ACC Basketball: North Carolina 84, N.C. State 64
By Aaron Beard
CHAPEL HILL ó Harrison Barnes finally had that big performance everyone had been waiting to see.
The freshman scored a season-high 25 points to help North Carolina beat North Carolina State 84-64 on Saturday, helping the Tar Heels extend their dominance against Sidney Lowe and their struggling nearby rival.
John Henson added 16 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks for the Tar Heels (15-5, 5-1 ACC), who ran out to a double-digit lead in the first 3 minutes and never looked back.
Barnes had struggled with his shot for most of the season since becoming the first freshman voted to The Associated Press preseason All-America team since voting began before the 1986-87 season. But in Wednesday nightís win at Miami, Barnes hit a tough stepback jumper to tie it with about a minute left, then hit the winning 3-pointer to beat the shot clock with 6.6 seconds left in the 74-71 victory.
He came out hot in this one with nine points during the Tar Heelsí game-opening 13-2 flurry, then never let up as the Tar Heels cruised to their ninth straight win against the Wolfpack (12-9, 2-5).
ěI think I just gained a lot of confidence from the Miami game,î Barnes said. ěI thought my teammates did a great job of just finding me, and I knocked down shots.î
Barnes had scored 19 twice this season, but he was shooting 37 percent with a team-high 43 turnovers. He had shown a knack for hitting big shots late in close games, from the tying 3 in the closing seconds of a loss to Texas to key baskets in the final 5 minutes in wins against Virginia Tech and Clemson.
That led to gentle teasing from teammates, who quizzed him on why he didnít seem to shoot well until the final minutes of games.
ěThe coaches have been just stressing to me to act like every shot you take is a last-second shot because I havenít really struggled making those shots,î Barnes said. ěThereís just a lot of thoughts going through my mind during the game, so just shoot that shot like the end of the game.î
Barnes made 10 of 16 shots to go with six rebounds while committing just one turnover in 26 minutes.
ěEverybody knows that itís there,î Lowe said. ěI think some of the expectations that were put on him to come out of the gate and show all this early was unfair. But he showed what heís capable of doing, so it was no accident that he made the shots and made plays. He got in a groove and he played well.î
Barnes knocked down a 3 from just in front of the North Carolina bench for his 20th point to make it 66-45 with 6:52 left, then had a wide grin as he ran back on defense. He came out of the game with the Tar Heels up 80-54 with 3:50 left, breaking into another smile as he gave a quick hug to coach Roy Williams then took high-fives and hugs from his teammates as he walked along the bench.
ěI just think itís something weíve been waiting for, and it finally happened today,î Henson said. ěI just hope it continues for the rest of the ACC because with him shooting like that and playing like that, weíre a much better team.î
For the Wolfpack, things started badly and got worse. First Lowe ruled out Ryan Harrow (illness), the freshman who had recently taken control of the starting point guard job. Then N.C. State shot 23 percent (7-for-30) and finished with 21 first-half points.
After the 13-2 start, the Wolfpack got no closer than nine points and trailed by double figures for the final 33 minutes.
ěI was embarrassed,î senior Tracy Smith said, ěreally embarrassed.î
N.C. State hasnít beaten North Carolina since the first meeting in Loweís first season in 2007. This might have been worse than the other losses considering the Wolfpack was predicted to finish just behind the Tar Heels in the top-third of the ACC standings.
While Harrowís absence hurt, it didnít explain why N.C. State shot just 36 percent for the game or why the Tar Heels grabbed a 53-39 edge on the glass.
Freshman Lorenzo Brown scored a season-high 20 points to lead the Wolfpack, while fellow rookie C.J. Leslie had 14 points on an otherwise forgettable day for N.C. State ó which has lost five of six games.
ěIím just sick of losing, to tell you the truth,î Brown said. ěI donít care about scoring. If I donít even score in the game, I donít care. I just want to win.î
The Associated Press
Associated Press CHAPEL HILLó Harrison Barnes never proclaimed himself to be the best player in college basketball or even a... read more