Cat Barber was the only person at PNC Arena who didn’t see his double crossover of North Carolina’s Nate Britt.
The video board replayed Barber’s dribble and the subsequent 3-pointer he made to give N.C. State a 23-10 lead several times.
“I didn’t see it,” Barber said. “Did it look good?”
The junior point guard and the Wolfpack did look good early but they couldn’t sustain the hot start against the seventh-ranked Tar Heels.
Barber finished with a game-high 32 points but cooled off after the sizzling start and UNC pulled away for an 80-68 road win.
“I just came out and I was determined to make plays and score the ball,” Barber said.
Barber, who had made just 5 of 23 shots in the previous two games, started 7 of 9 from the floor and had 16 points in the first 8 minutes.
“Cat was just playing amazing,” UNC wing Justin Jackson said. “Sometimes you can’t do anything about that when a great player hits shots like that.”
Barber was making pull-up jump shots, 3-pointers and getting to the rim. He crossed up UNC’s Joel Berry to set up a 3-pointer at 14 minutes, 31 seconds in the first half. He used the same move, twice, to freeze Britt before hitting a 3 for a 23-10 lead.
“Boy, in the first 10 minutes, he was spectacular,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “It’s hard maintain that level.”
Barber couldn’t and neither could the rest of N.C. State’s roster. Barber missed his next six shots of the first half as UNC went on a game-turning 24-6 run.
“Cat started out really hot but then we started to struggle to score and we got a little stagnant on offense,” sophomore forward Abdul-Malik Abu said.
Barber finished the first half 7 of 15 from the floor; the rest of the team was 4 of 17.
“He played a great game, we needed to help him out a little bit,” junior forward BeeJay Anya said.
Abu did score 15 points and sophomore wing Caleb Martin added 11 off the bench but it wasn’t the total team effort that the Wolfpack had in last Saturday’s win over Clemson.
Barber had a season-low eight points in that game but Abu, Martin and freshman Maverick Rowan picked up the slack. Wednesday was Barber’s eighth game with at least 30 points but the balance from the Clemson win was missing.
“He’s such a great player, you want him to be able to score as much as he can and do his thing, but it’s going to take a whole team to win,” Abu said.
While the Wolfpack had to rely on Barber, who finished 12 of 26 from the floor, UNC got 22 points from forward Brice Johnson and 17 from wing Justin Jackson.
Those two helped UNC have a 42-24 advantage in scoring in the paint.
“I thought Brice was the key,” Gottfried said. “He was the difference.”
Abu praised Johnson’s effort.
“He’s a great player,” Abu said. “He got a lot of shots around the rim and he stayed aggressive the whole game.”
Barber ended up with more points than Johnson but not on the right side of the scoreboard.
“I felt like it was going to be another 30-point game and it was,” Barber said. “For me individually, that’s good, but I’m still not happy that we didn’t get the win.”
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio