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March 18, 2012

Broken dreams?

GREENSBORO -- Just as North Carolina's John Henson returned and showed his wrist injury would not hold him back, Kendall Marshall got knocked to the floor in the second half against Creighton and broke his right wrist.

The Tar Heels (31-5) won the game 87-73, but now we will have to wait to see if they lost their season in the process.

Carolina advances to next week's round of 16 in Missouri, but the Tar Heels may have to perform without Marshall. UNC will play Ohio (29-7), which defeated South Florida, 62-56, on Sunday afternoon.

In tears, Coach Roy Williams addressed the issue at the outset of his news conference.

"Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first," Williams said. "Kendall has a fractured wrist and that's all I can tell you. He's got a fracture of the scaphoid bone."

A UNC official said Marshall's injury is the same one Kenny Smith suffered in 1984 when LSU's John Tudor knocked him to the floor at Carmichael Auditorium. The difference it Smith's injury was to his left hand.

Smith missed eight games.

"It hurt; it hurt," Marshall said. "Like I said, first and foremost I hurt for my team. I want to be there to be able to help them to the best of my ability. What they told me, I took it a little harsh, told my parents. We took it a little harsh. But, I'm looking forward to getting back on the road and getting back to Chapel Hill."

Marshall said that his hopes hang on the fact that he is left-handed and the injury is to his right hand.

"That's the most positive thing," Marshall said. "If it was my left hand I'd be telling y'all right now I'm not playing next week. Being that I was still able to be out there and help my team out and get them, in positions ... that's encouraging."

Henson returned to a roaring ovation from the Carolina crowd at the Greensboro Coliseum, and he did not take long to show he still knows how to play. He hit an early jump shot on his way to scoring 13 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking four shots.

As usual, he altered many more.

Marshall suffered his fractured right wrist on a hard foul from Ethan Wragge with 10 minutes left in the game. Marshall was driving to the basket.

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Marshall jumped right up and walked defiantly past the Bluejays. Then he walked toward the UNC bench and came back to the lane. There he spoke with a ref, who actually gave him the ball before Marshall shot free throws.

Marshall dribbled for a few seconds and flipped the ball into the basket from just beneath it. He had a smile on his face at the time, so it appeared he would be OK. In fact, he stayed in the game and played until coming out for good 1:54 left. But then he disappeared from the arena.

"It's part of the game of basketball, and Kendall's an intricate part of the team," Henson said. "I know it's going to hurt a little bit, but we just don't know what his status is. We're going to keep praying for him and hoping for the best."

Creighton witnessed a tragedy before arriving at the game. The bus driver who drove Creighton to the game suffered a coronary on the trip to the arena and was later said to be in stable condition.

As far as the game went, Creighton did not have the height or athleticism Carolina possesses. So the Bluejays apparently decided to counter with physical play. Tyler Zeller got drilled with an elbow to the chest just running down the court.

Marshall was having a game to remember before he got knocked to the floor. He went 7-of-8 from the field, scored a game-high 18 points, dished out 11 assists and committed four turnovers, all of which came in the first half.

"Last year people disrespected him," said Reggie Bullock, who had an outstanding game with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 3-of-5 from behind the 3-point stripe.

Marshall became only the second Tar Heel to have consecutive double-doubles in statistical categories in the NCAA Tournament.

"I think he's starting to look for his shot a little bit more because it's going in more," Williams said. "But I hate it for the kid. My gosh, we have handled a little bit of adversity the last two years, and I'm just so proud of my group. But he's been a big-time basketball player for us."

Marshall and Zeller were not the only ones to get bounced around by the Bluejays.

Henson received a technical after he became upset when he said a Creighton player chopped at his injured wrist three times.

"One of their players actually hit my wrist three or four times," Henson said. "I thought the whistle blew. I don't know if it was purposeful or not, but I thought it was unnecessary, and it got me a little fired up."



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