Forgive Harrison Barnes for the last shot of his game against N.C. State.
His step-back 3-pointer with 4:58 left in an 84-64 blowout victory was such an egregiously bad shot that he felt the need to apologize to head coach Roy Williams.
Then again, he had hit 10 of his previous 15 shots, including the last four, scoring 25 points while sustaining a level of play that had previously only surfaced in short bursts so far in his freshman year.
“He was so hot,” Williams said. “The last shot he took was not a very good shot.
“There was a dead ball and Harrison came over and said, ‘I know that was a bad shot,’ and I said, ‘Yeah it was.’ You make a bunch of them in a row, sometimes you just got to take bad shots.”
The game looked effortless to Barnes as he converted shot after shot with an array of step-back jumpers, contested layups and wide-open shots, blasting his previous points-per-game average of 11.8.
“Maybe he just got fired up for this game,” N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said. “But it is there. Everybody knows it is there.
“He showed everyone what he was capable of doing. That was no accident that he made the shots and made the plays. He played well, got in a groove and felt good.”
Barnes appeared more relaxed, joking with teammates and pointing to the bench after he scored his 20th point of the night to set a new career high.
“You could say it was a little bit of a breakthrough for me, getting through that 20-point barrier,” Barnes said.
The game was the latest step up for Barnes, as he has begun to come into his own after being dubbed a preseason All-American.
Two games ago, his two clutch buckets at the end of the game tied UNC with Miami, and then put the Tar Heels up for good.
The most impressive part of his game against the Wolfpack was the efficiency with which he scored. Not only did he set his career high for points, but he also shot better than 50 percent for the first time since Nov. 18 against Hofstra.
Barnes’ coming-out party seemed to relax him as he laughed and smiled throughout the game and most of the postgame press conference. It also seemed to calm his teammates, who had wondered when their wunderkind would break out of his yearlong slump.
“I loved it,” forward John Henson said. “I told him he needs to be more aggressive. He said he needs to be more aggressive. He went out there and did his thing, that’s what he can do out there all the time.”
With the Tar Heels in the midst of their conference slate, a reinvigorated Barnes could be huge for the team’s prospects the rest of the way.
“He’s a gifted young man who’s been wanting to break out,” Williams said. “I really did feel this: once we got into ACC play you have to raise it a level.
“I had a hunch that he might play better because he’s gone through all those other experiences, and he’s the kind of young man who learns from those things.”
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