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January 28, 2011

'Black Falcon' cool in clutch

A couple of days before the Jordan Brand Classic at Madison Square Garden last April, Jared Sullinger, Kyrie Irving and Harrison Barnes toured the ESPN studios in Bristol, Conn., a tradition for the top high school players in the country.

The network decided its No. 1, 2 and 3 players in the 2010 high school class needed nicknames, so it dubbed Sullinger "Big Smooth" and Irving "Time," because he joked he couldn't be stopped.

But Barnes put a little more thought into his.

"I said I wanted mine to be an animal because Michael Jordan was named 'The Black Cat' and Kobe (Bryant) was named 'The Black Mamba.' So, I said I wanted to be an animal, and they gave me 'The Black Falcon,'" Barnes said Friday.

It is a nickname even the closest Tar Heel followers had not heard often in the first couple months of the season.

But with Barnes' recent late-game heroics, "The Black Falcon" nickname is beginning to catch on.

Barnes' latest gem was a game-winning 3-pointer off a pass from fellow freshman Kendall Marshall that lifted the Tar Heels to a 74-71 victory at Miami Wednesday in a game in which North Carolina trailed by 14 in the first half.

Barnes said he developed his calmness under pressure during his sophomore year of high school.

"I had a big shot to put us in the title game to tie it, but we ended up losing," he said. "So that was kind of my first big end-of-the game shot, and that kind of game me a lot of confidence from there on out."

Barnes was the first freshman preseason All-America since voting began before the 1986-87 season.

But he has struggled at times in his year, and has even heard "Overrated" chants on the road, including at Miami, where he was 3-for-10 before sinking the last three.

"I think regardless of how I play, the talk is gonna happen good or bad," Barnes said. "So hitting a last-second shot is great because it adds confidence to my overall game and helps us win the game."

Just three games before, he scored eight of his 12 points in the final 3:30 against Virginia Tech in a game North Carolina trailed by 16 at one point.

With 1:32 left, Barnes hit a three-pointer to give the Tar Heels a 60-56 lead.

"It takes a special kind of youngster to be willing to take that shot," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said.

"He is so focused that he's not bothered by that shot, and I think that's a big part of it right there. He's gone through the repetitions. He's imagined those things happening so many times and now it's reality, and it's not different for him."

"We wish he'd do it for the other 36 minutes of the game," North Carolina center Tyler Zeller joked. "But he's a great player."

"Coming down the stretch, he's able to make huge shots, and he has the confidence to make them, and that's something I don't think everybody has," Zeller added.

"He's a great teammate to have in that situation."








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