John Henson, a 6-foot-10 forward with an 88-inch wingspan, is at the heart of the North Carolina defense.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Sitting on a plastic chair in the middle of the cramped North Carolina locker room, John Henson smiled wide when asked if shot-blocking is an art.
“The art is in the timing,” he said. “You can’t rush it. I think guys sometimes overthink it. That’s when you get in their heads. Timing is big. To know when to make your move. It’s part instinct and being prepared.”
Henson, a 6-foot-10 forward with an 88-inch wingspan, is at the heart of the North Carolina defense.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called him the most disruptive player in the country.
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The Tar Heels say he’s invaluable.
“John is a beast,” UNC freshman Harrison Barnes said. “He’s definitely our anchor defensively, gets a lot of blocks. Gets most of our rebounds.
“We definitely rely on him a lot to anchor us defensively and because of him, that fuels our offense.” Henson, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, averages 3.2 blocks, which ranks eighth in the country. He also averages 11.9 points and 10.1 rebounds.
Washington senior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning said the key to defeating a shot-blocker is to be aggressive and attack their body.
“Try to just close that gap, be physical with him on both ends of the floor,” Bryan-Amaning said. “Getting your body into him so it’s more difficult so he’s leaning back so he won’t be able to block as many shots as he usually does.”
New UW lineup?
Coach Lorenzo Romar hinted he could tinker with the lineup again.
The Huskies swapped 6-5 freshman guard C.J. Wilcox for 6-8 junior forward Darnell Gant on Friday to counter Georgia’s big front line.
Washington could go even bigger Sunday.
Sophomore center Aziz N’Diaye is UW’s tallest player at 7 feet. He hasn’t started the past four games, but knows he’ll play an important role against North Carolina.
“There’s no pressure, but I know me and Matt, we should slow them down inside,” N’Diaye said. “It’s easier to play someone who is 6-11 and above because I can concentrate a lot better.”
Ready to run
Georgia dictated the tempo and forced Washington to play at a deliberate pace in UW’s 68-65 victory.
The Huskies are expecting a different tactic from North Carolina.
“It’s going to be a fast-paced game,” senior co-captain Justin Holiday said. “We’re both teams that like to run in transition, so there might be a few heartaches here and there.”
Washington averages 83.5 points per game, UNC 77.4.
“If they want to run, we’ll match that intensity,” Barnes said.
A little jittery
Terrence Ross admitted nerves may have played a role in his scoreless outing Friday.
Romar has described the freshman guard as unflappable and expects he’ll bounce back Sunday.
“Terrence Ross said he had jitters?” Romar said. “I didn’t know it was possible for him.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org