HARRISON BARNES hadn't cracked double figures for two straight games while North Carolina's performances ranged from flat to uninterested against overmatched opponents.
Last night, against a team that had beaten them the past 2 years, the fifth-ranked Tar Heels displayed the talented, fast-paced and - most important - focused form that everyone expected this season.
Barnes scored a season-high 26 points to help North Carolina beat Texas, 82-63, for its fifth straight win. The Tar Heels (11-2) avenged last season's last-second loss to the Longhorns in their last major nonconference game before opening Atlantic Coast Conference play against Boston College on Jan. 7.
"We usually have lapses and things of that nature," said John Henson, who added 14 points for UNC. "We had a few, but if we can play at that type of level all season, I think we'll be fine."
North Carolina went on a 13-1 run to build a double-digit lead midway through the first half and never looked back, turning a 39-23 halftime lead into a 24-point margin late in the game.
Barnes was coming off consecutive nine-point performances, but the sophomore looked far more active and assertive against the Longhorns by attacking the rim or posting up on shorter defenders. He made nine of 15 shots and finished with 10 rebounds, part of UNC's 49-34 advantage on the glass.
J'Covan Brown was one of three players with 16 points for Texas (9-3), which shot 35 percent and never recovered from a slow start.
The Longhorns had beaten North Carolina in each of the previous two Decembers. Last year, Cory Joseph hit a turnaround jumper with 1.4 seconds left to help Texas win, 78-76, in Greensboro, about an hour west of Chapel Hill. Two years ago, the Longhorns won, 103-90, in Cowboys Stadium.
In fact, Texas had won the past four meetings dating to 1995, including a 78-75 win over the Tar Heels in the second round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament to end Williams' first season with his alma mater.
The game also marked the return of Texas coach Rick Barnes, a North Carolina native who rankled fans in the Smith Center during four visits as Clemson's head coach from 1995-98.
In other games *
At Cincinnati, Cashmere Wright had 20 points and JaQuon Parker scored a career-high 17 as the Bearcats (8-3) extended their winning streak to three games with a 101-53 romp over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
* At Murray State, Donte Poole scored 15 points as the No. 22 Racers (13-0) beat Tennessee-Martin, 78-54.
* At Seattle, Mike Scott had 34 points and 14 rebounds as No. 24 Virginia (10-1) held off the Redhawks, 83-77.
* At Cornell, Tim Frazier had 17 points and Penn State (8-5) downed Cornell, 74-67.
Connecticut freshman center Andre Drummond is not on scholarship and is instead attending Connecticut this season as a walk-on. He said he declined center Michael Bradley's offer to give up a scholarship for him, and will instead pay his own way.
* Amir Garrett, a member of St. John's highly regarded recruiting class who was declared a nonqualifier in September, enrolled at the school after competing necessary coursework at a prep school and was eligible for last night's game against Texas-Pan American.