Coming into today's ACC tournament quarterfinal match between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Maryland Terrapins, UNC point guard Kendall Marshall only needed five assists to break the all-time ACC season record—and didn't even need five minutes to do it.
At the 15:31 mark of the first half, Marshall hit Harrison Barnes on a back-door feed for his 304th of the season. The Tar Heels never relinquished the lead and went on to win 85-69 over the young Terps.
That was only half the story.
If you told me before the game that John Henson would go down early with an injury and Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller would both have to sit for getting in foul trouble, I would probably tell you UNC loses. That was not the case in Atlanta this afternoon.
After just five minutes into the game, Henson was fouled as he was going up for a shot at the basket by freshman forward Ashton Pankey. It wasn't a hard foul, but Henson would injure his wrist attempting to break the fall. He left the game at the 13:51 mark, only to return for a minute during the remainder of the game.
James Michael McAdoo stepped up and had a solid performance in his place. He brought the energy off the bench that the Tar Heels have been grasping for all season. Playing a season-high 29 minutes, he would reach double-digits for just the fourth time this season. Not only did he score 14 points, but he also snagged eight boards, one assist and one steal.
McAdoo's game was nothing to drool over, but it was a very solid follow-up to his effective Duke performance on Feb. 3—and another boost of confidence for the athletic freshman forward.
McAdoo wasn't the only one to rise to the occasion off the bench. Coming into today, P.J. Hairston was shooting 22 percent from the field and 16 percent from the arc in ACC play. Today wasn't spectacular, but he did knock down 50 percent of his shots and contributed nine points. Maryland had pulled to within nine points of the Tar Heels before Hairston knocked down his lone three-pointer.
Maryland would later cut the lead to seven, but that was as close as they would get to knocking off the Tar Heels in the second half.
In my mind, the biggest impact had to come from UNC's guard Reggie Bullock. He has been on a tear in the last seven games, shooting 44 percent from behind the arc. He was 3-of-5 from that range today. He also picked up three assists and had a monster slam on a fast-break feed from Barnes.
Bullock also knocked down two three-pointers in a row to score Carolina's first points of the second half, giving Marshall his eighth and ninth assist. Marshall would finish with 12 on the day.
This is what the Carolina faithful has been begging for all season—production from someone who isn't named Marshall, Barnes, Henson or Zeller.
Harrison Barnes had a generally sloppy performance, but was able to make an impact when Carolina needed it the most. He grabbed two steals and a block while Maryland was trying to mount a comeback. The team's best shooter still had his struggles from the charity stripe, going 3-of-6. He was also 0-for-2 from behind the arc.
Maryland let Marshall shoot the away from the arc—worrying about defending everyone else, instead. I don't know how wise this strategy was, considering Marshall was 6-of-13 in his last four games of the season.
Marshall made the Terps pay for their lack of respect, knocking down three of his four attempts from the three-point line. Even when Terrell Stoglin tried to guard him, Marshall just dropped one in his eye. He also continued his aggressive play from the Duke game, getting in the paint and finishing with 13 points on the day.
Maryland certainly gave it their all, but the lack of team play and their youth would end all hopes for a Cinderella story. The entire team only had 10 assists on the day compared to Carolina's 21. Nick Faust and Terrell Stoglin traded off at point, but combined for only three assists.
Stoglin finished the day strong, but he had his troubles shooting in the first half, missing a couple wide-open three-pointers. He finished with 30 points and went 5-of-11 from three-point range.
Aside from Stoglin, the starters for the Terrapins only shot 19 percent from the floor.
Sean Mosley never could get it going in his final game as a Maryland Terrapin. The senior guard was 2-of-11 from the field and 0-for-5 from three-point range. Faust had his moments, but would finish with only 11 points. James Padgett and Alex Len were both held scoreless.
By the score, one would think this was a pretty dominant game by North Carolina—and it was in some ways—but overall, I would give them about a B- for sloppiness. The Tar Heels will definitely have to fine-tune their game to make a run at their 18th ACC tourney title. They will also have to continue to get stellar play from Bullock and their bench.
North Carolina will face off with NC State in a semifinal rivalry game, Saturday at 1 p.m. EST on ESPN.