Marshall a game-time decision
By Dave Skretta
ST. LOUIS — Kendall Marshall participated in portions of practice for North Carolina on Saturday, though a decision on his status for Sunday’s Midwest Regional final against Kansas will not be made until shortly before tipoff.
The Tar Heels’ point guard hurt the wrist when he was fouled on a drive against Creighton last Sunday. He had surgery Monday to install a screw and got his cast off Wednesday.
Marshall was fitted for the brace he would wear to play on Saturday morning. He did not take part in any contact during practice at the Edward Jones Dome, but was involved in the walkthrough and shoot-around, and had his wrist wrapped in an ice pack in the locker room afterward.
“The range of motion is getting gradually better every day, and that’s a positive sign,” Marshall said. “There’s been tremendous improvement every 24 hours.”
Marshall spent Friday night’s game against Ohio sitting on the bench in a dapper black suit, tutoring freshman Stilman White whenever he checked out. White played 32 minutes — more than the previous six games combined — and had two points and six assists without a turnover.
“Last night after the game, I couldn’t sleep,” Marshall said. “If it comes down to I’m not able to help my team and the best thing is for me to be in a suit, then that’s what it’ll be, and I’ll still contribute the best I can.”
Marshall is averaging about eight points and 10 assists for the Tar Heels (32-5), and has scored in double figures for six straight games. While forward Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller provide most of the scoring, it’s Marshall who helms their fast-paced attack.
The sophomore was a second-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference pick whose 351 assists in 36 games represents the best season total in league history and fourth-most in NCAA history.
“Today is the first day he bounced the ball, today is the first day he caught a ball, today is the first day he shot a ball,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. “We kept him out of all the live stuff. Now we want to see if it bothers him or if it swells up or pains him.
“We’ll do the same thing at shoot-around tomorrow,” Williams said. “Then, there are two things that have to happen. One, he has to feel comfortable that he’s not hurt, and two, I have to decide can he be effective in a game with his situation.”
Kansas coach Bill Self said he’s not sure whether Marshall will play — he’s just as curious to find out Sunday night as anybody else — but it seems as if the Jayhawks are preparing for him to be on the floor at tip-off.
Jayhawks point guard Tyshawn Taylor, who would be matched up with Marshall, said his preparation won’t change based on who is opposite him. He still plans to pressure the point on defense and try to cut down passing lanes, which Ohio did so effectively against UNC in the regional semifinals.
“Whoever is going to play, I’ve got to make it tough for them to get it to their bigs, and got to make it hard for them to run their offense,” Taylor said. “I’m not sure if they switch up how they play or how they do things.”