Henson carries Heels in opener
It was a relief to him, too, after his sevenpoint, 2for9, sixturnover performance in UNC’s exhibition victory over Barton.
“After last Friday, the coaches have been really stressing on me that you can’t let your offense dictate how you play the game, you have to have a continual effort on defense and rebounding, because that’s the only thing you have control over,” he said.
Actually, all three freshmen had solid debuts. Barnes, Kendall Marshall and Reggie Bullock combined to make 15 of 28 shots for 36 points.
It wasn’t too long ago that Denzel Robinson son of assistant UNC coach, Steve used to sit on the end of the varsity bench, and get mistaken for a college player. Now, he’s on the UNC bench in uniform as a freshman junior varsity player.
If Lipscomb reserve Brian Wright looked a tad familiar, there’s a good reason the junior is the younger brother of former Tar Heels forward Brandan Wright. Barnes faced a familiar face, too: Bison junior Jordan Burgason was a former teammate at Ames (Iowa) High.
CHAPEL HILL Friday night marked the muchanticipated regularseason debut for North Carolina freshman Harrison Barnes, and it sure looked like a new beginning for sophomore John Henson, too.
Henson’s notquite tripledouble 10 points, 17 rebounds, seven blocks was a bright spot in No. 8 UNC’s otherwise choppylooking 8066 seasonopening basketball victory against Lipscomb. Barnes finished with 14 points, four rebounds and two assists.
“He put up some ridiculous numbers,” junior Tyler Zeller, who led the team with 15 points, said of Henson. “It’s obvious he’s a lot more comfortable, he’s stronger, overall, he’s improved in every aspect to his game.”
A year ago, Henson like Barnes on Friday opened the season as a heralded fivestar recruit touted to be the “next big thing” and expected to leave for the NBA after one season. But his rough season debut four points, one rebound, two assists off the bench against Florida International last November began a topsyturvy rookie year in which he struggled to play small forward, switched to power forward and really never found his footing until the seasonending NIT.
Stronger, heavier and more focused from the outset, Henson made more of an impact from the outset this time around.
“As a team, I think we have a lot of scorers, a lot of guys who can put it in the basket, and we need someone who can get the rebounds and stuff like that,” said 6foot10 Henson, whose wingspan was 7 feet, 41/2 inches the last time it was measured in high school. “And in my head, that’s something that I can contribute the most out of everything: rebounds, blocks and on the defensive end.”
Barnes, the preseason AllAmerican who was coming off a sevenpoint, 2for9, sixturnover performance in UNC’s exhibition victory over Barton, opened the game with a jumper. But Henson had a block, a field goal and two rebounds by the first TV timeout, previewing the individual stats that were to come.
The Tar Heels (10) looked, throughout the game, like what they are: chockfull of talent but still trying to figure out who fits where and what their overall identity will be.
There were flashes of possibility: freshman Reggie Bullock’s eight straight firsthalf points (he finished with 12) that turned a 1310 deficit into an 1813 lead; freshman Kendall Marshall’s two threepoint plays (he finished with 10 points and three assists).
And then there were flashbacks to the reasons they lost 17 games and were relegated to the NIT last season: 14 turnovers compared to 12 assists, stretches where lost focus meant inconsistent defense and squandered opportunities to put the game away.
“It was an 11 or 12point game, and somebody said, ‘Let’s finish them off,'” coach Roy Williams said. “And I said, ‘That’s not your attitude; your attitude should be to play every single possession to the best of your ability; you shouldn’t know what the score is.'”
Everyone realized what the score was, though, when Lipscomb whittled a once14point, secondhalf deficit to 5956 with 8:25 left. A Leslie McDonald field goal, though, jumpstarted a 102 UNC run that put the Bison who where led by Josh Slater’s 21 points away for good.
Henson recorded two rebounds and a bucket during that breakaway. He admits he’s still trying to develop a goto offensive move considering he made only half of his 10 fieldgoal attempts and missed both freethrow attempts, to go along with his career highs for rebounds and blocks.