Henson injures wrist, could play in semis

ATLANTA -- North Carolina forward John Henson – an All-ACC first-team selection, and the league’s Defensive Player of the Year -- will be a game-time decision for the Tar Heels’ Saturday semifinal game in the ACC tournament because of a sprained left wrist.

“They don’t think it’s a break with John,’’ coach Roy Williams said after his team beat Maryland in the quarterfinals, 85-69, at Philips Arena. “It’s just he had trouble catching and gripping the basketball. It’s his left wrist; that’s the one he uses. That’s his dominant hand, even though he is right-handed.”

The junior was injured with 14:59 left the first half Friday when he was fouled driving to the basket, and tried to brace his fall. Henson immediately starting shaking his wrist, and asked to come out of the game after he missed his second free throw.

After going to the locker room to have his wrist examined and re-taped, he re-entered the game with 8:06 left in the first half. But he lasted only 40 seconds, grimacing in pain when he tried to catch a hard pass from point guard Kendall Marshall.

X-rays at halftime were negative.

“I was worried, but I was a little happier after the X-rays came back and said they said it wasn’t broken,’’ said Henson, who entered the game averaging 14.2 points, plus a league-leading 10.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game.

Henson, who wore a brace on the same wrist for part of last season after injuring it, said he plans to continue to ice the wrist, and could play in the semis, depending on how it feels Saturday.

But it wouldn’t be surprising for UNC to be cautious. Ranked No. 4 in the country, the Tar Heels are in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but they also want to be healthy when they get there.

“The ACC tournament’s a big deal, but we’re also preparing for next week, and you don’t want to put him in a game where he gets hurt and he can’t play all the way through the tournament,’’ senior forward Tyler Zeller said. “So you want to be cautious, but you want him to be able to play if he’s able to."

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.