by David Cassilo / @dcassilo

It took Harrison Barnes the entire season, but he is finally playing like the preseason All-American he was billed as. Barnes had a career-high 40 points on Saturday in North Carolina’s 92-87 ACC semifinal victory over Clemson.

Barnes had been playing well ever since Kendall Marshall took over as the team’s starting point guard, but Saturday’s performance surpassed anything he had done so far this season. The freshman connected on 12-of-17 shots, including 6-of-8 from deep to lead a second half rally for the Tar Heels.

After North Carolina had forced overtime Barnes really took over. He scored 14 of the Tar Heels’ 19 points in the extra session.

Barnes will enter the NCAA tournament as one of the hottest players in the country.

From the Charlotte Observer:

It marked the most points ever scored by a player in an ACC Tournament semi-final; the most-ever by a freshman in the league tourney; and the most from anybody since Wake Forest’s Randolph Childress scored 40 against Duke in the 1995 quarterfinals.

“It feels great to go out there and have a great scoring day – and have a win, as well,” said Barnes, who made 12 of his 17 shots, including 6 of 8 3-pointers. “The biggest thing is, you want to do that and have a ring to go with it. You wouldn’t want to have a great individual performance, and lay an egg in the championship. That’s my train of thought right now.”

For his encore, Barnes will lead the Tar Heels into the ACC title game against Duke. The two teams split the season series, with North Carolina winning the final regular season game against the Blue Devils to clinch the ACC regular season title.