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John Henson and Dexter Strickland gave UNC (14-5, 4-1 ACC) a 4-2 lead before Miami (12-8, 1-5 ACC) exploded with a 16-0 run to build an early 18-4 advantage. That differential remained the same for nearly six minutes until the Tar Heels amped up their defensive intensity and found creases to attack Miami's zone. The result was a 25-11 spurt to close the opening half as the teams entered the locker room tied at 39.
The Tar Heels and Hurricanes spent the majority of the second half trading the lead – 13 times in all – before Barnes scored the final five points to secure the victory.
Barnes led North Carolina with 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting, while Dexter Strickland scored all 12 of his points in the first half. John Henson added eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks.
Durand Scott paced the Hurricanes with 18 points, and Malcolm Grant contributed 17 points and five assists. Reggie Johnson posted a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
North Carolina shot 48.3 percent (28-of-58) from the floor, while Miami shot 45.6 percent (26-of-57, 13-of-28 on 3-pointers). The Tar Heels outrebounded the Hurricanes, 34-30.
INSIDE THE GAME
The Makings of Mr. Clutch
In North Carolina's loss to Texas back on Dec. 18, Barnes drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing to tie the game at 76 with 12.7 seconds to play. After Corey Joseph gave the Longhorns the lead with 1.4 seconds left, Roy Williams drew up one final play to give Barnes a chance at a game-winner.
But the play never materialized and Barnes didn't have an opportunity to knock down his first game-winning collegiate basket to lift his team to victory. The Ames, Iowa product scored eight points in the final three-and-a-half minutes in the victory over Virginia Tech two weeks ago, but there were no last-second heroics involved.
More than five weeks after that Texas loss, the highly-touted and often-criticized freshman finally got his chance, and all he did was calmly sink a 3-pointer amidst chaos and a vanishing shot clock.
Credit Marshall for displaying his propensity for offensive magic, attacking the top of Miami's zone and faking a pass mid-air in order to get his roommate an open look, but Barnes delivered in the one area where the '09-10 Tar Heel edition struggled mightily – not only wanting to take, but making the clutch shot.
"Everybody wants to take it, but he's not afraid to take it and he feels like he's going to make it all of the time," Williams told reporters during his postgame press conference. "I think that's a huge quality for a youngster to have… I hope he's got about 100 more of them."
There's no question that Barnes has struggled more than anyone expected during the first 19 games of his college career. The rookie wing is shooting just 37.3 percent from the field and his 43 turnovers lead the team, but his willingness to demand the ball in crunch time and deliver is a crucial element that this team needs in order to reach its goals this season.
"I just feel really comfortable shooting that shot," Barnes said. "A lot of people might not feel comfortable, they might second guess themselves, but in that moment in time, I just feel comfortable enough in my abilities that I can make the shot."
Hurricanes Raining Treys
UNC entered Wednesday's contest ranked ninth in the ACC in defending the 3-ball, allowing league opponents to shoot 37.8 percent through four games. The Hurricanes had knocked down 38.1 percent of their 3-pointers in five ACC games prior to the Tar Heels coming to town, outlining what appeared to be a clear advantage for the home team to exploit.
Miami capitalized on that advantage, drilling 6-of-8 3-pointers in opening up the early 14-point lead and eventually knocking down 13-of-28 (46.4%) 3-pointers on the night.
"They made so many threes – every time I looked up, I thought they were making a 3-point shot," Williams said.
Scott and Adrian Thomas (12 points) both drained four 3-pointers, while Grant hit three treys and Garrius Adams (12 points) added two.
"From the 3-point line, it was just their night," Marshall said.
North Carolina is now allowing conference opponents to shoot 41.1 percent (60-of-146) from 3-point territory, which will drop the Tar Heels into 12th place in the ACC standings for 3-point field goal percentage defense.
First Half of Runs
The Hurricanes needed less than seven minutes to build an 18-4 lead behind a 16-0 spurt, despite not scoring their first basket until the 17:28 mark. But that Reggie Johnson bucket sparked an offensive display that delivered field goals on seven of Miami's next eight possessions, including three consecutive 3-pointers.
The Tar Heels, on the other hand, scored on just two of their first 11 possessions and failed to capitalize on four offensive rebounds in those first seven minutes.
But with Miami sitting on a 28-14 advantage with 8:47 remaining before halftime, the momentum shifted drastically. North Carolina scored on seven straight possessions in mounting a 15-3 run to cut its deficit to 31-29, and ultimately put points on the board in 11 of its final 12 possessions of the half.
During that 15-3 UNC run, the Hurricanes shoot 1-of-5 from the floor and committed three turnovers in allowing the boys in blue back in the game. Miami connected on its final three field goals before halftime, but Harrison Barnes delivered a pair of 3-point plays – one trey and one the old-fashioned way – off two critical Hurricane turnovers to knot the score at the break.
Random Fact of the Day
When the game tipped shortly after 7:30 p.m., there were three North Carolina natives on the court in the starting lineups. Ironically, all three were playing for Miami – Reggie Johnson (Winston-Salem), Julian Gamble (Durham) and Garrius Adams (Apex).