McDermott: No dirty play -
Published Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 1:00 am / Updated at 7:12 am
McDermott: No dirty play

Greg McDermott reached out Monday morning to Roy Williams to make sure the North Carolina coach was clear on one thing: Creighton was not out to get the Tar Heels.

That's not how some others saw a trio of isolated plays in the Bluejays' 87-73 loss to North Carolina in Sunday's NCAA tournament third-round game at Greensboro, N.C. Ethan Wragge, in particular, was the target of scorn from some Tar Heel fans for his involvement in a play in which star North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall sustained a broken wrist.

"We feel awful that Kendall Marshall got hurt," McDermott said Monday afternoon. "There was not any malicious intent on Ethan's part. It was just a basketball play and, unfortunately, Kendall landed on his wrist wrong.

"I wanted to make sure Roy knew how we felt. We have tremendous respect for each other. He's a good friend of mine, and I wanted to make sure he knew that we felt bad that it happened."

Two other Creighton players — Grant Gibbs and Gregory Echenique — were involved in plays that drew the attention of national analysts, some who questioned whether the Bluejays tried to resort to dirty tactics to try to even the court against the more talented Tar Heels.

"Anyone that watched us play 35 games would know that we're the farthest thing from being a physical, rough-housing team," McDermott said. "If anything, we've lacked physicality, but now we're being made out to be the team that tried to bully North Carolina.

"The thing we feel bad about is the injury, because I would like to see North Carolina make a great run in this tournament."

The play involving Wragge figures to have legs as the tournament continues. Marshall underwent successful surgery to repair the broken scaphoid bone in his right (non-shooting) wrist. His status for the Tar Heels' Sweet 16 game against Ohio is uncertain.

If Marshall can't play, Wragge might want to be prepared for another Twitter onslaught similar to what he experienced Sunday night before the Bluejays left North Carolina.

A website, DailyBigTen, compiled a list of some of the tweets Wragge received. Most could not be printed in a newspaper because of the foulness of tone and language.

"We're hearing from a small percentage of a great fan base," McDermott said. "I think every fan base has some fans that probably go over the top in how they react. They think they know what happened when they really have no idea what happened.

"For anyone that would think that our players would be directed to play dirty, that's about as far from the truth as you could possibly be."

The play on which Marshall was injured came midway through the second half and occurred when the speedy guard split Creighton's defense on a drive to the basket. Originally, Wragge had his back to Marshall, then turned to pick him up as he sliced through the lane.

Wragge went up to block the shot with his left hand and made contact with Marshall with his right. At the same time, Marshall's left arm made contact with Wragge's chest. At one point, it appears that both players are pushing the other away.

Marshall wound up hitting the court after getting the shot off. He remained in the game, making 1 of 2 free throws. He came out 30 seconds later, returned with 8:52 to play and played until the 1:54 mark.

In postgame comments, Williams called it a "hard foul, but I don't think there was anything else there."

Asked whether he felt there was anything underhanded about the play, Marshall said, "I watched the replay from one angle and it was still hard to tell. Hopefully he had his best intentions."

Gibbs had some people wondering what his intentions were when he got involved in a scuffle for a loose ball with North Carolina's John Henson, who had missed the past three games with an injured wrist. Henson got upset because he said he felt Gibbs was slapping at his injured wrist.

Television replays indicate that Gibbs might have made contact with the wrist, but he appeared more intent at knocking the ball away from Henson. Regardless, Henson said something to Gibbs and drew a technical foul.

Gibbs was then seen winking at teammates.

"That was Grant being Grant," McDermott said. "He was happy Henson got the technical. He wasn't going after his bad hand. Anyone that knows Grant knows that he's not the kind of player that would do that.

"And we would never direct our players to go after another player's injury. We did the same thing a lot of teams did all year against Henson. When he got the ball, we doubled him. And we were going to have guys digging at the ball, injured wrist or not."

Shortly after the technical, Echenique was involved in a play in which he used both arms to send North Carolina center Tyler Zeller to the court. Zeller was trying to move into position for a possible rebound when Echenique delivered a shot to Zeller's upper chest area that leveled the 7-foot center.

No foul was called. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas tweeted that he couldn't believe an intentional foul was not called on the play. McDermott said Monday that Echenique should have been called for a foul.

"I didn't see the play until after the game, and I didn't like what happened," McDermott said. "I talked to Gregory a little bit about it, and we'll talk more. He was going to block him out, but he hit him way too high.

"Those two guys played a very physical game. I think both were fine with that. Afterward, they shared an embrace. I think they both respected the way the other plays."

McDermott said he hopes what happened Sunday doesn't take away from the respect Creighton earned during its 29-6 season.

"The irony of it is that the last thing some people will remember about us," McDermott said, "is that we were the team that tried to get tough with North Carolina."

Williams: Play wasn't dirty

North Carolina coach Roy Williams said Monday night on his weekly radio show that he didn't think the play in which guard Kendall Marshall suffered a broken wrist was "dirty."

Marshall was injured in Sunday's 87-73 win over Creighton in an NCAA tournament third-round game when he was fouled by forward Ethan Wragge on a hard drive to the basket.

Williams, according to a story published in the Greensboro, N.C., News&Record, called it a hard foul but a clean one. He said he remembered thinking, "Gosh, I wish he didn't hit him so hard."

But he also said he often chastises Marshall for not fouling hard enough to prevent breakaway layups, so he can't get upset for Wragge committing a hard, legal foul.

Williams said he and Creighton coach Greg McDermott talked Monday morning to address claims McDermott and his players had received since the game about their supposed "dirty" play.

Williams said he did think a play involving Creighton center Gregory Echenique should have been a flagrant foul. Echenique knocked North Carolina center Tyler Zeller to the court as Zeller was moving into position for a rebound.

As for the incident that led to a technical foul on North Carolina forward John Henson, Williams said he didn't see anything beyond Creighton's Grant Gibbs swiping at the ball and hitting Henson's injured wrist.

Gibbs was caught on television winking after the technical. Gibbs told The World-Herald on Sunday that he winked because he had gotten under Henson's skin enough to draw the technical, not because of an attempt to injure him.

Williams was upset Henson was called for the technical but said he didn't see anything else from Gibbs on the play.

"If you're asking me would Roy Williams wink at the bench after drawing a technical, probably not," Williams said. "But Michael Jordan would."

Contact the writer:


Contact the writer: Steven Pivovar    |   402-679-2298    |  

Steven Pivovar is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and primarily covers Creighton athletics and the College World Series.

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