Kentucky Loses At Carolina - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Kentucky Loses At Carolina

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - Harrison Barnes was hailed as an

immediate savior when he walked onto the North Carolina with the

Tar Heels coming off a disappointing season.

Instead, the freshman who was voted an All-American before

playing a game has had a frustrating start to his college career.

He has had an 0-for-12 shooting performance, suffered three losses

and even heard mocking chants of "Overrated!" from a hostile

crowd.

Barnes' ups and downs become more glaring when looking at the

quick starts by heralded Kentucky freshmen Terrence Jones and

Brandon Knight, who will lead the 10th-ranked Wildcats into Chapel

Hill on Saturday.

"He's very bright," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said of

Barnes on Friday. "He understands that what he has to do is please

himself and his coaches and teammates. He's not pleased with the

way he's played, but it's not going to be driven by somebody else's

opinion of him. ... I think he understands it might take a while,

and that's the way I'm looking at it."

The 6-foot-8 forward was the first freshman named to The

Associated Press preseason All-American team since voting began

before the 1986-87 season. He has a polished all-around game and

gives the Tar Heels (4-3) some needed perimeter punch - something

they sorely lacked during last year's 17-loss season - but he's

struggling with his shot and is averaging 11 points per game so

far.

In the five games since his season-best 19-point outing against

Hofstra, Barnes has failed to score in double figures three times

and is shooting 14 for 57 (25 percent) and 4 for 17 (24 percent)

from three-point range.

He missed all 12 shots in a loss to Minnesota in the Puerto Rico

Tip-Off, and is coming off a 2 for 9 shooting night in Wednesday's

loss at No. 20 Illinois - where he was serenaded with the

"Overrated!" chants in the second half.

Afterward, Williams defended Barnes while criticizing ESPN and

other media outlets, saying, "If you're going to anoint the guy

and three weeks later crucify him, that's ridiculous."

Teammates Tyler Zeller and John Henson said they're telling

Barnes not to put too much pressure on himself.

"It is business and it is about winning and it is about playing

well, but you've got to have fun," said Henson, one of Barnes'

roommates. "You only experience college one time in your life. I

think he sometimes takes it a little hard on himself out there. He

just needs to enjoy it and just loosen up a little bit out there

and I think he'll be just fine. I think his best days are yet to

come and once he figures it out, it's going to be scary for the

rest of the country."

The Wildcats (5-1) sound like they expect Barnes to play well

Saturday.

"I think it's unfair what the media has done with him, I think

there have been people that have said that," Kentucky assistant

coach John Robic said. "But he's a talented pro. He's a definite

pro. We have our hands full with him because of his size."

While Barnes finds his way, Kentucky just keeps churning out

freshmen stars who adjust quickly to college. John Wall and

DeMarcus Cousins went to the NBA after getting within a game of the

Final Four in coach John Calipari's first season. But Jones and

Knight have filled right in for them.

Jones, a powerful 6-8 forward, is averaging almost 21 points and

10 rebounds while shooting 51 percent to anchor the low post.

Knight is second on the team at 17 points from the point, though

neither player worried about all the attention heaped on Barnes'

every move.

"We don't really feed into that stuff, we don't really care

about that stuff," Knight said. "Our main thing is focusing on

our team and what we do and try to get wins for our team, not

focusing on other players and their accolades and the hype that

they came in with. We're focusing on Kentucky, our group."

The Tar Heels had won five straight meetings in the series

before the Wildcats took a 68-66 win at Rupp Arena last season. In

that game, the Wildcats ran off a 28-2 spurt to take a huge

first-half lead, then held off a late surge by the Tar Heels in the

final minute.

Like last year, North Carolina could use a win against a marquee

name to gain some confidence with a young group that's still

working to become a cohesive unit - and waiting to see Barnes

become comfortable with the college game.

"He's a big boy and he's going to be able to handle this,"

Williams said. "I think he makes strides every week. I think at

times if anything he may overanalyze, but that's OK. That means he

cares. I don't think we should judge his body of work until his

body of work is over."

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Powered by Frankly