UNC 74 Clemson 52 FINAL
Carolina headed back to Chapel Hill after sweating one out in Florida against Miami. The Heels 22-4 overall, 9-2 conf came into this game tied atop the ACC conference with Duke and Florida State after their miracle wins kept them alive. Clemson came in off a big win against Virginia but just a 13-12 overall, 5-6 conf record. Another must win ACC Saturday for the Tar Heels of North Carolina.
How it went down: The game started out very ugly the first few minutes. Turnovers by both teams kept the game to just 7-2 over three minutes in with Clemson leading. Harrison Barnes was very active early scoring the first four Carolina points and taking five quick shots. Clemson plays scrappy defense and they were tough on Tyler Zeller early in the game. The Tigers kept it a low scoring game at the 12:30 mark it was tied at just nine each. The real difference in the first half was UNCs massive rebounding edge. The Heels essentially shut the Tigers out on the boards completely which proved the difference in the half.
UNC went on a 21-5 run to take a 23-11 lead,led by Barnes who scored 10 of the Heels first 23 points. The Tar Heels recovered early from a rough start and dominated throughout the rest of the half. The Heels executed better in the half court and showed much better patience finding the right shot. The Tar Heels led by nine at the break after a last second Clemson three to end the half. The score UNC 31 Clemson 22 in a low scoring half.
The second half, Clemson made some defensive adjustments namely putting Milton Jennings on Marshall. Kendall quickly abused him a couple times to the rim, leading to an early timeout. Clemson continued to play scrappy basketball and saw a couple three pointers connect keeping them in the game early in the second. Zeller went to the line at the 16:12 mark and attempted the first free throws of the game for UNC. An amazing testament to Clemson’s defense considering how often UNC usually gets to the line.
UNC extended the lead to 12 before Clemson went on an opportunistic run hitting a couple threes and a transition layup to pull within six. And believe it or not, Roy Williams called a time out to rally the team. And wouldn’t you know it worked! Carolina extended the lead to 11 after the TO. Up 13, at the 5:45 mark I was puzzled by the lineup Roy chose: Stillman White, Justin Watts, Reggie Bullock, Desmond Hubert and Tyler Zeller. That’s not a group that can create their own shot whatsoever. You need either Marshall, Barnes, Hairston or McAdoo in the game. It looked like an unnecessary gamble by Roy especially playing Hubert over McAdoo. The lineup didn’t last long as Marshall, Barnes and Henson made their way back into the lineup 1:30 later.
The next few minutes were the John Henson show on the defensive end. And the Harrison Barnes show on the offensive end of the floor. Carolina extended the lead to 17 with three minutes to go. I didn’t think I could get scream out loud excited until I saw Bullock hit his third three of the game with about 2:30 to go. Great sign seeing his jumper go in, especially from beyond the arc, with Hairstons struggles, Bullock has to be productive. Carolina ran away with it from there and things got out of control with the lead extending beyond 20. Clemson falls to 0-56 at Chapel Hill, an NCAA record.
Key Takeaways: James Michael McAdoo again looked good coming off the bench. PJ Hairston on the other hand looked flat, and wasn’t very fluid looking moving around the court. I wonder if his foot is still bothering him at all. His struggles with his shot continue to be the most puzzling thing on the team this year. Harrison Barnes is asserting himself offensively early and took the shot on several occasions when Clemson chipped away at the lead. Even when he’s not making them all, UNC needs Barnes to be that guy that steps up and takes the shot when we need a bucket.
Player of the Game: It’s been a long time but it looks like I finally connected on my pregame prediction. Harrison Barnes had a terrific all around game. Barnes crashed the boards hard, especially on the offensive end coming up with a couple nice OR. He was excellent on the offensive end, mixing in threes with dribble penetration. Barnes finished with 24 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals on 8-17 shooting, 3-6 3p%.
Up Next: Clemson heads to Georgia Tech to play the Yellow Jackets on Tuesday. The Tar Heels face Scott Wood and the Wolfpack at NC State.