SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP)—Harrison Barnes had what others would call a career game in only 20 minutes.
For Barnes, it was simply his first dominant one.
Barnes played like a worthy pick to the preseason All-America team and the freshman showed what all the hype was about on a national setting, scoring 19 points in No. 8 North Carolina’s 107-63 win over Hofstra on Thursday in the opening round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Barnes offered a sneak preview of what Tar Heels fans hope will be a series of career-best games this season—which could be his only one in Chapel Hill. He made all four 3-point attempts and scored all his points in the first half to help the Tar Heels (2-0) storm out to a 25-point lead.
With every sweet shot, Barnes is making coach Roy Williams and the Tar Heels forget all about last year’s miserable 17-loss season.
“His start was sensational for us. That was really the game,” Williams said
Barnes had plenty of help in the second half, as North Carolina swatted shots, alley-ooped, and pressured Hofstra all over the court.
The Tar Heels will play Minnesota on Friday in the eight-team tournament that finishes Sunday.
Barnes became the first freshman named to The Associated Press preseason All-America team since voting began before the 1986-87 season. If he keeps dazzling like this, the 6-foot-8 forward will surely find a spot on the year-end team.
Barnes embraces the spotlight that made him a player to watch this season.
“I wouldn’t call it pressure, I call it having high expectations for myself,” he said.
He made it look effortless from 3-point range, and when he wasn’t on the perimeter, Barnes beat the Pride (1-1) inside, skying over two helpless defenders for a putback that wowed a strong Tar Heels turnout at Coliseo de Puerto Rico.
Barnes also showed some quickness as he sprinted down the lane and turned a nice pass from Tyler Zeller into a three-point play. He was 6 for 7 overall and 4 for 4 on 3s for 17 points—and there was still 5 minutes left in the first half.
NBA scouts watching from behind the basket could fill out their reports on him then.
“It was a good first start and we have to build off it,” Barnes said.
Leslie McDonald scored 16 points and Justin Watts added 13 for the Tar Heels. John Henson had 12 points and 11 rebounds. The Tar Heels made 12 of 17 from 3-point range and outrebounded Hofstra 50-29.
It was a typical Roy Williams game—run, run, run and pile up the points.
“We had a lot of things to like,” Williams said.
Not for Hofstra. This was the Pride’s first ever game against North Carolina and they won’t mind if it’s the last for some time.
Their bad day started before tip when it read “Hoftra” on the scoreboard. The mistake wouldn’t get fixed until halftime.
Charles Jenkins valiantly did his best for 20 minutes to match Barnes. Jenkins, the Colonial Athletic Association player of the year last season, scored 20 points in the first half on 9 for 11 shooting.
Jenkins scored 24 points and Mike Moore had 15.
At one point, Hofstra was a solid 10 for 17 from the field. The problem? North Carolina was 6 for 7 on 3s and led 42-23. Hofstra coach Mo Cassara hoped North Carolina would have an off night and allow him to pump up his team at the break.
When Hofstra’s shooting went south, the game turned into a romp. Williams emptied the bench with 2 minutes left and North Carolina up 103-58.
“Our goal has got to be, we’ve got to find a way to win a game down here,” Cassara said. “We’ve got some good players that are going to get better and we’ve got another opportunity tomorrow.”
Williams had the worst season of his career last year when the Tar Heels reached the NIT championship game just a year after winning the national championship.
“It’s something that you try and forget about as quickly as possible,” Tar Heels guard Larry Drew II said. “Still, you try and hold on to a little piece so you can use it as motivation.”
With Barnes on board, the Tar Heels found themselves in the Top 10 of the preseason poll and now have their focus squarely on this tournament’s championship.
The Tar Heels set records in the four-year tournament for points, points in a half (1st half, 58), field goals made (40), field goals attempted (71) and assists (29).
“It was outrageous how well we shot it early,” Williams said. “It’s fun to score. I think guys enjoy playing that way, I enjoying coaching it and the fans like to see it. Everything looks so much better when the ball goes in the basket.”