Heralded freshman Harrison Barnes is comfortable with carrying North Carolina’s offense down the stretch.
Scoring in the first half, however, has been another story.
Barnes again looks to shake his first-half scoring woes Sunday night for the 19th-ranked Tar Heels when they host Maryland.
After missing all six of his first-half shot attempts Wednesday against North Carolina State, Barnes scored 14 of his 16 points after halftime to help North Carolina (21-6, 11-2 ACC) pull away for a 75-63 win. It was the 14th victory in 16 games for the Tar Heels, who secured a first-round bye in next month’s ACC tournament.
Wednesday’s win was the fourth straight for North Carolina, but the outcome was in doubt until Barnes took over.
With his team up by four in the final minutes, Barnes stuffed home a pair of misses from teammates on consecutive possessions, then hit a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock and give the Tar Heels a 67-59 lead with 1:52 left.
“I would like to always be known as a finisher,” said Barnes, who averages 13.5 points. “I think that’s something I take a lot of pride in. But it’s more of making sure it’s a complete game. You shouldn’t always have to have a slow start and then always come up big in the end.”
The trouble is, Barnes has regularly had to make up for slow starts lately.
In the last three games, Barnes has combined for 11 first-half points on 3-of-20 shooting. He has managed to put those poor performances behind him, however, totaling 32 points on 14-of-31 shooting after halftime.
“He’s got a tremendous amount of confidence,” coach Roy Williams said.
This will be Barnes’ first game against Maryland, as these teams haven’t played since the Terrapins’ 92-71 home win last February. That was North Carolina’s most lopsided defeat under Williams until it suffered a 32-point loss at Duke a month later.
Maryland (18-10, 7-6) has won four of five in this series, with three of those victories coming over a North Carolina team ranked in the top 5.
The Terrapins haven’t enjoyed as much success against ranked foes this season, losing all five games against Top 25 opponents. They’re coming off an impressive 78-62 win over Florida State on Wednesday, however, shooting 52.1 percent from the floor against the nation’s top-rated team in field goal percentage defense.
“This definitely builds our confidence,” said sophomore forward Jordan Williams, who had 11 points and 11 rebounds for his 21st double-double of the season.
Freshman Terrell Stoglin continued his scoring surge Wednesday, with a team-high 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting to lead five Maryland players in double figures. In his last three games, Stoglin is averaging 22.3 points - 11.4 better than his season average.
The Terrapins have won two straight at home following back-to-back losses on the road, but now must go to Chapel Hill, where the Tar Heels are 13-0.
“North Carolina is a great team with a great coach,” said Jordan Williams, who had eight points and six rebounds in last season’s meeting. “We are excited for the challenge. We are looking forward to the game and trying to come out with a victory.”