UNC Basketball: John Henson's Injury Makes Tyler Zeller Key to Final Four Run

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IMarch 11, 2012

Photo Credit: NewsObserver.com
Photo Credit: NewsObserver.com

The bad news for the North Carolina Tar Heels on Sunday in the ACC Tournament Championship against Florida State was that they lost.

The good news was they lost by just three points, 85-82, despite being without star John Henson, who is nursing a left wrist injury.

The Tar Heels showed more heart on Sunday than they had for most of the season, and Tyler Zeller led the way with 19 points and 12 rebounds.

Zeller, who is averaging 16.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in his senior season, has played even better than last season and has become a pivotal player for head coach Roy Williams.

Beyond Zeller, Harrison Barnes had 23 points and seven rebounds in Sunday's loss, including some big shots down the stretch.

And point guard Kendall Marshall had 15 points and nine assists.

Williams was noticeably frustrated by the final outcome, but there was also a lot to like in Sunday's loss. The Tar Heels committed just seven turnovers and forced 15 FSU turnovers. And they bounced back after trailing, 49-40, at the half.

North Carolina is ranked fourth in the nation, so the loss was obviously disappointing. But it does show UNC is going beyond being a highly-talented team and becoming simply a very good team.

Henson will be available in the NCAA Tournament, but there's a chance he won't be 100 percent, and it will limit him on the hardwood. In that regard, the renewed vigor shown by his teammates is a great sign. It shows that if Henson struggles, the team isn't going to fold.

The Tar Heels' only blowout loss this season was to Florida State on Jan. 14. But even in that game, a game that Henson played in, Zeller was the better player, posting 14 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks and one steal.

Losing to Florida State by three points on Sunday is a far cry from losing, 90-57. And the Tar Heels did it without Henson.


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