College Basketball: UNC’s Drew, Marshall a dual threat

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 19, 2011

By Aaron Beard
Associated Press
CHAPEL HILL ó North Carolina coach Roy Williams isnít changing his dual point guard attack, just who starts.
Williams, still looking for someone to take firm control of the Tar Heelsí offense, gave freshman Kendall Marshall his first start at point guard Tuesday night over veteran Larry Drew II.
While Marshall started in the win against Clemson, Williams seemed content to keep plugging Drew into the lineup, sometimes alongside Marshall. They played almost the identical number of minutes against the Tigers.
That could be the plan going forward for the Tar Heels (13-5, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who havenít been strong at the position since Ty Lawson departed for the NBA following a run to the NCAA championship two years ago.
ěI have a lot of respect for Larry,î Marshall said after Tuesdayís 75-65 win. ěYouíre just being thrown out there (as a starter). You donít know what the defense is doing and when youíre on the bench, you can see those things before you get to the game. I think either/or, Iíll be able to make the transition.î
Drew inherited the starting job after Lawson skipped his senior season to turn pro, but much of the fan criticism during a miserable 17-loss season focused on his inability to make the offense hum like it did under Lawson. His start this year did little to silence doubters; the 6-foot-2 junior has struggled with his shot and committed too many turnovers.
Marshall, who stands an inch taller, has battled through the occasional rookie ups-and-downs and entered Tuesdayís game ranked third in the ACC in assists (4.5) and tied for the ACC lead in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.8).
Williams juggled his lineup after a miserable performance in Sundayís 20-point loss at Georgia Tech, hoping Marshall could make the offense run more smoothly.
Marshall had five points, five assists and three turnovers in 22 minutes, while Drew had eight points, four rebounds and four steals in 23 minutes. North Carolina scored 46 points before the break, its best first-half total in an ACC game.
ěThatís coachís decision,î Drew said of the switch. ěIím just as much a part of the team as anybody else. I feel when Iím in the game, I try to give whatever I can give.î
Williams relied on Drew to bolster the Tar Heelsí perimeter defense, including at times playing in the same backcourt with Marshall. By the final minutes, Williams was even subbing Marshall and Drew on an offense-defense rotation in a close game.
ěDefensively, (Drew) was by far the best player on the court for us at Georgia Tech,î Williams said. ěI thought Larry handled himself extremely well. He knew he was going to play, he knew he was going to be important to the team. But I didnít want to watch the same thing that I watched the other night.î
Williams also needed both point guards due to the loss of sophomore reserve Leslie McDonald, who sat out with a back contusion suffered against the Yellow Jackets. In addition, team spokesman Steve Kirscher said the injury has led McDonald to develop a small pocket of air that is pressing on the outside of a lung to complicate his recovery.
North Carolina is off for a week before traveling to Miami. If McDonald isnít ready to return, Williams at least knows he can get by with playing two point guards.
ěJust from looking at it, I can see exactly what Roy sees,î Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. ěI think Drew puts more pressure on you defensively and Marshallís size allows him to see over defenders sometimes and pass the ball. … Boy, itís a nice combination to have.î