There have been games this season, several of them, in fact, when Kendall Marshall has accumulated four assists rather quickly. He needed just four on Wednesday night to set a new single-season record for assists at North Carolina, but Marshall, the sophomore point guard, had to wait.
He went into halftime with three assists, and then set up Harrison Barnes on a jump shot a couple of minutes into the second half. When the shot went through, Marshall had his 285th assist of the season, which set a school record. Ed Cota set the previous record with 284 assists during the 1999-00 season.
“It was definitely weighing on me in the first half,” Marshall said. “I think we had three pitch aheads that usually are easy baskets. And we didn’t convert on it, or a couple of them were bad passes on my part. Some of them – I don’t know what happened.”
He smiled at that. Some games, Marshall has piled up assists with so little effort it’s easy to lose count. During the Tar Heels’ 88-64 victory against Maryland, though, Marshall seemed to be stuck on three assists for the longest time.
“It felt good to just do that early in the second half,” Marshall said of setting record.
At the next television timeout after Marshall set the record, the public address announcer at the Smith Center made those in attendance aware that they’d just witnessed a bit of UNC basketball history. Marshall received a long ovation.
He finished the game with eight assists, which gives him 289 and counting. He’s tied with Bobby Hurley for the third-most assists in a single season in ACC history, and he needs 15 to set a new conference record. Barring something unforeseen, it’s a certainty that Marshall, then, will be making more history.
As for the record he just set, and the player he surpassed, Marshall said he does have a relationship with Cota. The two haven’t spoken in a while, Marshall said, but they spent some time with one another about a year ago, at the end of Marshall’s freshman season.
“He’s a very good guy,” Marshall said. “I watch his highlights all the time. And you all talk about me, but some of the passes that he had the courage to make are ridiculous.
“So I have the utmost respect for his game and I thought he was a very great player.”
David Scott has been with the Observer for 28 years and has written about ACC, SEC and other college sports in the Charlotte region. He covers Wake Forest, South Carolina and college soccer for the Observer and (Raleigh) News & Observer.
J.P. Giglio covers the ACC for the News & Observer, where he has worked since 1997, and the Observer.
Andrew Carter covers the North Carolina Tar Heels for the Observer and News & Observer.
Laura Keeley covers the Duke Blue Devils for the Observer and News & Observer. Follow her on Twitter.
Chip Alexander covers the Carolina Hurricanes and college football for the News & Observer, where he has worked since 1979, and the Observer.
Luke DeCock has worked for The News & Observer since 2000. He covered the Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a sports columnist for the Observer and News & Observer in August 2008.
Tim Crothers is an author and former senior writer at Sports Illustrated who is joining the sports staff to write a regular column during the rest of the college basketball season.