Terry the Key to Tar Heels' Chances
Friday, March 16, 2007; 9:20 PM
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Reyshawn Terry leapt to reach the high alley-oop pass, then came down with a two-handed slam that wowed his hometown crowd.
He followed with a transition layup off a turnover, two mid-range jumpers and a 3-pointer that had North Carolina off and running into the second round of the NCAA tournament.
On a team featuring Tyler Hansbrough and loaded with headline-grabbing freshmen, Terry is quietly putting together a strong finish to his four-year career. And, as North Carolina prepares to play Michigan State in the East Regional on Saturday, the 6-foot-8 senior could be the key to turning a very good team into a true championship contender.
"When Reyshawn Terry has a big-time game, this team plays great," sophomore Marcus Ginyard said Friday. "I think he understands and accepts it as a challenge as one of the leaders of this team. He knows his play directly affects the outcome of the game and that we've got to have big-time plays from him."
It's a surprising position for Terry considering coach Roy Williams didn't think he was quite good enough to make a mark when he arrived on campus as a recruit of ex-coach Matt Doherty. Yet Terry has seen plenty of good times for the top-seeded Tar Heels (29-6), starting when he was part of North Carolina's 2005 NCAA championship team.
Now he has a chance to win a second title, even if he's in a reduced scoring role from his all-conference junior season.
"I just try to help out as much as I can in the other aspects of the game," Terry said. "We have guys that have the capabilities of scoring and doing a whole lot of things. I just try to take what I have and pretty much combine it with all the guys coming in this year."
Terry finally got his chance after the Tar Heels lost their top seven scorers from the title team, and he averaged 14.3 points in 24.2 minutes per game last year.
This season, however, Terry found himself surrounded by an awe-inspiring amount of talent _ Williams often played 12 players en route to an Atlantic Coast Conference championship _ that forced a change in his role. He started every game and averaged just 9.4 points in 21.5 minutes per game entering the NCAA tournament.
"I was just preparing myself to be ready for whatever was to come ... even to give up my own shots to make everybody else be effective," Terry said. "And I was willing to do that."
Williams said Terry has been consistent all season on defense, where his athleticism allows him to match up on the perimeter and his 232-pound frame is sturdy enough to battle inside. But even as Terry seemed content to play a supporting role on offense, the Tar Heels are 17-0 when he scores in double figures.
He also has come through in the clutch during the past two games. He scored eight straight points in less than 90 seconds in the ACC tournament championship to hold off North Carolina State, which had cut a 16-point lead to one in the final minutes.
Then, in the Tar Heels' 86-65 win against Eastern Kentucky in Thursday's first round, Terry scored 18 points on 8-for-9 shooting _ including his impressive stretch during the team's decisive second-half run.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo _ whose ninth-seeded Spartans (23-11) are trying to reach the round of 16 for the seventh time in 10 NCAA trips under him _ figures that kind of veteran scoring option makes the Tar Heels even more dangerous.
"Freshmen sometimes can be up and down," Izzo said. "It's usually your veterans that stabilize you (in the NCAAs). He's a guy who's been around a lot. I do think he's a big key to the game, especially with that body and size and the way he handles the ball. He's a mismatch in a lot of ways."
The Tar Heels also will have a homecourt advantage by playing in the city where Terry was an instate prep star, though Spartans junior Drew Neitzel noted his team played at Wisconsin and Ohio State this season.
"I think we're as prepared as anybody in the country to face this team in this environment," he said.
Even if Terry has another big game, he still has his moments that frustrate Williams, who benched the senior for a lack of intensity shortly before his title-clinching burst against the Wolfpack. Regardless, the coach loves how much Terry has accomplished since the start of his career.
"He's got tremendous ability and great respect from his teammates," Williams said. "Reyshawn is about winning."