Greensboro, NC - John Henson's return from a sprained wrist energized No. 1 North Carolina (31-5, 14-2 ACC) in its 87-73 win over No. 8 Creighton (29-6, 14-4 MVC) to advance to the Sweet 16, but the Tar Heels will go to St. Louis with a feeling of trepidation as Kendall Marshall's status is hanging in the balance after he fractured his right wrist.
Marshall's father, Dennis Marshall wrote on the point guard's Facebook wall that he will have surgery Monday, but may play Friday against No. 13 Ohio (29-7, 11-5 MAC).
"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. I took it a little harsh. My parents took it a little harsh. I'm looking forward to getting back on the road and getting back to Chapel Hill."
Marshall suffered the injury with 10:56 remaining in the game when he was knocked hard to the floor by Ethan Wragge on a drive to the basket.
The 6-foot-4 sophomore floor general from Dumfries, Va. went 1-3 from the charity stripe and assisted on Harrison Barnes' consecutive three pointers after sustaining the injury. Marshall left the game for good at the 1:54 mark to finish with a team-high 18 points and 11 assists.
"Our players have a will to win, and the last thing a player's going to do is let a sickness or injury get in the way of a game that they want to win," Marshall said. "So, I didn't want to come out. Coach asked me if I wanted to, I said no, I was good. But, obviously late in the game it tested me a little bit.
His wrist was casted Sunday night for his comfort before Monday's surgery. The exact injury Marshall, a lefty, suffered is a fractured right scaphoid.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons states on orthoinfo.aaos.org, "The scaphoid is one of the small bones in the wrist. It is the wrist bone that is most likely to break. The scaphoid is located on the thumb side of the wrist, in the area where the wrist bends. Whether your scaphoid fracture requires surgery or not, you will need to wear a cast or splint while the fracture heals. This may be for as long as six months."
Marshall and the Heels are fortunate the injury did not occur to his primary hand. He, his parents and Roy Williams met with a hand specialist after the win.
"You hate it for the kid," Williams said. "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."
Regardless if Marshall plays or not Justin Watts and Stilman White must be ready to contribute as the primary ball-handlers.
Watts and White average a combined 11.2 minutes, 1.9 points, 1.6 rebounds, 0.7 assists and 0.4 steals per game.
"As a backup every guy on this team you always have to be ready for your number to be called," White said. "Crazy things happen in basketball. I'm just glad that we have such a resilient team that whenever stuff happens we always seem to punch back."
Tyler Zeller hopes White realizes that he is now a huge asset to the team and must be ready to make the right plays and not turn the ball over.
"I think this team we've been through a lot with the Wear twins, Larry [Drew], Will [Graves], we've had three or four injuries this year," Zeller said. "We all know that no matter what we've got to play on Friday whether Kendall plays or not, and I think we'll have to regroup and somebody's got to step up at that point guard position if he can't play and we'll see what we can do."
North Carolina has been without three of its most valuable players, Henson, Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland for 53 games collectively this season, so playing without some of its key cogs is not a new obstacle for this team to face.
Henson's return from a three-game absence enabled James Michael McAdoo to gain invaluable experience that resulted in his rapid maturation. McAdoo has averaged 10.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.4 steals, 0.8 blocks and 0.4 assists the last five games.
Creighton tested his sprained wrist early in the game when Grant Gibbs slapped it. Henson was called for a technical foul for his retaliation when he shouted angrily in Gibbs' face. Gibbs winked at Creighton's bench following the altercation.
"They started early often, and that's what you've got to do when you're trying to win," Henson said. "It hurt a little bit, but I got over the pain. I heard Coach [Joe] Holladay say, 'It's a long game. You'll be alright.'"
In his return back to the hardwood Henson scored 13 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, blocked four shots, had two assists and a steal, while McAdoo chipped in nine points, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
"It was different coming off the bench," McAdoo said. "I feel like it helps me to be even more energetic and bring more to the game. I just want to keep playing hard, and help my team win."
Carolina can only hope for Marshall to recover quickly, and Watts and White to provide energy and success that is similar to what McAdoo brought and is continuing to bring.
Barnes said he does not know if the Tar Heels can accomplish its goal of winning the national championship without Marshall, but that everyone will find out.
"We probably have the most injured people in the country, but we always find a way, so I'm sure we'll be able to fight through it," Barnes said. "If not we'll have to move on."