UNC Basketball: Takeaways From Clemson


On Saturday night, the No. 19 North Carolina Tar Heels opened ACC play with a 74-50 win over the Clemson Tigers. UNC’s Kennedy Meeks led the way with 12 points and 12 rebounds, while Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame scored 13 points in the Tigers’ losing effort.

More from North Carolina Tar Heels

Despite the Tar Heels (11-3) only being projected to win over the Tigers (8-5) by single digits, this game was out of hand the moment it began. By halftime, the Heels had already brought the game to a score of 39-17. Freshman, Justin Jackson, had his best game of the year, scoring 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting. Because of the shooting woes this Tar Heel team tends to go through, shooting 44.4 percent from the floor is a good sign, especially in a game in which many of the bench players received increased minutes as the blowout ensued.

Jan 3, 2015; Clemson, SC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige (5) looks to pass the ball while being defended by Clemson Tigers guard Rod Hall (12) during the second half at Littlejohn Coliseum. Tar Heels won 74-50. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

In addition, Marcus Paige had one of his better games this season, putting together a line of 11 points, three assists, three rebounds, and a steal. Paige shot 3-for-4 from 3-point range as well, which is also much improved upon his earlier few games of missed, wide-open shots from downtown. On a team that continuously beats itself by shooting so poorly from beyond the arc, Paige getting his stroke back is certainly promising.

The division of scoring by the Tar Heels is also something to take notice to as it had much to do with how Clemson struggled to defend all night. Because Meeks, Jackson, and Brice Johnson were finding success scoring on other parts of the floor, the Clemson defense found itself laying off of Marcus Paige more often, allowing him to break free and knock down shots.

Another aspect of this North Carolina team that looked good Saturday night was, once again, the performance of the bench. Isaiah Hicks scored six points, and made the explosive plays he is starting to be known for making in the low post. Nate Britt added eight points of his own, making up for the struggles of the other backup to Paige, Joel Berry III. The Tar Heels reserves outscored those of Clemson 25-11.

While it is easy to look at the stats and see that the Tar Heels dominated this game, which they did, it is difficult to say whether Clemson really put up that much of a fight. Plenty of credit goes to Roy Williams and his players for preparing well, and shooting the ball closer to their potential, but plenty of blame is to be put on the performance of the Tigers.

More from Keeping It Heel

It was good to see the North Carolina defense as active and excited as it was, but it is easy to argue that Clemson could not buy a basket if you offered it for free. The Tigers as a team shot a dismal 28.3 percent from the floor, including 23.1 percent from beyond the arc. After a horrendous first half, it was difficult to imagine they would be able to manage the 50 points they would total in the game. However, as this Tar Heel team knows, it does not always take a great defense to force an opponent to shoot poorly.

All in all, this was a quality performance from North Carolina, and one that it should focus only on improving upon as the ACC only becomes more challenging from this point on. This Monday night, UNC will defend the Dean Dome against the No. 14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.