GREENSBORO, N.C. — North Carolina was supposed to enjoy a comfortable two-game stop in the NCAA tournament about an hour from campus, get John Henson back from a wrist injury and move on to the round of 16.
Instead, the Tar Heels left Greensboro in worse shape than when they arrived now that Kendall Marshall has a broken bone in his right wrist.
Marshall was hurt when he was knocked to the floor on a drive to the basket in the second half of Sunday’s 87-73 win against Creighton in the third round of the Midwest Regional. The left-handed point guard’s status for Friday’s game against Ohio in St. Louis is uncertain and the top-seeded Tar Heels (31-5) are short on options in an already depleted backcourt.
In Sunday’s second game, Kenny Frease had 25 points and 12 rebounds to lead Xavier back to the round of 16 by beating Lehigh 70-58. The 10th-seeded Musketeers (23-12) are back in the regional semifinals for the fourth time in the past five years, a feat matched only by three other schools: North Carolina, Kansas and Michigan State.
For the Tar Heels, the news went from one wrist injury to another.
Henson had missed the past three games after spraining his left wrist when he was knocked to the floor on a foul during the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Henson’s health had been a daily question for coach Roy Williams until Sunday, when the school said he would play and he jogged onto the court for pregame warmups. Henson had 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in 28 minutes and looked mostly like his old self.
Now North Carolina is wondering about Marshall’s status. “It’s part of te game of basketball and Kendall’s an intricate part of the team, to say the least,” Henson said. “And I know it’s going to hurt a little bit, but we don’t know what his status is, so we’re just going to keep praying for him and hoping for the best.”
Marshall returned to the game after the injury and played another 7 minutes or so before leaving late with the win secured.
Williams cleared reporters out of the locker room to tell the team about Marshall’s fracture.
“All we know right now is it’s a fracture,” Marshall said. “Luckily it’s my right hand. If it was my left hand, then we’d probably have some problems. But we’ll take it day by day and figure it out.”
Marshall has been the Tar Heels’ most irreplaceable player all season, especially after No. 2 ballhandler Dexter Strickland suffered a season-ending knee injury in January. Marshall was a second-team all-ACC pick who set the league’s single season assists record, but he had also stepped up his scoring and finished with 18 points for his sixth straight double-figure game.
Freshman Stilman White is the only true point guard left on the roster, while versatile senior Justin Watts will likely see time at the point if Marshall can’t play.
“He just doesn’t make bad decisions, he doesn’t take bad shots,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said of Marshall. “He’s in total control.”
Doug McDermott scored 20 points for the eighth-seeded Bluejays (29-6), who fell behind by 15 in the first half and trailed by 19 after halftime. North Carolina shot 51 percent and never let Creighton’s offense build similar momentum.
For Xavier, Tu Holloway added 21 points for Xavier, which edged Notre Dame in its tournament opener then took out the sentimental favorite.
Lehigh was a No. 15 seed that had upset No. 2 seed Duke on Friday night, a performance that turned a building full of light blue-wearing UNC fans into Lehigh supporters after the Mountain Hawks (27-8 had taken out the Tar Heels’ biggest rival. The crowd hadn’t forgotten, either, cheering the Lehigh players when they took their seats during the Creighton-North Carolina game.
Lehigh led by 15 midway through the first half and 37-33 at the break, but Xavier’s defense took over after halftime. Lehigh shot just 5 for 34 (15 percent) in the second half as the Musketeers pushed ahead.
“We were doing a terrible job of containing the basketball,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said. “We were helping up on penetration.
And it didn’t matter how effective we were going to be on the offensive end, if we weren’t going to get stops, we weren’t going to have a chance to win.”
The Musketeers won despite playing most of the game without their third-leading scorer, Dezmine Wells. He injured his right toe in the first half and did not return.
The loss ended a memorable few days for the Mountain Hawks in the program’s fifth NCAA appearance.
“I never imagined us playing here playing against these top-tier type of teams,” Lehigh guard B.J. Bailey said. “I’m really amazed and proud of our team for us to be here right now.
Definitely didn’t imagine that, but I’m happy we’re here now and we had the chance. Not everybody gets to do this type of stuff, so I’m happy.”
This story was written and provided by The Associated Press Wire. (Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)