Originally posted on Fox Sports Carolinas  |  Last updated 2/21/12
RALEIGH, N.C. --- If Kendall Marshall comes remotely close to the offensive force he was Tuesday night for the rest of the season, North Carolina may be the favorite to win the national championship. The UNC sophomore point guard, who is setting a pace for handing out assists unlike nearly anyone who has ever played in the ACC, added scoring to his repertoire in the Tar Heels' 86-74 victory over the Wolfpack in a wild atmosphere at the RBC Center. N.C. State did a nice job of executing its game plan by limiting the number of touches for UNC big man Tyler Zeller, who had 21 points and 17 rebounds in the first meeting with the Pack. NCSU also kept Carolina off the offensive glass, which is essentially part of its offense. By doubling down defensively on UNC's bigs and also going to a zone where the emphasis was placed elsewhere, Marshall was afforded open looks on the perimeter. He took advantage by finishing with a season-high 22 points, including hit 4 of 5 3-point attempts, doubling his previous career-high for made 3s in a game. And in typical Marshall form, he also handed out 13 assists with no turnovers. "He played a very good game, you have to give him credit for that," Wolfpack forward C.J. Williams said. "We executed our game plan the way we wanted to at times, but what can we say." Marshall wasn't perfect. He did commit a foul and allowed Wolfpack point guard Lorenzo Brown an 18-point night. The thing is, Brown did his damage while converting just 6 of 21 field goal attempts. UNC sophomore and leading scorer Harrison Barnes was ecstatic to see this performance from his classmate. He and the other Heels have long said they think Marshall can score, but they also recognize it's on a need-to-do so basis. Barnes said that was the case on this night, and that Marshall embraced the dare put forth by their red-clad rivals. "They played him like (Boston Celtic Rajon) Rondo and he scored like (Chicago Bull Derrick) D. Rose," Barnes said. "That's the mindset teams have and he can do damage." Maybe not exactly Derrick Rose, but Marshall did the best impersonation of his previous best game, and then some. He's not super athletic, doesn't really leave his feet at all on jump shots, and he's never going to be mistaken for Ty Lawson moving up the court. But he has better court vision than any UNC point guard ever with the possible exception of Ed Cota, and he's so darn cagey that he adeptly gets off awkward looking shots around the rim. But Marshall is effective. He's really effective, and against the Wolfpack he was sensational. And if he can score at half the rate he did Tuesday for the rest of the season, UNC will be the most difficult team in the nation to defend. Consider: The Tar Heels have an NBA first-round pick in the post who might be the leader for ACC Player of the Year in Tyler Zeller; a wing and guaranteed lottery pick, who is taking his game to a higher level each week in Barnes; a secondary scorer and shot-blocker extraordinaire and also a likely lottery pick in John Henson; and a 6-foot-7 off guard who can defend, rebound and has a nice perimeter stroke. Then add Marshall, the second fastest player to 500 assists in ACC history he probably would have been the fastest had he started from day one a year ago who is also a solid scorer? That would make UNC the team to beat. Now all Marshall has to do is become more of a scorer he has just four double-digit scoring games this season. "My teammates being the offensive talents than they are, they're going to command a lot of attention," Marshall said. "And they (State) did a great job of double-teaming them, and that's going to be most team's game plans to keep the ball away from them. I'm just happy I was able to help my team and knock down some shots." Marshall making shots, there's no question that as much as anything else could be the Tar Heels' final piece to the puzzle.
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