UNC Notes: Balancing Barnes, familiar foe

North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes was criticized in some circles earlier this season for settling too much for jump shots.

Asked about it during the ACC conference call Monday, coach Roy Williams scoffed at the notion, saying he thought the sophomore was doing just the opposite.

“I don’t think that was valid at all,’’ the coach said. “Because for us, I want him to take the open shot. And we talked in the preseason, and last … spring about what we wanted him to work on over the summer, and that was to get to the free throw line more. I think he was passing up open shots to penetrate and take more contested shots.

“… I would never agree with that’s what he was doing early, that he was settling for open shots, because that’s not what was happening.”

Barnes certainly didn’t “settle” for anything during Saturday’s 83-60 win against Boston College, scoring on an array of drives, 3-pointers, and free throws. The ACC Preseason Player of the Year has recorded at least 20 points in three of his last four games, and is shooting 60.7 percent from the field (34-for-56) during that stretch.

“Just being really comfortable, just knowing when to drive and when to shoot, that’s the biggest thing. And that comes with experience,’’ Barnes said after he scored 25 points Saturday. “Last year, I don’t think I had that aspect to my game, I think I maybe tried to force the issue on my jump shot, I may have forced the issue, trying to get it to the rim. Now, it’s just reading the defense.”

FAMILIAR FOE: Williams knows he faces a tough competitor Tuesday night in first-year Miami coach Jim Larranaga.

Not only did Larranaga’s George Mason team beat the Tar Heels during the 2006 NCAA tournament en route to the Final Four, but Larranaga was also an assistant coach at Virginia from 1979-86, overlapping the time when Williams was an assistant coach at UNC.

“Jimmy’s done a great job,’’ Williams said. "For a long time, he was on Terry Holland’s staff, when I was on Coach [Dean] Smith’s staff many, many, many years ago. He’s a guy who knows what he’s doing, is confident in his style, who knows what he wants to do. He’s a guy, you enjoy watching him and enjoy seeing him.”

Larranaga, whose Hurricanes lost at Virginia by a point in their ACC opener, said he’s happy to be back in the conference.

“When you’re a player or a coach, you want to play against the best or coach against the best,’’ he said. “And when you play in the ACC or coach in the ACC, that’s exactly what you have to do, and you do it every single night.”

QUOTEWORTHY: Williams, on the opening of ACC play: "It was funny, just two minutes before I got on the [league's weekend conference] call, I got one of these RPI report deals, and saw that we went down three spots from where we were last week. Winning an ACC home game and going down three spots, that’s not something that normally happens. But conference play is an exciting time."

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.