Chapel Hill, NC: Timely rebounding, suffocating defense, early foul trouble, and high percentage shooting were the storylines of the day Saturday in UNC’s 91-71 victory over Clemson in Chapel hill. What was deemed a “bubble battle”, the Heels looked every bit the part of the team predicted in the preseason to win the ACC, while Clemson looked like a team reeling towards possibly the wrong side of the NCAA bubble with their third straight loss.
The toughest part for Clemson fans is their team actually shot the ball pretty well, shooting 45% overall, 35% from three-point range, and 89% from the charity stripe, yet still lost by 20. The problem was UNC used a mix of being plus six on offensive rebounds, and plus six in forced turnovers to put up fourteen more shots than the Tigers, which of course resulted in far more scoring plays.
The Heels also shot a staggering 15-33 from three and seemed to score from deep every time the Tigers tried to make a run. These are statistical categories that Clemson has been winning all season but were simply outmatched in today.
Clemson’s Hunter Tyson came into the game leading the Tigers in scoring at 16 points per game but was held to just three points on the day, in large part due to spectacular defense by Leaky Black. Black was relentless all game and made Tyson use tons of energy on both ends of the court. Tyson did reach the 1000 point scoring mark for his career.
PJ Hall started off red hot, scoring eight points in the first four minutes. but found himself in foul trouble, forcing him to play far less aggressively in the second half. He finished with 18 points and three rebounds. Chase Hunter added 15 points and four assists.
Over the final six minutes of the first half, and opening two minutes of the second half, UNC stretched a two point lead into 16, and never looked back. Every time Clemson tried to make a run, the Heels responded with a run of their own. Armando Bacot was a force in the paint (19 points, 11 rebounds), while Caleb Love and RJ Davis shot a combined 10-19 from three. This finally looked like the explosive offense we saw make a run to the National Championship Game last season.
With the win, UNC snapped a three-game losing streak, improving to 16-9 overall, and 8-6 in the ACC. The Heels face #19 Miami at home Monday night. Clemson now find themselves on a three-game losing streak of their own, falling to 18-7 overall, and 10-4 in the ACC. The Tigers fell from 1st to 4th in the ACC, and host Florida State Wednesday night in Littlejohn.