For a good part of the second half Saturday night at Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson had North Carolina on its heels. An eight minute field goal drought allowed Clemson to manufacture a 17-2 run and a 54-48 lead. But, the 5th ranked Tar Heels regained their offensive prowess, retook the lead an held on at the end for an 81-79 victory. All this with head coach Roy Williams in the locker room for the second half after suffering another of his bouts with vertigo just before the half.
And of course, the end was not without its controversy. The Tar Heels went on a 15-4 run to retake control at 63-58 with 6:25 to play. The Tigers stayed within reach and after Clyde Trapp scored five straight points, they trailed 78-77 with :19 to play.
With ten seconds to play, Kenny Williams made the first of two free throws for an 81-79 lead. He missed the second and Shelton Mitchell rebounded. He zoomed down the floor and into the lane where he was met by several Tar Heels. There was contact as Mitchell attempted to get into a shot motion but the ball was pulled away by Coby White, and he flung it down court to kill the final seconds.
The loss certainly damages, but does not kill, Clemson’s NCAA Tournament hopes. The Tigers fall to 17-12 and 7-9 in the ACC with two winnable league games left, Wednesday at Notre Dame and Saturday at home against Syracuse. A .500 league mark and 19 wins overall should be enough to get the Tigers in.
With the win, the Tar Heels avenged last season’s loss at Clemson and and maintained a share of the ACC lead with Virginia at 14-2. The Tar Heels won their fifth in a row and are 24-5 overall.
Marcquise Reed led Clemson with 24 points. Trapp, playing for an injured David Skara, had his second straight big scoring night with 15. White led the Tar Heels with 28 points, included six three-pointers. The Tar Heels were 13-33 beyond the arc.
Brad Brownell postgame press conference (poor audio quality)