CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Freshman Harrison Barnes scored a season-high 25 points to help North Carolina beat North Carolina State 84-64 on Saturday.
John Henson added 16 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks for the Tar Heels (15-5, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who ran out to a double-digit lead in the first 3 minutes and never looked back to continue their domination of their nearby rival. North Carolina has won nine straight meetings and turned this one into an ugly blowout in the final 6½ minutes.
Barnes had struggled with his shot for most of the season since becoming the first freshman voted to The Associated Press preseason All-America team since voting began before the 1986-87 season. But Barnes picked up where he left off after hitting the winning 3-pointer in the final seconds at Miami, following that with a breakout offensive performance that could silence some of the criticism he's heard this year.
Barnes had scored 19 twice this season and shot 50 percent or better just four times, but he made 10 of 16 shots to go with six rebounds in 26 minutes. He knocked down a 3 from just in front of the North Carolina bench for his 20th point to make it 66-45 with 6:52 left, then had a wide grin as he ran back on defense.
He came out of the game with 3:50 left, breaking into an even bigger smile as he gave a quick hug to coach Roy Williams then took high-fives and hugs from his teammates as he walked along the bench.
By that point, the Tar Heels led 80-54 in a game that can only increase the pressure on fifth-year coach Sidney Lowe with the Wolfpack (12-9, 2-5).
N.C. State won Lowe's first game as coach against the Tar Heels in Raleigh four years ago, a win that seemed to signal the Wolfpack's intent to build a program that could do more to challenge its highly ranked rivals. But while Lowe kept wearing the red blazer that got plenty of attention that afternoon, the Tar Heels had won the eight games since by an average margin of nearly 16 points.
This one might have been worse than the others considering the Wolfpack was predicted to finish just behind the Tar Heels in the top-third of the ACC standings. North Carolina ran out to a 13-2 lead while N.C. State struggled to make a basket, then never seriously challenged to cut into that lead and make things interesting.
The Wolfpack played without Ryan Harrow (illness), the freshman who recently had taken control of the starting point guard job. But Harrow's absence didn't explain why N.C. State shot just 36 percent — including 7-for-30 in the opening 20 minutes — or why the Tar Heels grabbed a 53-39 edge on the glass.
Freshman Lorenzo Brown scored a season-high 20 points to lead the Wolfpack, while fellow rookie C.J. Leslie had 14 points.