The Seminoles, the third-best team in the ACC and hosting the Tar Heels on senior night, aimed to gain redemption after an embarrassing defeat in Chapel Hill earlier this season. Florida State nearly made good, too, buckling down on defense in the second half and fighting back from a small deficit to take a one-point lead prior to Barnes’ fateful three-pointer.
Carolina seemingly had taken control of the game with a couple minutes to play, but a series of unforced errors by guards Kendall Marshall and Dexter Strickland — plus one boner of a passing turnover by Barnes — enabled FSU to crawl back.
Still, in the timeout before the final possession, Roy Williams confidently called Barnes’ number and watched as the precocious freshman sized up his defender, took a few dribbles and stroked a beautiful, high-arching jumper to drive a stake through Seminole hearts.
Barnes finished with 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting, a remarkably modest shooting performance for a kid who fired up 14 shots in the first half against Maryland last weekend. The Heels’ other star was John Henson, the Doctor Octopus to Barnes’ Falcon, who went for 19 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. Though his defense was less reliable than usual from a positional perspective, Henson erased a few mistakes and was a strong finisher (7-for-11 field goals) on offense against a very physical opponent.
On the other hand, UNC’s other primary big man, Tyler Zeller (nine points, four rebounds), appeared bothered by the roughhousing — particularly that delivered by FSU mauler Jon Kreft, who famously was detoured from college out of high school after confessing to stuffing 1.7 grams of cocaine within his anal cavity to evade police.
Back to more sanitary topics, the Heels now have only eight scholarship players at their disposal. Reggie Bullock had been hobbled for weeks by a bum knee and will miss the remainder of the season to get surgery. Leslie McDonald now figures to play extensive minutes, and in the past few games he has broken free of a shooting slump. His minutes were curiously sparse tonight, but all in all he’s playing more effectively for a team desperate to send another three-point shooter onto the court.
Moving on, the win improved Carolina to 13-2 in the ACC and 23-6 overall, winners of six consecutive games and 16 of the past 18. The Tar Heels now are poised to battle Duke in Chapel Hill on Saturday with the opportunity to win the ACC title outright, a remarkable, seemingly impossible scenario a couple months ago.
To see the UNC/FSU box score, click here.