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February 12, 2011

Barnes, Marshall lead UNC to win at Clemson

CLEMSON, S.C. - If Harrison Barnes is the Black Falcon, Milton Jennings was the field mouse he was swooping down to feast on.

North Carolina's freshman forward threw down a ridiculous dunk over Jennings with three minutes to go that turned the tide the Tar Heels' way in a 64-62 win against Clemson.

"It definitely gave us a little momentum and took the crowd out of the game," said Barnes, who led the No. 20 Tar Heels with 20 points.

The dunk sparked a 6-0 run for the Tar Heels that put them firmly in control headed into the final minute.

"The crowd went silent," said freshman point guard Kendall Marshall, who called it a "Blake Griffin-type" jam. "We were hyped. That made an impact on the game."

Clemson (17-8, 6-5 in the ACC) made things interesting with three 3-pointers in the final 24 seconds but No. 20 Carolina (18-6, 8-2) sealed the deal at the free-throw line.

After the game, UNC coach Roy Williams talked about how important it was to make those shots from the stipe.

But in the locker room, there was no denying that Barnes' highlight-reel jam in Jennings' face was the spark that changed the game.

"When he dunked it, I told him that was going to be on the Top 10 on SportsCenter tomorrow," forward John Henson said.

Williams was more impressed with what happened a little more than a minute later, when Marshall stripped Demontez Stitt and drove for a layup to make it 55-51.

"For me, that's even bigger because then it's more than one possession," Williams said.

Marshall, who scored 18 points and had zero turnovers in the second half, wasn't done finishing off the Tigers.

He was 10 for 11 from the free-throw line as he and Barnes combined to score 18 of Carolina's final 19 points.

It wasn't the prettiest way to win, but given the Tar Heels were trying to bounce back from their first loss in three weeks, they were happy to take it.

"To have a big-time year, you have got to win some ugly games," Williams said.

Ugly, of course, is relative, considering the Tar Heels had just nine turnovers in this game, compared to the season-high 26 they committed here last season.

But considering Carolina was averaging 83.5 points in its past six games - of which it won five - this was a rough day offensively.

The Heels shot 37.7 percent, including a 2-for-14 showing from 3-point range, and the bench scored just a single point (on a Leslie McDonald free throw).

The Tigers were similarly bad, shooting 34.4 percent and turning the ball over 16 times.

Clemson's second-leading scorer Jerai Grant, put up a goose egg and had all three of his shot attempts blocked by Henson, who also scored 14 points and grabbed 12 boards.

With Carolina controlling what happened inside, the Tigers took the perimeter, hoisting up 29 3-point attempts and hitting just nine.

All told, that wasn't a bad finish considering they were 2 for 15 in the first half.

But instead of pulling away, Carolina let Clemson hang around and almost blew a halftime lead for the second straight game.

Several yelling Clemson fans referenced the 16-point lead UNC squandered in a loss to Duke three days earlier, and when the Tigers took the lead by scoring eight straight points to open the second half, one student screamed, "What happened to that lead Roy?"

For the second game in a row, it was a valid question.

But unlike in the rivalry game with the Blue Devils, the Tar Heels had an answer late in this one, which earned them their third win in what was predicted to be a tough four-game stretch.

Barnes and Marshall made sure of it.

"We knew this was a huge game for our season," Marshall said. "They're at their best at home, so we knew this was going to be a statement game for us."


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