especially in the first half against the Hokies’ 2-3 zone. That Tech played a zone may have been a mild surprise to the Tar Heels. Tech has almost exclusively been a tough man-to-man team under Seth Greenberg, but injuries have forced some changes, which began in last weekend’s win over Florida State.
And if not for Marshall’s play in the first half, the Tar Heels (12-4, 2-0 ACC) may have been blown out of their own building.
The Hokies led 31-15 with six minutes left before halftime and UNC looking helpless. But Marshall converted a pair of runners that cut the margin to 31-20, and Carolina was able to withstand Tech’s run and regroup.
“He’s a very, very good passer,” Greenberg said. “I thought in the first half he kind of kept them alive by getting some penetration and shot those two runners on the left-hand side in front of our bench.”
The run reached 9-0, and UNC trailed by just seven points at halftime.
Drew, the starter in every game last season and this year so far, didn’t play poorly, but maybe the foul trouble that sent him to the bench was a bit of good fortune for the Tar Heels. It meant Williams had to play Marshall, who entered the game averaging 15 minutes an outing.
And when Marshall’s on the floor, his ability to find open mates gives his fellow Heels confidence.
“Yeah, it does,” sophomore forward John Henson said. “And also, we take on the persona of our point guard, and he’s calm and collected, and we’re going to be calm, cool and collected. And also, he sees things developing a little more than most people. He’ll fake it