Marshall's Minutes

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- While a first-team All-ACC snub may have stung Kendall Marshall on Monday afternoon, he received an even more significant accolade hours earlier from UNC head coach Roy Williams.

With the Dumfries, Va. sophomore standing behind the media during Monday's press conference, Williams told reporters that Marshall "makes better decisions with the basketball than any point guard that I've ever had."

What followed was an audible "wow" from Marshall.

Roughly two hours later, the sophomore found out that he had assisted three of his Tar Heel teammates -- Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes and John Henson -- in earning first-team All-ACC recognition.

There's no question that the Tar Heels will only go as far in the NCAA Tournament as Marshall will take them. But UNC must first navigate the ACC Tournament this weekend, which presents the challenge of potential three-games-in-three-days if North Carolina hopes to win the title.

Marshall logged 107 minutes during the 2011 ACC Tournament and admitted to being exhausted following the title game loss to Duke. With the NCAA Tournament looming, all eyes will be focused on how top-seeded North Carolina handles its point guard's minutes in Atlanta.

Marshall is averaging 35.4 minutes per game since backup point guard Dexter Strickland tore his ACL against Virginia Tech on Jan. 19, including six games of 37 minutes or more. Freshman Stilman White has since moved into the backup role and has played well considering the circumstances in 3.8 minutes per game. But White may see an increase to that average this weekend out of necessity in protecting Marshall's legs.

Williams hasn't seen any signs of fatigue setting in with Marshall, but has drastically cut back the length of practice over the last 3-4 weeks due in large part to his point guard.

"[Fatigue] is a concern of ours and it's a concern probably more so because of the way I felt about his game on Sunday in the [ACC] Tournament last year," Williams said.

That concern has some basis in addition to last season's ACC Tournament. Marshall acknowledged being tired after a three-games-in-six-days stretch that ended at Wake Forest on Jan. 31, even though UNC limited his minutes to 34-31-35 during that stretch. That weariness reappeared over the weekend.

"I got a little tired against Duke early in the second half, but then again when it comes to this part of the season, it's about heart, not so much fatigue," said Marshall, a second-team All-ACC selection on Monday.

Marshall told reporters that after going out and just playing at full tilt last year, he's matured in his sophomore season and is doing a better job of taking care of his body with breathing techniques on the court and extra rest.

"One thing that I try not to do is get too hyped because when I do that, that's just using a lot of energy," Marshall said. "So I try to maintain steady composure throughout the game, make sure I'm taking deep breaths in my nose and out of my mouth, just little things like that, as well as staying hydrated and getting as much water as possible."

Williams, of course, couldn't help but to take a comical swipe at Marshall while discussing the fatigue factor.

"Kendall's sneaky – he rests on defense most of the time anyway," the ninth-year UNC head coach joked.

Williams couldn't provide an exact minute total that he wanted to keep Marshall below in Atlanta, citing in-game variables such as pace of play, but he did reference the 107 minutes played in last year's ACC Tournament.

"I would hope that it would not be like that," he said.

Part of the reason for that high quantity of minutes last March is that North Carolina was forced to rally from double-digit deficits in the quarters and semis, including one overtime game.

"We're going to try to not get down by 15 or 20 this time and then make comebacks," Zeller said. "That always takes a lot of energy, so it's something that when you let yourself get down by that much, you can't relax or slow down in the second half. You have to go even harder than you have been. You expend a lot of energy doing that and it's tough."

Williams spent a portion of his press conference on Monday downplaying the long-held belief that the ACC Tournament doesn't mean much to him. Now he's tasked with finding a happy medium in allowing Marshall to log enough minutes to give UNC a chance of winning this weekend, but not enough to burn him out for the start of the NCAA Tournament.

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