UNC vs Clemson: Preview, broadcast information and prediction

CHAPEL HILL, NC - JANUARY 16: (L-R) Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels talks to head coach Brad Brownell of the Clemson Tigers before their game at Dean Smith Center on January 16, 2018 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHAPEL HILL, NC - JANUARY 16: (L-R) Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels talks to head coach Brad Brownell of the Clemson Tigers before their game at Dean Smith Center on January 16, 2018 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

Tar Heels look to rebound against 20th-ranked Tigers

Coming off of a week in which the Tar Heels dropped games to Virginia Tech and North Carolina State, the latter of the two coming in Chapel Hill, it’s not exactly a dream matchup to have to play Clemson on the road to start the following week.

But that’s exactly what North Carolina will face after a disappointing home defeat against the Wolfpack in which the Tar Heels gave up nearly 100 points in as poor of a defensive effort as we’ve seen in a while.

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The team’s effort has been in question at times this season, and their troubles on the offensive end of the court are apparent.

Junior guard Cameron Johnson recently called out the team’s lack of defensive intensity, stating that they needed to play with a greater sense of urgency. And Roy Williams has been disgusted with his team’s performances of late, saying he was “ticked off” with the lack of attention to detail and rebounding effort.

On Tuesday night, the Tar Heels will face the best team that head coach Brad Brownell has had since arriving at Clemson in 2010. The Tigers are off to a great start, racking up 17 wins to just four losses, and sitting at fourth-place in the ACC standings.

If North Carolina is going to walk away with a win, it’s going to take a complete performance and unmatched effort as they play in another hostile environment on the road.

One Clemson player to watch…

Anyone who can hit a three-pointer for Clemson is worth keeping an eye on.

Okay, I know that’s not one player, but it’s true. Think about it like this: North Carolina has allowed at least 10 made three-pointers in 15 of its 22 games this season.

In North Carolina’s most recent home loss to crosstown rival North Carolina State, the Tar Heels allowed the Wolfpack to hit 15 threes and got outscored 45-12 from long-distance.

The Tar Heels, on the other hand, connected on just 4-of-19 shots from long-range. Three of those four shots came from starting power forward Luke Maye, who leads the team in three-point percentage (Brandon Robinson is at 50 percent, but has attempted just 14 threes). The Tar Heels’ only other three-pointer came from freshman guard Andrew Platek.

If North Carolina can’t stop Clemson from knocking down three-pointers, then the game is probably already lost. When the Tar Heels are giving up double-digit shots from long-distance at a 40 or 50 percent clip, their margin for error becomes much smaller.

And this team’s margin for error is already substantially smaller than that of years past.

One North Carolina player to watch…

Kenny Williams began the season hitting a multitude of three-pointers and with terrific efficiency. In ACC play, though, Williams has struggled.

KNOXVILLE, TN – DECEMBER 17: Kenny Williams
KNOXVILLE, TN – DECEMBER 17: Kenny Williams /

The junior guard has scored five or fewer points in four of the last five games and he’s hit just 2-of-18 from three-point range during that span. Williams’ percentage from downtown has dropped all the way to 38 percent after being north of 50 not that long ago.

When combining that with the obvious struggles that Berry has had on the offensive end of the floor, the Tar Heels’ back court simply isn’t producing at the level it needs to.

The Tar Heels’ three-point percentage is under 37 percent as a team, and that includes the back court quartet of Williams, Berry, Johnson and Pinson, who are shooting 38, 35, 34 and 15 percent, respectively.

If Williams can get his shot back and give the team another reliable shooter on the perimeter, other that 6-foot-8 big man Luke Maye, it will open up options for the Tar Heels and clear out some space in the post.

Key to the game…

Not to beat a dead horse here, but the key to this game is three-point shooting. If North Carolina can’t stop Clemson from raining threes all evening, and can’t make any of its own on the other end of the court, then this game is going to be a tough one to win.

Three-point baskets allowed a less talented NC State team to hang 95 points on the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill last weekend. 45 of those coming from long-range.

Even great teams can’t withstand opposing shooting performances like that game after game, and certainly not this year’s Tar Heels.

North Carolina is going to have to defend better, and there’s really no way around that. So whether it takes a change in defensive philosophy, not switching on screens, or simply closing out on shooters quicker, something has to change.

Clemson has four players who have hit at least 25 three-pointers this season, three of which shoot the deep ball at 38 percent or better. And after suffering another tough loss in Chapel Hill this season, the Tigers will be ready to put it on the Tar Heels at home.

Last meeting…

No. 15 North Carolina remained perfect against 20th-ranked Clemson in Chapel Hill, moving to 59-0 at home in the all-time series.

After the Tar Heels built a 15-point first half lead, they relinquished 56 second half points to the Tigers. It was the highest point total in a single half against the Tar Heels this season and the fourth most in Smith Center history.

Clemson closed the gap in the second half with a strong performance on the offensive end of the court, but ultimately lost by a final score of 87-79.

Cameron Johnson scored a season-high 21 points for the Tar Heels, while Joel Berry added 17. The duo combined to shoot 10-for-19 from three-point range. Marcquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell led the Tigers with 21 and 18 points, respectively, but combined to commit 10 of Clemson’s 15 turnovers.

What you need to know

What? North Carolina (16-6, 5-4 in ACC) vs. Clemson (17-4, 6-3 in ACC)
When? Tuesday, January 30th at 7:00 PM ET
Where? Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, South Carolina
Radio? Tar Heel Sports Network 
All-Time Series? UNC leads 132-20
Line? Clemson -1
Prediction? Clemson 84, UNC 70