ATLANTA (AP) — With defensive ace John Henson cheering from the bench, an ice pack on his ailing wrist, North Carolina showed just how deep its talent runs.
Kendall Marshall’s dynamic playmaking turned the rim into a gathering place for a Tar Heels dunkfest. Reggie Bullock buried a couple of huge 3-pointers to get the rout going. Seven-footer Tyler Zeller dominated on the inside. Harrison Barnes showed off some NBA-caliber finishing moves.
The fourth-ranked Tar Heels didn’t even need Henson, their best defensive player and rebounder. Hardly looking short-handed, they romped to an 85-69 victory over Maryland in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament Friday.
North Carolina (28-4) simply had too many weapons for Maryland (17-15), which was essentially a one-man show. Terrell Stoglin scored 30 points, but none of his teammates had more than 11.
“The bench players came in and gave us a lot,” Bullock said. “Hopefully it continues until John gets back.”
Marshall knew he had to step up after Henson sprained his left wrist in the first half.
“I didn’t know how serious it was,” the guard said. “But when he started squirming for a long period of time, I thought it could be something kind of serious. He dealt with a little wrist pain last year. We’re hoping for the best.”
Marshall was called for carrying the ball early in the second half — stunningly, the first time all season the point guard who has the ball in his hands so much of the time had been whistled for palming or traveling.
The Tar Heels could overlook that mistake. Marshall scored 13 points, knocking down three attempts from 3-point range, but it was his passing that really stood out. He set up his teammates with 12 assists, many of them resulting in layups or dunks.
It was another signature performance in a stellar season for Marshall, who broke the ACC record for assists in a season. He now has 311, surging past the mark set by Georgia Tech’s Craig Neal in 1987-88.
Bullock hit back-to-back 3s to start the second half, quickly extending a 10-point halftime lead to 42-26.
“My teammates believe in me to take shots and be able to knock down shots,” Bullock said. “Kendall, he’s going to find me. I just run wide like coach tells us to do and he’s going to find me. They were giving me a lot of shots. I felt confident taking them.”
Led by Stoglin, the ACC’s leading scorer, Maryland sliced the deficit to seven points a couple of times before the Tar Heels pulled away again.
“We were tested,” coach Roy Williams said. “You may look at the score and think we were not. It looked much smoother out there than we felt as a staff sitting on the bench.”
North Carolina advanced to Saturday’s semifinals against North Carolina State, which defeated Virginia 67-64. It’s not yet known if Henson will be available, though Williams said nothing appears to be broken.
Henson went down hard when fouled driving to the basket early in the game, landing on his left wrist. He flexed it repeatedly and finally came out of the game with 13:51 left in the first half. After going off to the locker room to get checked out, he returned to the bench to big cheers from the largely pro-North Carolina crowd, his wrist heavily taped.
There were more cheers when Henson returned to the court with 8:06 remaining. But he lasted less than a minute, coming out when it was apparent he couldn’t play with his usual effectiveness. He just didn’t feel comfortable gripping the ball or catching passes.
No fractures showed up on X-rays hastily taken at halftime, but Henson was done for the day. He watched the second half with ice on his wrist, congratulating his teammates with his right hand only.
There were plenty of kudos to go around. Bullock and Barnes finished with 15 points. Zeller chipped in with 14. So did James Michael McAdoo, taking advantage of extra playing time with Henson sidelined.
“James Michael, he brings that motor,” Bullock said.
Stoglin started out strong by making his first four shots — including a couple of 3s — and three straight free throws. But when he went cold, missing his next five shots, Maryland’s hopes faded away.
Things got a bit chippy at the end. Maryland’s Berend Weijs was called for a flagrant foul on McAdoo, who fell on his left hand. But he wasn’t hurt as bad as Henson, staying in the game until Williams cleared his bench.
Maryland endured a transitional first season under new coach Mark Turgeon, who took over after Gary Williams retired. Clearly, the Terrapins have a ways to go to catch up to the ACC’s elite teams, losing to North Carolina three straight times this season — by an average of more than 16 points a game.
“Their length gives us problems,” Turgeon said. “I was disappointed we couldn’t score on McAdoo. I thought we could score on him. He is not 7 foot. Our guys were just out of it. Our post guys were just out of it.”
Stoglin is looking for things to improve next season.
“We learned so much this year,” he said. “We are a young team.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)