Perhaps that's why UNC freshman wing Harrison Barnes was a preseason All-American. Maybe that's why sophomore forward John Henson was considered a top-5 recruit coming out of high school.
Then again it could be more about NC State's effort Saturday, but regardless Barnes' career-high 25 points and Henson's double-double of 16 points and 16 rebounds to go with seven blocks keyed an 84-64 UNC rout of NC State at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill Saturday afternoon.
NC State fell to 12-9 on the year and 2-5 in ACC play while UNC improved to 15-5 and 5-1 in the league.
It was a performance for NC State that after the game Wolfpack head coach Sidney Lowe admitted was embarrassing.
"You don't come out and play like that," Lowe said. "You got to play better than that. This is a big game. You got to come out and battle and beat people ... It's a big game. We certainly don't like an outcome like this. We just don't like it. Don't like it at all."
Barnes started the game with an impressive step-back three-point jumper, and UNC never looked back. Barnes would score nine of UNC's first 13 points as the Heels spurted out to a 13-2 lead with less than three minutes off the game clock. Barnes would eventually score 12 of Carolina's first 24 points, and UNC built a first-half advantage that reached 16 points on three different occasions and was 34-21 at halftime.
"I see flashes in practice, but not as consistent as he was today," UNC head coach Roy Williams said. "He had 19 points in the first half one game in Puerto Rico and didn't score any in the second half. Today he making his jump shot, got some offensive boards, and in the first half he was really good defensively.
"He's a gifted young man who's been waiting to break out. I really did feel this, once we got into ACC play you have to raise it a level. I had a hunch he might play better because he's gone through all those other experiences, and he's the kind of young man that learns from those things."
While Barnes was providing the offensive spark for UNC, Henson was leading the way on the boards and defensively. He had 11 rebounds and a pair of blocks by halftime, and UNC had a staggering 34-18 edge on the boards in the first half.
Henson also helped UNC contain NC State's starting inside duo of senior Tracy Smith and sophomore Richard Howell. The Wolfpack post players were 4 of 13 from the field in the first half and had 10 points to go with seven rebounds.
"I think you have to give Henson credit, but I felt that we had some opportunities that he didn't affect the shot," Lowe said. "We weren't looking at the basket, we weren't looking at the rim. We were looking for shot blockers a couple of times. I think the fact that he had a couple of blocks had our guys looking around a little bit, and we missed a lot of shots in there. We missed a lot of shots at point-blank range."
Despite shooting just 7 of 30 from the field in the first half for 23.3 percent, NC State was only down 13 in a game that could have been much more lopsided at the break. UNC though quickly set the tone in the second half.
Carolina scored the first three baskets, culminating with sophomore guard Dexter Strickland's fast break dunk to give UNC a 40-21 lead before Lowe called a 30-second timeout with 18:29 left in the game.
Carolina would lead by as much as 26 points before the final horn sounded.
The only positive for NC State was the performance of freshman guard Lorenzo Brown, who had career-highs with 20 points and seven assists to go with four rebounds while playing much of the game at point guard. A noticeably frustrated Brown though took little solace in his performance after the game.
"I just wanted to win," Brown, who scored 18 points in the second half, said. "I wasn't trying to lose anymore games. We've lost something like four straight. It's just hard. It's just too much. I haven't lost this much in my life, and it's just too much. I hate losing.
"We got to be physical. Our defense was horrible. We got to play as a team. We got a team that I think people are just worried about too much right now. We got to play as a team, that's how I feel. I know we can. We have been up on good teams, like Clemson we were up by 20. We just broke down."
NC State did not have the services of freshman point guard Ryan Harrow, who missed the game with an illness that has apparently plagued NC State athletics. Lowe noted after the game that about 25 student-athletes at NC State have been ill this week. Harrow did not practice Friday, and Lowe stated that he knew Saturday morning at the team breakfast that Harrow would not play against UNC.
NC State will host Virginia Tech Wednesday night at the RBC Center in Raleigh with a 7 p.m., tip-off.