Though he looked like a potential star in his first two college games, North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes showed in his latest performance that he’s still prone to enduring some growing pains.
The rest of the eighth-ranked Tar Heels can say the same.
After missing all 12 field-goal attempts, Barnes tries to help North Carolina bounce back from its first loss Sunday against Vanderbilt in the third-place game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Barnes was the first freshman to be named to the AP preseason men’s basketball All-America team since voting began in 1986-87, and his first two games seemed to justify the hype. He debuted with 14 points in an 80-66 win over Lipscomb on Nov. 12, then scored 19 in the first half of a 107-63 rout of Hofstra on Thursday in the opening round in Puerto Rico.
Barnes, though, missed his only shot after halftime and turned the ball over twice against the Pride, and those struggles carried over Friday as the Tar Heels (2-1) took on Minnesota. He went 0 for 12 from the field, part of North Carolina’s dismal 36.9 percent performance in a 72-67 loss.
“We’re so young,” coach Roy Williams said. “We just lost our composure from the first moment of the game. They were the more aggressive team right from the start, and we did all the back-pedaling. We didn’t react. Just trying to get guys to do their job is what it boiled down to.”
Williams wasn’t totally surprised by the struggles of his star recruit, even after his first half against Hofstra.
“It’s tough on a freshman when everybody is saying he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread to live up to that,” Williams said. “People need to be realistic.”
Barnes wasn’t the only Tar Heel to look shaky against Minnesota. Point guard Larry Drew II had four turnovers after giving the ball away just three times in his first two games, and reserve guard Leslie McDonald missed all four shots after scoring 16 points in 15 minutes versus Hofstra.
For a team that lost 17 games last season, though, a learning curve isn’t unexpected.
“The first loss is always the toughest one,” said forward John Henson, who was one point shy of his third straight double-double. “… That kind of letdown is something we can’t have. But we have to learn from it.”
Vanderbilt (2-1) will also be looking to bounce back from its first defeat after an even worse shooting display. The Commodores made 32.8 percent of their shots Friday against West Virginia, yet still nearly wound up in overtime before the Mountaineers’ Casey Mitchell hit a 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds left for a 74-71 win.
“We should have had him covered on that last play,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “There was no reason for him to have gotten that shot on the last play. We just missed coverage and didn’t do what we were coached to do.”
Sophomore guard John Jenkins had 27 points for Vanderbilt but missed 13 of his 19 shots. Forward Jeffery Taylor, who had averaged 20.5 points in the Commodores’ first two games, had five points before fouling out in just 14 minutes.
North Carolina leads the series 6-3, though the schools haven’t met since a 71-63 Tar Heels win in the 1995 Maui Invitational.