No. 19 Tar Heels pull away from Wolfpack 75-63
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)—Harrison Barnes didn’t worry about all his missed shots or the rowdy crowd that roared with delight at his airballed jumper in an ugly first half.
Instead, the heralded freshman ended up with another big performance against one of North Carolina’s long-standing rivals.
Barnes scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half to help the 19th-ranked Tar Heels pull away late to beat North Carolina State 75-63 on Wednesday night, giving them their 10th straight win in the series.
Fellow rookie Kendall Marshall added 14 points for the Tar Heels (21-6, 11-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who have won 14 of 16 games and secured a first-round bye in next month’s league tournament in Greensboro.
Barnes had 25 points in last month’s 20-point win against the Wolfpack (14-13, 4-9) in Chapel Hill, but missed all six shots in the first half— including a jumper that fell well short of the rim and had the Wolfpack fans on his case. But he hit a key jumper to ignite a clinching 17-7 run that ultimately sent those red-clad fans heading for the exits early.
He also stuffed home a pair of misses from teammates on consecutive possessions, then buried a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock and give North Carolina a 67-59 lead with 1:52 left.
“I would like to always be known as a finisher,” Barnes said. “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.”
His teammates almost sound unimpressed these days by Barnes’ clutch late-game shooting this season.
“I’m used to it now,” sophomore John Henson said. “It doesn’t surprise me at all. When he shoots it with under 5 minutes left and we’re up three, I think it’s going in every time. And usually it does.”
Williams didn’t have a lot to quibble with, either, except maybe for the way Barnes flexed his muscles following one of those back-to-back dunks.
“You growl and yell and all that other stuff, which is fine, but you need to get your rear end back on defense. That’s what I was yelling at him for,” Williams said. “But I thought he was very assertive in the second half.”
While the Wolfpack played with enough intensity to make the latest meeting worthy of the rivalry’s tradition, this one ended the way seemingly all the other ones have since Sidney Lowe took over in Raleigh: with the Tar Heels celebrating as the horn sounded. It even included Lowe being whistled for a technical foul with 1:29 left, a sign of the frustration bubbling over for a team that appeared within reach of its best win in a disappointing season.
“It just hurts we lost this type of game because it’s such a big rivalry,” N.C. State point guard Ryan Harrow said. “It was like a must-win for us to help us in the ACC rankings.”
Afterward, Lowe was frustrated by the officiating and physical play inside, though he didn’t like the way Barnes kept finding open spaces, either.
“We didn’t battle through that screen like we did in the first half,” Lowe said. “We allowed him to get an open look and that kind of got him going a little bit. We knew they were going to him. We came right out and said what they were going to do.”
Lowe won his first game against the Tar Heels, roaming the sideline in a striking red blazer while his Wolfpack earned an 83-79 win four years ago. But the coat seems to have lost all its magic against the Tar Heels, who won the next nine meetings by an average margin of 16 points.
This time, North Carolina rallied from a 10-point deficit in the first half and led by nine in the second half before N.C. State staged its own rally to tie it. But Barnes knocked down a jumper to make it 56-52, then Tyler Zeller tipped in a miss from Barnes on the next possession and Dexter Strickland followed with a pull-up jumper to push the margin to 60-52 with 6:16 left.
Minutes later, Barnes grabbed Henson’s missed shot and dunked it home in one motion, then threw down a miss from Strickland that made it 64-56 with 3:41 left.
Zeller (11 points) provided a punctuation mark by dunking a miss from Barnes to make it 70-59 with 1:01 left.
Henson finished with eight points, 15 rebounds and six blocked shots for the Tar Heels. C.J. Leslie had 13 points to lead the Wolfpack.
The rivalry game even had some extra interests outside the Triangle region where the schools are separated by about 30 miles. The game was televised in Shanghai, the first NCAA regular-season game broadcast in China.