I don't know if Kendall Marshall had something to prove against N.C. State. Conventional wisdom did have him as the second best ACC point guard, behind the Wolfpack's Lorenzo Brown. Perhaps that grated on Marshall; perhaps he didn't notice. Either way, he proved the conventional wisdom wrong in a big way tonight.
State came out with the same game plan a lot of teams have used against the Heels – double team the UNC bigs as soon as they get the ball. The end result was a lot of passes back out to an ignored Marshall, who proceeded to drain three after three after three. The final tally was 22 points, 13 assists and absolutely no turnovers. The Carolina point guard missed only one shot all evening, and outclassed Brown, who had 18 points from over twice the shots.
Gottfried's strategy did pay off a bit in the paint. Carolina was outscored 42 to 22 there, but at the cost of Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie spending time on the bench in foul trouble. It was a physical game inside, and the Wolfpack got way too many offensive boards (17) for my taste. Leslie would, like Marshall, finish with a career scoring high, 24 points in this case. But Leslie and Brown were all State had offensively. Reggie Bullock completely shut down Scott Wood, holding him to one made basket. The Wolfpack on a whole were only three of thirteen from beyond the arc, proving UNC can muster a tough perimeter defense when they have to. I hope to see it more often.
But in the end, this was Kendall Marshall's night. He now stands 10 assists away from eclipsing Ed Cota's single-season UNC record, and 28 away from Craig Neal's ACC mark. He shouldn't have trouble surpassing either; he notched his 500th career assist tonight. Only Chris Corchiani – not ejected from the game tonight – hit that milestone quicker. State meanwhile loses it's twelfth straight against the Tar Heels, and now sit squarely on the tournament bubble. All in all, a very good day to be wearing Carolina blue.