The North Carolina Tar Heels knew it was going to be hard, despite the comfortable opponents from Ohio (#13), because of Kendall Marshall definitely out. UNC couldn’t get their offense going all night, eventually pulling away in over time, with Tyler Zeller coming up with 20 points and 22 rebounds to lead them through.
The Senior is the first player to have a 20-20 game in the NCAA tournament since Tim Duncan in 1997 (Wake Forest), but it was barely enough. They handled most of the Bobcats pretty well defensively, allowing only 32.4% from the field, except for Walter Offutt, finishing with 26 points, including 6 three pointers.
The Tar Heels dominated the boards as well, out-rebounding Ohio 56-26, with John Henson and Reggie Bullock grabbing 10 rebounds each. Those second chance points weren’t enough to bring separation, especially with Harrison Barnes making only 3-16 from the field, finishing with 12 points.
The lack of a true point guard presence was felt. UNC couldn’t get a running game going, despite Bullcok’s impressive 17 points. It’s a huge problem thinking about how they’re going to win the title without Marshall. It’s enough of a headache thinking how they’ll make it through Kansas, who are waiting next in the Midwest Regional Final. Kansas didn’t have an easy time against another North Carolina team, State’s Wolfpack, but they have to be the favorites entering the game.
Ohio’s D.J. Cooper had a chance to win the game for Ohio in regulation, but missed, like he did all night. His 3-20 performance, 15% from the field, is one of the all time worst. Bo Kimble had 3-21 in 1988 to make Cooper’s day look a bit better. An interesting fact came up – The Bobcats were 28-3 when Cooper took less than 17 shots. Over? Only 1-5. Food for thought for anyone with an over zealous star, possessed by the spirit of John Starks.
Tyler Zeller knew that the Tar Heels really escaped with the win – We feel like we got away with one. Ohio played the better game, they hit a lot of shots. I think we just were able to make a lot of plays at the end that made us capable of pulling it out.
Roy Williams, UNC’s head coach – It means a heck of a lot. but we’ve got to play better than we did today. But North Carolina’s going to play on Sunday, Marshall or no Marshall. We’re happy about that.
Williams has to be praying that the rumors of Marshall’s wrist getting quickly better are more than true. Ohio nearly became the first ever #13 or worse seed to reach a regional final. Offutt’s miss from the line denied history being made, giving the Tar Heels the win in the first overtime of the tournament this year.