No one was more valuable than North
Carolina’s junior point guard in the Tar Heels’
106-92 victory over Iowa in Wednesday
night’s championship game—or all week
for that matter. And he was appropriately
rewarded with tournament MVP honors.
All this in spite of a left wrist injury
suffered the day before.
“I was in pain the whole time, but I just
forgot about it,” Felton said. “I love my
teammates to death, the coaching staff, Coach
Williams. I’ll always give them 100 percent.”
Felton’s stat line doesn’t tell the whole
story—13 points, nine assists, five rebounds
and four steals—but it was the shut-down
defensive job he did on Iowa’s Jeff Horner
that was the key to victory.
“We talked about how Horner is the key
to their whole team because he shoots with
such range he spreads your defense,” Tar
Heels coach Roy Williams said. “Whomever
is guarding him has to keep him in front of
them but be close enough to do something.
Raymond is our best on the ball defender and
his play was important to us on both ends of
the court. He established the tempo on the
offensive end and he’s difficult to dribble
penetrate against on the defensive end.”
Horner averaged 22.5 points in the first
two games for the Hawkeyes, shooting 22-
for-40 from the field. Felton, playing with a
bandage on his left wrist, just wouldn’t let
Horner get the ball where he wanted it.
Horner took just four shots in the first half
and made two, and had six points as North
Carolina (3-1) took a 59-40 lead. The Tar
Heels shot 58 percent in the first half, closing
the opening 20 minutes by making 11 of their
last 14 shots.
“I think more than what Felton did
defensively was how he broke our defense
down,” Iowa coach Steve Alford said. “He was
tremendous. He made shots and he does such
a great job of setting everybody else up. Nine
assists and one turnover. He had a very, very
good game and he’s as good a point guard as
Rashad McCants was the high scorer
with 22 points for the Heels. Adam Haluska
had 19 points and Horner added 18 for Iowa,
which beat Louisville and Texas to reach the
Felton used a quick crossover dribble to
get by a defender and threw down a vicious
dunk to make it 71-48 with 16:36 to play.
Less than two minutes later, he took a pass
near midcourt, took the ball around his back
to avoid a defender and laid it in left-handed,
showing no signs of trouble with the wrist, to
make it 73-51.
“It was just basic instinct, just my ability,
that’s about it,” Felton said of the two plays.
“When I made the crossover, I saw an
opportunity to dunk and that’s what I did. In
transition, I went behind my back and tried to
finish the layup.”
Jawad Williams added 18 points and Sean
May had 16 for North Carolina, which had 12
steals and forced 22 turnovers.