After many, including Coach Greg McDermott, criticized the NCAA Selection Committee for its seeding of Creighton, the Bluejay tooks on and squeeked out a 58-57 win against the Alabama Crimson Tide in an 8-9 game despite missing five of six free throws in the last minute. The Jays were rewarded with a game against a one seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in Greensboro, North Carolina, less than an hour drive from the UNC campus in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. A daunting task, to say the least. In the end the task was too daunting and the Jays season ended with a 87-73 loss to one of the top five teams in the Country.
Going into the game, the consensus was the length of North Carolina would be the undoing of the Jays. Looking back on the game and stat sheet, length certainly was a factor. Tyler Zeller and John Henson caused the Jays to alter shots, and appeared to effect Doug McDermott’s normal scoring efficiency. The Jays were also out-rebounded by nine. At the same time, Gregory Echenique probably played one the his best games as a Jay, scoring 12 on 6 of 9 shooting, pulling down 6 rebounds all while limiting Tyler Zeller 11 ponits and 6 boards, both well below his season averages.
The undoing of the Jays however was difference in the perimeter play. North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall came out on fire and put it to Jays’ point guard Antoinne Young. Young, who had been playing some of the best basketball of his career over the last three weeks, struggled mightily. On top of Marshall’s play, North Carolina’s perimeter players made 8 three pointers and shot 50% from beyond the arc. The 8 three pointers were 4 more than North Carolina’s seasson average.
Coming out of the game, there were some allegations that the Jays bullied the Tar Heels and played dirty. The issues started with about 13:45 to play in the first half when North Carolina’s Henson, who was playing with an injured left wrist, drew a technical foul after taking issue with Grant Gibbs attempting to rip the ball from Henson’s hands after Henson brought the ball down to his waist. Apparently, Henson believed no one is allowed to go after the basketball once you are injured. Unfortunately Gibbs didn’t help himself when a television camera caught him winking to the bench after the technical was called.
A bit of rough play occurred with about 9:30 remaining in the first half. After running the floor, a shot was quickly taken by North Carolina’s Marshall. Zeller was trailing Echenique and Echenique dropped Zeller to the floor with two forearms to the chest. From the replay, it appeared that Zeller may have taken a flop. Regardless, Echenique probably should have drawn a whistle and possibly a flagrant foul.
The dirty play talk really began after the game when it was disclosed Marshall injured his left wrist on drive to the basket late in the second half while being defended by Ethan Wragge. This brought the wrath (some of which is not fit to print) of North Carolina fans to Wragge’s Twitter account. Marshall has since had surgery and is likely to miss North Carolina’s remaining NCAA games.
Since all of the talk of dirty play has occured, North Carloina head coach Roy Williams has been interviewed. Williams did not fault Gibbs or think Wragge’s play was dirty. In fact, he compared Gibbs to Michael Jordan and stated he often gets on Marshall for not fouling hard enough to prevent break away layups.
In the end, the Jays should be proud of their accomplishments. With Antoinne Young being the only major contirbutor leaving the program and Austin Chapman appearing to an excellent candidate to replace him, the expectations will be high for the 2012-2013 campaign. In fact, Creighton will most likely be ranked inside the top 25 to start next season.