Regardless of the outcome of today's game, history was going to be made, unfortunately for the Tar Heels it was the wrong kind of history. For the first time in Clemson's basketball history, they beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill, with the 79-76 overtime decision. It took almost 100 years to accomplish this feat, but they finally have that monkey off their backs. With 2 minutes left in the game, Carolina had a double digit lead and appeared to be on their way to getting Roy Williams' his 880th career win, allowing him to pass his mentor Dean Smith. That all changed when the Tigers went to a full court press, and forced the Tar Heels into multiple turnovers, that led to easy baskets. They finished regulation on a 12-2 spurt forcing an extra 5 minutes, with all the momentum. In the overtime session Clemson made the plays necessary to win, while Carolina continued to meltdown in front of a home crowd, that tried to carry them to a win. For the game Carolina shot 42% from the floor, but struggled to from behind the arc only shooting 23%. They grabbed 9 offensive rebounds, but only managed 8 second chance points, which isn't enough for this particular team. Brandon Robinson had a career game dropping 27 points, while connecting on 5-13 from distance. Armando Bacot added 21 points, and Garrison Brooks provided 13, but it wasn't enough to put this team over the top.
"The Streak" was bound to end at some point, it just sucks the way in ended. If Clemson would have earned the win, you could live with the result, but it's hard to live with the reality of you giving a game away. Roy Williams blamed himself for the loss, and he deserves some of the blame, but the failure to execute the little things once again comes back to bite this team in the rear end. 3 takeaways from another frustrating loss:
1. Press Offense: There haven't been many times you see a team simply fold when they have to beat a full court press, but today's meltdown is one equal to what Virginia did against Syracuse in the 2016 Elite Eight. The minute Clemson pressed, every Tar Heel on the floor tensed up, and acted as if they've never seen a press before. Should Roy Williams had called timeout? Yeah probably, but we all know that's not his style of coaching. Every time they make the entry pass against the press, it always seems to go into the corner, which is the last place the ball should be inbounded. This area of the team needs to improve, as it wouldn't be a surprise to see this tactic used against them moving forward.
2. Missed Opportunities on Offensive Rebounds: I mentioned earlier the lack of points scored on offensive rebounds, and it played a big part of why this team lost today, and hasn't in almost 2 weeks. You can't average less than point per offensive rebounds, those are wasted rebounds, and wasted possessions. You have to give Clemson credit for limiting the amount of offensive rebounds, and the points scored off those rebounds but the blame starts and ends with North Carolina.
3. Nonexistent Bench Production: Only 3 players played off the bench, and they combined to score 2 points total. K.J. Smith was scoreless in his 4 minutes, Justin Pierce was scoreless in his 16 minutes, Christian Keeling provided 2 foul shots as the only bench points for the Heels. Although they were without numerous players, this trend has been developing for some time. You can't ask a whole lot from Smith, who was put on scholarship over the summer. As for Pierce & Keeling they simply haven't adapted to stiffer competition. Pierce is almost a liability on both ends as he's tentative on the offensive end to shoot the ball, and defensively is a undersized to hold his own. Keeling has never found a rhythm, as his confidence is shot. While this team was expected to be much deeper, someone has to be tough enough to step up a help a team that's living on edge.
Up Next: The team has a much needed week off before traveling to face Pittsburgh next Saturday. The road contest will tip off at noon, with a ESPN channel carrying the game.