GREENSBORO, N.C. — Doug McDermott and Creighton are comfortable playing a quick pace with plenty of shots. The Bluejays just couldn't keep up with North Carolina's fast start.
The top-seeded Tar Heels hit 14 of 19 shots to open the game and build a double-digit lead in an 87-73 win in the third round of the NCAA tournament. North Carolina led by 15 in the first half and pushed it to 19 after halftime, then never let Creighton string together enough baskets to make it a game again.
"That's what good teams do — they just never let us back in it," McDermott said. "There were times where we cut the lead to like 12 or whatever, but they just exploded and hit some tough shots. You've got to give them a lot of credit, they're a really good team and I think they've got a really good chance to win this thing."
North Carolina's opening flurry proved to be the decisive run in the game. While Creighton clawed to within eight at halftime, the Bluejays never could put the always-attacking Tar Heels on the defensive.
Kendall Marshall hit his first six shots for the Tar Heels, who scored on six straight possessions at one point and led 39-24 with about 5½ minutes left in the half.
"They got off to a really good start," McDermott said. "They were hitting shots and we didn't have too many answers."
North Carolina's John Henson had 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in his return from a wrist injury. But Marshall broke a bone in his right wrist during the second half.
Coach Roy Williams confirmed the injury after the game, and said he would talk to Marshall and his parents about his status Sunday night. The point guard still finished with 18 points and 11 assists.
The Tar Heels (31-5) will face Ohio in the round of 16 on Friday in St. Louis.
McDermott scored 20 points for the eight-seeded Bluejays (29-6), who shot 41 percent.
Henson had missed the last three games after spraining his left wrist during the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament when he fell to the court while being fouled. His return drew a roar from the home-state fans filling the Greensboro Coliseum, both when he jogged out with his teammates for pregame warmups and when he was introduced during the starting lineups.
Most of the time, Henson looked like his old self, knocking down midrange jumpers or using his long frame to snatch rebounds or swat shots. He drew a technical foul in the first half when he got angry and started jawing with a Creighton defender who had chopped at the ball in Henson's hands in the paint. He also had a moment when he cringed after taking a blow to the hands on a foul, which forced Williams to pull him briefly in the first half.Comment on this story
With Henson's return, the Tar Heels appeared to be getting their team together in time for a trip to the regional semifinals in St. Louis. Now they will have to wait and see if Marshall will be available.
Marshall's injury overshadowed Henson's return and the reunion of McDermott and UNC's Harrison Barnes, who teamed together to lead Ames High School in Iowa to consecutive state championships and unbeaten seasons. McDermott came in averaging about 23 points and eight rebounds, while Barnes was leading the Tar Heels in scoring at about 17 per game.
That matchup never materialized, with Henson and freshman James Michael McAdoo getting most of the defensive work against McDermott. Barnes finished with 17 points on 7-for-19 shooting, including back-to-back 3-pointers to turn away Creighton's final push after the Bluejays had closed within 12 with about 5½ minutes left.
Reggie Bullock added 13 points and eight rebounds for the Tar Heels, including three 3-pointers. The Tar Heels shot 51 percent for the game.