John Henson spent most of his three seasons making life difficult for opponents trying to inbound the basketball. Never, however, was it as decisive in a key game as it was against Washington in the 2011 round of 32.
The athletic Huskies had led by as many as 11 points in the first half and five points in the second. But a Tar Heel rally, fueled by a partisan Charlotte crowd and 23 points from Tyler Zeller, plus 22 from Harrison Barnes, put Carolina ahead with 4:06 left on a Barnes three-pointer.
That's when the Tar Heels-a team that leaned heavily on freshmen Barnes and Kendall Marshall, plus sophomores Dexter Strickland and Henson-began to show their youth.
With Carolina leading 84-83, Marshall missed the front end of a one-and-one with less than 20 seconds left. That gave the Huskies an opportunity for a game-winner, and that one chance turned into multiple opportunities.
First, Venoy Overton missed a runner in the lane. A defensive rebound might have sealed the win, but the ball caromed off a Tar Heel, giving Washington another chance.
But the Huskies had to inbound the ball under their own hoop, meaning they had to get the ball over or around Henson's long arms. They couldn't do it, and Henson's deflection was grabbed by Strickland, who knocked down a pair of free throws with 5.4 seconds remaining.
That put the Tar Heels up by three, a margin that turned out to be important, because Washington wasn't done yet. Overton inexplicably launched a midcourt heave with three seconds remaining, which should have ended the game and sent Carolina-a team that had battled back from a midseason transfer-to the Sweet 16.
But instead of letting the ball sail out of bounds, Henson tipped it, giving the Huskies a third chance with 0.5 seconds left. This time, Washington got a better shot, finding star guard Isaiah Thomas in the left corner. He launched a shot, as it turned out, with his foot on the line. That foot on the line ended up being important, because Henson again swatted at the ball on the way down, sending the Huskies howling for goaltending (that wouldn't have mattered, since it was only a two-point attempt). It also sent Carolina to Newark for the Sweet 16 with an 86-83 victory.
Strickland was solid defensively, limiting Thomas to 5-for-15 from the field.