CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Last season, UNC coach Roy Williams said, “I felt like every game that came down to the stretch, something good happened for the other team, and something bad happened to our team.”
That hasn’t been the case this year – thanks to freshman Harrison Barnes.
The wing’s game-winning 3-pointer at Miami on Wednesday night marked the third straight victory that Barnes has played “Mr. Clutch” down the stretch:
*On Jan. 13, he scored 8 of his 12 points (including two 3-pointers) in the final 3:38 to help the Tar Heels secure a 64-61 victory over Virginia Tech.
*On Jan. 18, he buried a key 3-pointer with 4:58 left to help top Clemson, 75-65.
* And then there was Wednesday, when he scored five points in the final 69 seconds – including that 3 in front of the Tar Heels’ bench, on an assist from Kendall Marshall.
Barnes, a pre-season All America, hasn’t shot the ball as consistently as anyone expected – just 37.3 percent on the season -- but there’s something about the final five minutes of games, he said, that “just becomes a lot more fun for me.”
He’s wanted the ball in clutch situations all season, dating back to the Texas loss in December, when he tied the game 76-76 on a 3-pointer with 12.7 seconds left. The final play was drawn up for Barnes in that game, but the ball never got to him.
It’s a good thing it has over UNC’s last three victories – or the Tar Heels probably wouldn’t be 4-1 in the ACC.
“Everybody wants to take it, but he’s not afraid to take it, and he feels like he’s going to make it every time,’’ Williams said. “ And I think that’s a huge quality for a youngster to have … and I hope he has about 100 more of them.”