"People had some looks on their faces that aren't really indicative of what we needed to do, and I think we came out in the second half and said, 'We're not going to let this happen again,'" Henson said. "I think something just clicked. I don't know what it was. We kind of had a moment of truth."
Barnes said it wasn't so much him as the way the team responded after halftime.
"We just got back to playing our game, getting out in transition, running, getting easy points that way," he said after finishing 8 for 14 from the field. "It was good that we were able to overcome that being down, that deficit, and roar our way back into the game and have a good turnout."
That they did means coach Roy Williams will talk to them on a more regular basis.
After their 90-57 loss at Florida State on Saturday, Williams said he didn't talk to his team for 48 hours. At halftime Thursday night, he reminded them of what they needed to do, and they went out and made it happen.
"It was the kids deciding to go after it themselves," he said. Henson had 16 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks for the Tar Heels (16-3, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who trailed 44-36 before Barnes started the run with two free throws, a jumper and a dunk. Before it was over, it stretched to 31-5 and a 67-49 lead with 8:23 remaining.
The Hokies (11-7, 0-4) missed 15 straight shots during the run and lost their fourth straight. They are off to their first 0-4 start in league play since the 2006 team lost its first six.
"They just punched us in the mouth," said Erick Green, who led the Hokies with 17 points. "That's what it boils down to. When they made their run, we didn't respond and we stopped doing what we do best, which is getting out and running and making plays."
Dorenzo Hudson added 16 points for the Hokies, all of them in a dazzling span of less than 8 minutes in the first half. Jarell Eddie added 15 points and freshman Robert Brown had 12.
The Tar Heels trailed at halftime but took command quickly once Barnes heated up. His six consecutive points and two free throws by Tyler Zeller tied it at 44, and with the Hokies unable to make anything, Barnes added an 8-footer, Reggie Bullock hit a 3-pointer and Henson a foul-line jumper. A three-point play by Zeller and Barnes' free throw finished the burst that lasted 5½ minutes.
Dorian Finney-Smith's two free throws ended the Hokies' scoreless drought, but the Tar Heels scored seven more points before Brown's 3-pointer, Tech's first field goal in more than 9 minutes.
By then, the suspense was gone and both coaches substituted freely.
For a time, though, Hudson made it look like it could be a huge night for the Hokies.
Pulled from the starting lineup in favor of Brown, Hudson was nonetheless honored before the game for joining Virginia Tech's 1,000-point club. When he checked in at the first media timeout, he quickly established that he wanted to get busy on scoring the next 1,000.
With the Hokies trailing 15-9, he hit a 3-pointer from the left corner, and then one from the right corner 1:21 later. That pulled the Hokies within 17-15, and the crowd flashed back to his 41-point game in 2010 against Seton Hall. It came before a foot injury ended last season early and a sprained knee slowed him this season, but with the crowd exhorting him to keep it up, he obliged.
"He's starting to be the Zo we need," Green said. Hudson's two free throws with 10:36 to play tied it, and his 3 gave the Hokies their first lead, 20-17. He added another 3 and a breakaway layup 13 seconds apart later in the half, giving Virginia Tech its biggest lead, 35-28.
While the home crowd could hardly contain themselves, the Hokies had trouble with the Tar Heels' big men. Henson and Tyler Zeller had five of the Tar Heels' first seven baskets, and they pulled to 39-34 at halftime when they inbounded the ball with nine-tenths of a second on the clock to Henson coming down the lane, and he jammed it with two hands. Henson had 10 points, seven rebounds and four blocks in the half, and Zeller scored six.