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Heel Tough Blog: Clemson Recap

Updated: Jan 6


For the second time this week, the Tar Heels went on the road and earned a significant ACC win, this time taking down #16 Clemson, to give Carolina their fourth win against a ranked opponent, and their fourth Quad-1 win. Armando Bacot led the way with a 14-point, 16-rebound double-double, the 75th of his storied Tar Heel career, as he was one of three Tar Heels to reach the double-digit plateau. The others were R.J. Davis (14), and Cormac Ryan (10), as Carolina’s defense led them to today’s win. UNC held Clemson to a season-low 55 points, on 36% shooting, including going just 1-18 from behind the arc. The Tigers entered the game shooting 39% from deep as a team but had no success today against the Tar Heels. Ian Schieffelin had a big double-double in his own right (16 points, 11 rebounds), but didn’t get the help he normally gets from P.J. Hall or Joe Girard III, as Clemson lost its second game this week alone. 

Carolina didn’t endure a six-and-a-half-minute scoring drought to start the game, but they found themselves tied at 34 at the half, after another uneven offensive performance. Clemson would score the first four points to start the second half and looked poised to take control of the game before a 5-0 UNC answer made it known that this game was going down to the wire. Carolina held a 58-55 lead in the closing minutes of the game and would finish the game on a 7-0 run, to earn the 65-55 win, holding Clemson scoreless for the last 5:02 of the game. 

The stellar defensive performance helped overcome a 42% shooting effort and converted on just 7-12 free throws. After outrebounding Pittsburgh on Tuesday night, everyone wanted to know how that would carry over into today’s game, against a more even rebounding opponent. UNC won the battle of the boards, 44-33, including 14-9 on the offensive glass, meaning this is the third straight game they’ve outrebounded their opponent by double-digits.  

There’s still a lot of basketball left to be played, but this is as good a week as the program has had in conference play under Hubert Davis. Starting a three-game road trip off 2-0 is very impressive, and in the short run, has established Carolina as the team to beat in the ACC, a spot unfamiliar to this core, but not to the program. 

  1. Defense: Carolina’s growth on the defensive end of the floor since the Kentucky loss is as big a reason why they’ve won four straight games, and are 3-0 in the ACC. Holding this potent Clemson offense to 55 points, on 36% shooting, including 6% from behind the arc, is further proof that they can be a quality defensive team. After locking down Blake Hinson on Tuesday night, Carolina limited P.J. Hall, the second-leading scorer in the ACC, to just 10 points, before he eventually fouled out. Joe Girard III only scored 5 points on 1-10 shooting, as he was unable to find his shooting stroke either. If you combine Pittsburgh’s and Clemson’s three-point efforts, they combined to go just 6-47 from behind the arc (13%), which is as big a reason why Carolina has improved so dramatically on the defensive end of the floor. 

  2. Rebounding: All of a sudden, Carolina looks like a vintage rebounding team, after pummeling Clemson on the glass 44-33. Bacot led the way with 16 rebounds but got help from Jae’Lyn Withers, who grabbed 6 rebounds off the bench. Furthermore, three other Tar Heels grabbed at least four rebounds, giving Hubert Davis another team effort in that area. UNC matched up better against Clemson on the glass than they did against Pitt earlier in the week, but make no mistake, for a team that got overwhelmed on the glass in games against UConn, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, this is an improving rebounding team, that figures to be among the best in the conference. 

  3. Timely Bench Scoring: If you look at the box score, there isn’t a single reserve that will stand out to you from a scoring perspective, but make no mistake, every reserve made an impact. Jalen Washington led the bench with 4 points, but it doesn’t diminish the timely threes that Seth Trimble and Paxson Wojcik hit in the game. Jae’Lyn Withers scored his two points on an offensive rebound putback in transition early in the first half, to help out the Tar Heels. Even Zayden High hit a nice turnaround that was the highlight of his first-half action. Only Trimble and Withers played double-digit minutes off the bench, but given the production from the other reserves, they earned more trust from Hubert Davis than they had before today’s game. 

  4. Armando Bacot: Another big game for Armando, who moved into 5th on the all-time scoring list at UNC, passing Charlie Scott and Al Wood, with 14 more points today. He was the best played on the floor for either team and has hit a different groove since the start of ACC play. 

  5. Free Throw Shooting: The only reason why Clemson was in the game in the first half was because they were 12-14 from the foul line. Meanwhile, Carolina was 1-3 in the first half, and 7-12 for the game, something they’ll look to clean up before Wednesday’s road game at NC State, 

  6. Perimeter Shooting: It wasn’t the prettiest of performances from behind the arc (8-23), but five different Tar Heels made triples, which is a sign of relief to R.J. Davis. Cormac Ryan was 2-6, Davis was 2-5, and Ingram was 2-5. Additionally, Wojcik and Trimble made big triples in the second half to keep Carolina in the lead. It looks like Ryan is getting close to wreaking out of his shooting slump, which is going to be needed the further we get into conference play. 

Up Next: Carolina is back in action on Wednesday night at NC State. That game is set to tip at 8 PM on ESPN.

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