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Heel Tough Blog: Clemson Recap

AP Photo

Looking to build off Saturday’s win over Duke, the Tar Heels turned in their worst performance of the season, losing at home to Clemson 80-76, to fall to 18-5 (10-2), on the season. The Tigers ran out to a 15-2 lead, forcing a Hubert Davis timeout, and they never looked back, earning their second-ever win in Chapel Hill. Clemson is the third straight team to score more than 70 points against UNC, and it’s not shocking that Carolina is 1-2 in those games. P.J. Hall led the way with 25 points for the Tigers, as they shot just 40% from the field, but made 11 triples to make up for it. Conversely in the first meeting, Clemson made just a three-pointer, resulting in a double-digit loss. 

To Carolina’s credit, they would make it a 43-34 halftime deficit, even though it registered as the largest home halftime deficit since they trailed by 17 at home against Pittsburgh in 2022. Carolina would open the second half on a 12-6 run, and would eventually tie the game at 70 before a 7-0 run by the Tigers effectively put the game away. Armando Bacot totaled his 78th double-double, and while R.J. Davis scored 22 points, he did so on 7-22 shooting, which isn’t efficient enough to win in this league. 

Clemson entered tonight needing a signature win in ACC play to solidify themselves as an NCAA Tournament team. The Tigers now have wins at Alabama, at UNC, at home against South Carolina, and a neutral court win over TCU, which barring some collapse, should be enough to lock them in the Big Dance. 

The challenge for any team after the Duke game is getting yourself ready to play emotionally and physically, and tonight, Carolina certainly looked like a team suffering from a hangover from the win last Saturday. Hubert Davis, who has had the pulse of his team all season long, didn’t tonight, and it showed, getting hit with a 15-2 run out of the gate. It was noted on the broadcast that Davis got after his team in practice yesterday, and while you appreciate the intensity from the head coach, he can’t do it for them. It felt like Carolina had turned a page in not allowing these types of losses to occur, but tonight was a reminder for this core, that they have to be ready every time they take the floor. 

Seth Trimble didn’t play tonight, as he was out with an upper-body injury, and his presence was sorely missed, on both ends of the floor. Carolina had no answer on the perimeter for Joe Girard III, who scored 21 points, and UNC missed his aggressive nature on the offensive end. 

Carolina has now lost two of their last three games, and tonight’s loss makes the race for the ACC regular season title tighter, and will probably keep them off the one-line come Selection Sunday. Here’s what to take from the disappointing loss tonight to Clemson: 

  1. First Half Defense: Carolina allowed 43 first-half points, and allowed Clemson to connect on six three-pointers. Clemson shot 49% in the first half overall, as Carolina just wasn’t ready to compete on that end of the floor. P.J. Hall scored 14 of his 25 in the first half, and Girard III scored 12 of his 21, to pace their offense. The defense, which forced a lot of turnovers against Duke on Saturday, hasn’t been as dominant in the last couple of weeks, and tonight it resulted in a loss at home that nobody saw coming. 

  2. Rebounding: The Tar Heels may have won the rebounding battle, but they gave up 11 offensive rebounds, which resulted in 13 second-chance points for the Tigers, which all came in the second half. It felt like every time Carolina would make it a one-possession game, or even tie the game, Clemson was able to come up with an offensive rebound and retake the lead. Schieffelin led the way with 11 rebounds for Clemson, and Hall added 9, to compete as well as anybody has on the glass with Carolina in the last two months. 

  3. Poor Offensive Showing: Carolina was averaging over 90 points per game at home this season, and this was the lowest point total at home this year. They shot just 37% from the field, and just 33% from behind the arc, as the shot selection of Cormac Ryan and even R.J. Davis needs to be called into question after they combined to go 8-32 tonight, including 5-18 from behind the arc. Armando Bacot scored 12 of the team’s first 14 points, on his way to another double-double, but wasn’t the primary focus on the offensive end for some reason. 

  4. Rotation: Without Seth Trimble tonight, Hubert Davis had to juggle his rotation, and as a result, Paxson Wojcik played the most minutes in a game since November and scored 7 points. Jalen Washington was the only other bench player to play double-digit minutes but wasn’t as effective as he needed to be in his 13 minutes. Oddly enough, Jae’Lyn Withers played just 5 minutes and didn’t score a point. There’s no telling how long Trimble could be out with his upper-body injury, which adds pressure on Wojcik and Withers to perform off the bench. 

  5. Home Dominance Snapped: Clemson not only earned their second-ever win in Chapel Hill, but they also ended Carolina’s hopes of going undefeated at home this season, something that seemed realistic after beating Duke on Saturday. 

Up Next: It doesn’t get easier for UNC, as they travel to Miami on Saturday, to take on a Miami team, like Clemson in desperate need of a Quad 1 win if they want to make the NCAA Tournament. Tip is scheduled for 4 PM on ESPN.


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