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Off the cuff: CIn North Carolina's 84-64 win over N.C. State, Harrison Barnes had a coming-out party of sorts, especially in the first few minutes. Too bad ESPN didn't show it.

Barnes, who scored 25 points, hit his first four shots of the game to lead Carolina out to a 13-2 advantage. Barnes has had some clutch shooting at the end of games but he hasn't started (and maintained) solid play until this game.

Unfortunately, ESPN decided that people who tuned in to watch the North Carolina vs. N.C. State game would rather be treated to a portion - A LIVE LOOK-IN they call it - of an overtime game between Louisville and UConn.

The Tar Heels game was already in progress thanks to an overtime game between Georgetown and Villanova, which one or the other eventually won. The Heels were up 7-2, two minutes into the game when the Georgetown-Villanova game ended.

ESPN decided they would do a full one-minute wrap-up of that game and then send viewers to the LIVE LOOK-IN of Louisville and UConn instead of immediately switching to the Carolina game which they had advertised to viewers as coming on at 2 p.m. If you tuned in to watch the Carolina-State game right at 2 p.m., you got to start watching it more than 16 minutes later.

By the way, when ESPN decided to switch to the Carolina game, not only was the score 13-2 and Barnes had his best start this season, but the game they had given us a LIVE LOOK-IN of was tied at 69 - nothing had been determined. So, we watched nothing be determined in a game we weren't supposed to be watching while certainly the tone for the game we were supposed to be watching was determined.

Was there one Louisville or UConn fan in the country - or even basketball fan in the country - tuning in to the UNC-N.C. State game with hopes of getting a sliver of the Louisville-UConn game?

ESPN has gotten too big for their britches. They have too much power with no consequences for their foolish decisions. I've said it a dozen times but if you are scheduling two games back-to-back, you've got to give more than two hours for the first game to be completed. If you have a 12 noon game, your next game should not be scheduled to start before 2:30.

Further, if you advertise that you are showing the Carolina-N.C. State game, then by God you should show the Carolina-N.C. State game. If I wanted to watch Big East basketball, I would buy the Big East package or I would go to a sports bar or I'd friggin' move out of ACC country.

If ESPN doesn't have the technology to allow people in the ACC viewing area to actually watch entire ACC basketball games, then they should allow the ACC Network to also air ACC matchups. In other words, the Carolina-State game would have also been on WRAL in Raleigh for instance.

It's really past time for someone to reign in the influence and power ESPN has - they aren't good stewards of it.

It was amusing to hear announcer Mike Patrick, as the Carolina-State game was finally coming on, say, "If you are just joining us from the Big East, North Carolina has burst on top 13-2." If we are just joining you? What option did we have? I suppose one could have watched on ESPN3 on the Internet if one had set it all up in advance, knowing that the first game would run long and then part of another game was going to be aired - and if one doesn't mind a long delay in the action - and if one's Internet speed provides non-choppy video - and if one isn't trying to listen on the radio.

By the way, I would watch a program with Patrick and Len Bias talking about basketball. They are truly insightful and knowledgeable. But not only did they tell some of the same stories they just told in the previous Carolina game they handled, but they spent too much time talking about ancillary issues and they weren't explaining what was happening on the court.

One time Carolina had the ball and all of a sudden it was given to State without any explanation of what happened. Several times players scored and there was no mention of who it was that scored - including Daniel Bolick, who scored his first points as a Tar Heel. At least twice, players went to the free throw line and shot free throws and their name was never mentioned.

Once, Leslie McDonald hit a three from the corner to give Carolina its biggest lead at the time at 23-8. Announcers not only didn't say who it was but never even acknowledged it as the all-powerful ESPN studios awkwardly switched to a LIVE LOOK-IN of the Big East Network's coverage of the final seconds of the Louisville-UConn game.

As soon as there was a stoppage in play of the Carolina-State game, ESPN could have shown a replay of what had just happened with Louisville-UConn. In fact, it would have been nice if ESPN had gone back at halftime of the Carolina-State game to at least show all of the buckets they missed during the opening 13-2 run. Instead, we were treated to highlights of the other games that we were already forced to watch instead of the game we were supposed to be watching. Jeez.

Tar Heels 84, N.C. State 64
Barnes stays hot in romp over State

UNC's Harrison Barnes dropped in a season-high 25 points including his first five shots of the game to lead the Tar Heels to an 84-64 at home against N.C. State. (1/29)

Over the last couple of games Barnes has become more like the player experts and Carolina fans expected. He hit 10 of 16 shots, hauled in six rebounds and turned the ball over only once. Turnovers have been a problem for him as he's averaged about four a game.

UNC coach Roy Williams said it was probably Barnes' best game as a Tar Heel but not just because of his point total but because he was more active on the court. "I had a hunch he might play better at this level," Williams said of Barnes' improvement since the ACC schedule has started. "It was fun to see Harrison have that smile on his face."

Barnes, who has been under pressure to be a first team All America player, broke into a big smile after he drained a three from the right side, in the same spot where he hit a game-winning bucket against Miami earlier in the week, to make it 66-45 with just under seven minutes left.

"I got some confidence from the Miami game and my teammates found me today," Barnes said.

Barnes had the additional pressure of playing in front of his mother and his high school teachers who made the trek from Ames, Iowa. He has hit some clutch shots near the end of games but he hasn't put together a solid game-long effort until this game.

The coming-out party almost overshadowed John Henson's strong effort. Henson scored 16 points, hauled in 16 rebounds and blocked seven shots. The Tar Heels outrebounded State 53-39. It was the most rebounds the Heels have gotten in a game this season.

Carolina rolled out to a 13-2 lead by the first TV timeout with Barnes scoring nine of those points. Henson scored inside with nine minutes left in the half to give Carolina its biggest first-half lead at 26-10.

Leading 34-21 at the half, the Tar Heels put the game out of reach in the first minute and a half of the second half with a 6-0 run highlighted by a Dexter Strickland steal and dunk to make it 40-21.

State got the lead down to 11 before Barnes knocked in a three and Justin Knox scored a pair of buckets to keep the Wolfpack at bay. The lead got up to 26 points at 80-54 before the Heels settled for the final 20-point edge.

Tyler Zeller added 14 points and Knox 10 for North Carolina which improves to 15-5 and 5-1 in the ACC. Lorenzo Brown led N.C. State, which falls to 12-9 and 2-5 in the league, with 20 points and seven assists.

UNC travels to Boston College Tuesday night.



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