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January 26, 2011

Barnes beats buzzer to sink Hurricanes

CORAL GABLES, Fla. - It might be officially time to start calling him Big Shot Barnes.

All night Miami was the team making shots from 3-point range, but North Carolina freshman Harrison Barnes hit one when it really counted.

With 6.6 seconds to go, Barnes beat the shot-clock buzzer with a contested 3-pointer from the corner to give the Tar Heels a 74-71 win, their seventh in a row against the Hurricanes.

The shot reaffirmed that late-game heroics are definitely in the freshman's repertoire.

"Everyone wants to take it, but he's not afraid to take it, and he feels like he's going to make it all the time," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "That's a huge quality for a youngster to have."

Originally, Williams wanted the Tar Heels (14-5, 4-1 in the ACC) to get to the basket with their last possession.

"We screwed it up," he said. "I wanted us to attack, and we're out there pussyfooting around with the basketball."

Williams credited point guard Kendall Marshall for salvaging the mess the possession had become.

With seconds quickly vanishing from the shot clock, Marshall made a desperate penetrating move and got caught in the air only to flip the ball over to Barnes at the last second.

"Somehow it got there," Barnes said.

Despite the frantic sequence that set it up, Barnes knocked down the game-winner coolly, the same way he bagged a fade-away jumper with a little more than a minute left to tie the game at 71.

That late-game stoicism when taking what should be nerve-wracking shots has become a habit for him, even when he can't get anything going early in the game.

In Carolina's win against Virginia Tech on Jan. 13, Barnes started cold but scored 8 of his 12 points in the final 3 minutes.

In this win, Barnes had missed 7 of 10 shots prior to the game-winning three.

In ACC games coming into this matchup, the freshman had hit just 3 of 11 3-point attempts.

But none of those numbers mattered to him with the game on the line.

"You can't look at the last few minutes and compare it to the rest of the game," Barnes said. "Either you make that shot, or you don't."

Barnes has been criticized periodically throughout the season for not living up to the outrageous hype that heralded his arrival to college basketball.

The Miami fans took their obligatory shot at him with the standard chant of "overrated" in the first half.

While he generally shrugs off the shouts of rival fans, Barnes admitted he enjoys combating all the talk about his game with a well-timed shot or two, like he had against the Hurricanes.

"If you get the win, there's not much people can say," Barnes said. "They can criticize my percentage, how many shots I shot, how many I missed, but at the end of the day, we won the game, so there's not much to be said."

Before Barnes hit the most memorable 3-pointer of the game, the Hurricanes piled up plenty of their own.

Miami (12-8, 1-5) hit 13 3-pointers in the game, including eight in the first half, when it looked like the Tar Heels' week-long layoff between games might have left them as rusty as they were rested.

Miami hit four straight 3-pointers to spark a 16-0 run that put Carolina in an 18-4 hole seven minutes into the game.

"They made so many threes, every time I looked up, I thought they were making a 3-point shot," Williams said.

But UNC eventually woke up with a 15-3 burst of its own to cut Miami's lead to two late in the first half.

The Tar Heels even ended up tied 39-39 at halftime.

How did that happen?

How else?

It was Barnes then, too, hitting a 3-pointer with five seconds to go to send the Heels to the locker room with momentum.

Just one big shot that was prelude to a bigger one.

"He's a special kind of player," Marshall said. "He wants the ball in crunch time. He wants to make that big play."


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