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December 21, 2011Carolina's effort, output, efficiency and execution reached an appropriate level in a 82-63 victory against Texas on Wednesday at the Smith Center.
The fifth-ranked Tar Heels (11-2) raced to a 16-point lead (32-16) in the first half and kept the pressure on the Longhorns throughout the rest of the game.
"We gained a lot of confidence by coming in here and playing hard," Harrison Barnes said. "I think everyone who came in played hard tonight. I know I'm exhausted. I'm going to need to get in the ice bath. It was the hardest I've played all season.
"It was good for us to do that. It will help in our practice habits," said Barnes, who had his first game with double figures in two categories.
Barnes scored a game-high 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting, making one of his two 3-point attempts. He also grabbed 10 rebounds, with four of those coming on the offensive end.
"I told him I thought he would be great tonight," Coach Roy Williams said. "I really thought he would be more active than the last few games. Everyone looks at points, but I look at what we're doing defensively. He was more active tonight.
"If he's attacking the basket, I like that," Williams said. "I also like it when he shoots the 3-point shot. He's got a wide variety of options, and hopefully we're moving forward where we can use all of them."
Carolina played its finest all-around defensive game of the season, particularly given rebounding is the final act of defense.
The Tar Heels grabbed 49 rebounds compared to 34 for Texas, with 22 of UNC's coming on the offensive end.
The Tar Heels held Texas to 25-percent shooting in the first half and 34.8 for the game. The Longhorns went 9-of-25 from 3-point range.
Carolina did a great job of pushing Texas' offense to the perimeter for the most part, forcing the Longhorns into taking mostly jump shots. That kept them off the free-throw line. They made six free throws, but shot just nine.
"On the very first play of the game, we had talked about for two days what we wanted to run, and we didn't run it," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "That's discipline. Four guys know it, and one guy doesn't. We have got to get somebody who is going to run our team and run our offense.
"We're starting three guards, so it's not like it should be a problem, but we are not playing with a purpose on the offensive end. We've got a long ways to go."
On the other hand, UNC attacked the basket throughout the night, at times on the break and at other times by working until they got the ball down low in the half-court game. That helped them shoot free throws.
Carolina went 23-of-31 from the free-throw line, which is a success rate of 74.2 percent.
Nonetheless, no matter how one looks at this game, it always comes back to consistency of effort and effectiveness on defense for the Tar Heels.
"Defensively we played well tonight and got a great win to go into the holidays," said John Henson, who scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds, five on the offensive end.
"It was a fun game out there. We lost ourselves in the game and that is what we have to do."
Kendall Marshall continued his excellent play at point guard. He had nine assists and just two turnovers. Once again, he could have double figures in assists if his teams had converted several more shots from close range.
In a game the Tar Heels played so well, missing some close-range shots was their biggest flaw of the evening.
"I counted five layups we missed," Williams said.
But in the end, the Tar Heels left the locker room and headed home for the holidays feeling much, much better about their game and the effort they put forth.
"It was great," Marshall said. "We really wanted to go into the break with a good win, and not just win the game but play really well doing it.
"We didn't play a complete 40 minutes, but I think our energy was there the majority of the night. Coach was happy with that. I think we're all looking forward to going home and spending time with our families before we get back at it."