Heel’s shot at the title may hinge on Terry

Published 3:18 pm Saturday, March 17, 2007

By Staff
By AARON BEARD, AP Sports Writer
WINSTON-SALEM — 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.
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.
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.
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.
That said, Terry still has his moments that frustrate Williams, who benched Terry for a lack of intensity shortly before his title-clinching burst against the Wolfpack. But the coach said he loves how much Terry has accomplished since the start of his career.