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Heel Tough Blog: Clemson Recap

Bob Donnan - USA TODAY Sports

A little over 48 hours after earning the biggest win of the season so far, Carolina is back in action later tonight, when they host a desperate Clemson team inside the Smith Center. Carolina took down Duke on Saturday night, to take a two-game lead for first place in the ACC, with a little over a month left in conference play. With Virginia having won six straight, Carolina needs to keep distance between them, and the Cavaliers, because they only play once this season, and that game comes in Charlottesville, a place UNC hasn’t won at in over a decade. 

After a hot start to the season, Clemson is now trending towards not being an NCAA Tournament team, as they are 14-7, but just 4-6 in the ACC. Their non-conference wins over Alabama and South Carolina are the only reason why they are still in the field according to many bracketologists, but they are in need of a win over a team like UNC to really solidify themselves as a tournament squad. P.J. Hall continues his excellent season, leading Clemson in scoring at 19.9 points per game, and he will be motivated to have a bounce-back performance against UNC, after struggling in the home loss to Carolina back in January. 

When Carolina won at Clemson a month ago, it was the first real sign that this team had turned the corner defensively, as Carolina allowed just 55 points, and held Clemson to 6% shooting from behind the three-point line. It was also the second straight power conference opponent that UNC would outrebound by double digits, again another sign that this team was rounding into form as the team to beat in the ACC. It also served Clemson a second straight loss and is a big reason the Tigers find themselves in the position they are today. 

Hubert Davis always talks about ignoring the outside noise, and not allowing outside influences to become distractions. His biggest challenge this week is getting his team to come off the high of beating Duke, and getting ready physically and emotionally to play at home against a desperate opponent. However given how focused this team is, that shouldn’t be too hard, because they know how important these games are coming down the stretch. 

  1. Match Clemson’s Intensity: Clemson is going to treat this game as if their season depends on it because, in reality, it probably does. Their wins over South Carolina and Alabama are the only reason they are even in the projected tournament field, but as the season moves along, if they finish below .500 in league play, without any signature wins, it’s hard to envision them making the tournament, without winning the automatic bid. There’s no denying that Carolina has been much more explosive at home this season, scoring over 90 points per game. The crowds at home have been fantastic as well, and that will need to be the case tonight inside the Dean Dome. The challenge of the Duke game is no matter the result there is usually a hangover effect in the next game, let’s hope that Carolina’s maturity is on display tonight. 

  2. Win Battle on the Interior: In the win over the Blue Devils, Duke scored 54 points in the paint, which usually doesn’t lead to a winning outcome. Clemson will look at that film, and try to attack Carolina in the same way. P.J. Hall and Ian Schieffelin will look to score early and often inside the painted area, to try and reproduce that production Dulke enjoyed the other night. Armando Bacot is coming off his best game of the season, and will be motivated to play at a high level against another big-time player this conference has to offer. 

  3. Rebounding: Carolina outrebounded Clemson 44-33 a month ago, and it allowed them to control the tempo of the game. That game was played in the half court, but if Saturday was any indication, Carolina is looking to get back to playing on the open floor, as they on Duke all night long. That’s only possible if you control the backboards, which shouldn’t be an issue with Bacot and Ingram feasting upfront. If Carolina overwhelms Clemson on the glass like they did a month ago, it’s hard to see them being able to earn their second-ever win in the Smith Center. 


Series History:

  • Carolina is 136-23 all-time against Clemson, including being 60-1 in Chapel Hill, and 29-1 in the Smith Center. 


  • North Carolina - 8th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 118.3 (20th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 92.9 (7th) 

  • Clemson - 39th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 118.2 (21st) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 101.8 (83rd)


  • North Carolina - 9th. 

  • Clemson - 37th. 

TV Info: Tonight’s game will tip at 7 PM on ESPN.

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