Harrison Barnes is starting to make unsympathetic, timely dunks a habit.
Similar to his late-game dunk on Clemson’s Milton Jennings, Barnes threw down a decisive slam and drew the foul with five minutes left in No. 19 North Carolina’s 78-64 win against Wake Forest.
The three-point play halted a Wake Forest run and gave UNC a 12-point lead. His dunk spawned an 10-0 run and a double-digit lead that held through the rest of the game.
“We always joke around, and (Barnes) talks about how he doesn’t have that high school bounce any more,” Kendall Marshall said. “When you get in college and you get in the weight room, it basically all leaves you. But you can see him definitely showing his athleticism.”
Tuesday’s game could have been, and many expected it to be, an emotionless blowout for UNC, but that wasn’t the case. The game was never completely out of hand, even though the final score doesn’t necessarily hint at it.
UNC led by 19 twice, but Wake Forest held North Carolina’s offense in check with a 2-3 zone and forced the Tar Heels into 27 3-point attempts.
UNC coach Roy Williams was impressed with Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik’s strategy.
“Give Jeff and his crowd (credit),” Williams said.
“They came in with a good plan and milked the clock, and got it down a couple of times early in the game – made us play defense longer,” Williams said.
Of course, being forced into extended periods of defense isn’t the worst thing that could happen to UNC. The Tar Heels have proven to be an adept defensive team, and that was the biggest catalyst to UNC’s win.
North Carolina held the Demon Deacons to 37.7 percent shooting. And the shots Wake Forest took in the paint weren’t much more efficient.
The Demon Deacons shot 12-of-28 in the paint. Junior Tyler Zeller and sophomore John Henson were a big part of that.
Zeller didn’t have any blocks, but his length and size forced a lot of close shots to fall short or off target. Henson, on the other hand, finished with five blocks, alongside 14 points and 13 rebounds.
“That’s a big factor in the game – those kind of stats,” Williams said. “That’s what helps you win basketball games. John’s really been working hard and he’s staying so much more focused on what he’s been doing too.”
Williams believes his team’s poor offensive performance could be a side effect of its tough four-game stretch in 12 days that ended with Duke a week ago.
The Tar Heels got fairly typical numbers from Barnes (17 points), Zeller (18 points) and Henson. Leslie McDonald chipped in 13 points. But Barnes took 20 shots to hit that point and McDonald was 3-of-9.
Williams knows poor offensive performances will eventually catch up to UNC, and so do his players.
“You can’t take anyone lightly,” Henson said. “You have to respect everybody but fear no one, and I think we got a little too comfortable tonight and we’ve got to work on that, you know, finishing off everybody.”
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