Spitting (among other things) for luck

ST. LOUIS -- For years, superstitious North Carolina coach Roy Williams has made a habit of spitting into the Mississippi River for good luck during the NCAA tournament.

So it wasn’t surprising when the Tar Heels made a post-shootaround stop on Friday, before beating Ohio to advance to the Midwest Regional Final.

“Getting off the bus, I was grabbing all the spit out of my mouth I could, just to make sure it was a good one,’’ said point guard Kendall Marshall. “…I spit a big loogie in there.”

Perhaps looking for any extra advantage, considering all of the questions about his fractured right wrist, Marshall was ready to take it one step further, too.

“I asked the coaches, ‘What if I have to use the bathroom in the river? Is it more luck, or less luck?’” he said. “They said that wouldn’t work, so they wouldn’t let me do that.”

After all, it might be illegal.

“That would be another thing we have to worry about,’’ Marshall said. “I definitely wanted to be at the game, not in jail, so they kept me from doing that.”

In the end, Marshall didn’t play, but his top-seeded team did pull out an overtime victory over No. 13 seed Ohio. Meaning the Tar Heels may ask to make make another hocking Mississippi River stop before it matches up with Kansas at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday.

After all, it worked in 1982 in New Orleans, where UNC won the national title when Williams was an assistant coach. And it 2005, when he led the Tar Heels to his first national title as a head coach, in St. Louis. He used to take his Kansas teams to do it, too.

“It helped us out last night,’’ forward John Henson said. “So we might have to do it a couple more times tomorrow.”

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.