Let's look at it this way. UNC reined in the big lead by halftime instead of waiting until the 2nd half. That's progress right?
Actually the big lead by Miami early in this one bothered me but it didn't. I think it had something to do with Miami hitting 6-8 three pointers and the belief that kind of raging hot perimeter shooting cannot possibly keep going. To some extent that was true. Miami was 7-20 from three after their torrid start which is a much more manageable 35% from beyond the arc. Miami jumped out early on hot shooting and less than focused UNC defense. However it is once again a slow start by the offense which allowed the gap to be so large. Miami reeled off a 16-0 run to make it 18-4. However if the offense had produced even some then perhaps we are talking about 18-12 or 18-10. For some reason the offense, especially when facing a zone defense is like my lawn mower. It takes several tugs to get it going and even then it can sputter a bit. Even though that was the case UNC reversed a 28-14 lead with a 25-11 run to end the half tied. All in all not bad work. Yes Miami got off a big run but UNC answered it with a solid half from Dexter Strickland and a couple of big shots from Reggie Bullock and Harrison Barnes.
The second half played out much more like a tug of war. UNC's defense was simply not sharp in this one. There was a feeling as the 2nd half wore on that UNC would be unable to get a stop and if they did, it would not happen twice in a row. Miami continued to shoot threes and as the percentage there began to slide, the Canes made use of their quick guards and got shots via penetration. It was truly one of those games where you felt like the first team to miss might just lose. Fortunately for UNC that was not the case since a pair of poor decisions on the offensive end opened the door for Miami to overcome a two point deficit and take a two point lead. With over two minutes left and a 69-67 lead Reggie Bullock tool a quick and questionable shot. Miami hits two FTs to tie the game and on the next trip down Leslie McDonald jacks up a long two six seconds into the shot clock. Miami goes up two on another pair of FTs putting the Heels in a tough spot with 1:26 left.
Enter Harrison Barnes.
I really don't understand what the deal is with Barnes. At this point I am not sure I care. Either that or I am afraid of complaining too much considering this is the fourth game Barnes has nailed a clutch shot. With UNC down two, Barnes hit an incredible fall away jumper from 15 feet out that may have been ill-advised except it looked for all the world like Barnes knew exactly what he was doing. Following a Miami miss, UNC milks the shot clock down to seven seconds. Roy calls a timdout to put Marshall back in the game who the floats a pass to Barnes on the wing where he nails the three with one second left on the shot clock to give the Heels the lead and the game. So for 35 minutes Barnes is seemingly no better than Jason Capel and during the last five minutes he's Michael Jordan? The point was raised here and discussed on Twitter than the difference between Barnes during most of the game and Barnes in these clutch moments is he is operating on instinct rather than thinking about it. During the Virginia Tech game when Barnes hit multiple big shots, Jay Bilas said Kendall Marshall was delivering the ball "in rhythm" which is another way of saying "passing the ball to a shooter in a way they can lock, load and fire all in one motion." When that happens, the shooter does not think about it he simply allows the natural talent to takeover. That probably highlights why Barnes might be better off with Marshall on the court instead of Drew. However the larger point is when Barnes simply steps up and plays basketball instead of thinking about it first, you get moments like this and a understanding why he was so highly touted. I hesitate to label this a breakout moment because Barnes has had such moments before. If you take away the two shots at the end of the game and the three pointer at the end of the half, Barnes is 1-8 from the floor with two turnovers. In other words it is roughly two minutes of play UNC needed in the worst way possible balanced against 22 minutes that is lackluster. At some point you want "end of game" Barnes to walk through the door and kill "mediocre middle of the game" Barnes. I am not sure if that ever happens but realistically these moments have to help his confidence and give him a sense of how he should be approaching the game as a whole.
One final note, this concerning the PG position which saw Kendall Marshall and Larry Drew combine for 10 points, eight assists and only two turnovers. Drew continues to respond well to the new arrangement with five assists and zero turnovers. Marshall had a tough game which is not unexpected for a freshman. This kind of game quantifies the argument that UNC truly needs both these guys bringing their best effort. It appears the lineup change has them geared in that direction.