Heel Tough Blog: UNC vs. Clemson Preview
A win on the road at Pitt is without a doubt the Heels biggest win of the season. It’s the first Q1 win and it kind of lets the tournament committee know that the Tar Heels are getting it together. The past couple of games have looked a lot more like Carolina basketball. There have been lapses of course, but overall it looks a lot more like we are use to watching. Both Davis and Love are pushing the ball more. The pace is getting there. It isn’t always under control. Our break could be cleaned up. A lot of turnovers come from playing too fast or making a bad decision on the fast break, but there have been major signs of improvement. Love and 5 assists and 1 turnover. He didn’t have his best scoring game with only 8 points, but that is by far his best assist/turnover ratio of the season. Not to mention the shot he took with about 3 minutes to play. Being 0-4 from behind the arc and taking that shot is gutsy to keep it PG. He was wide open off a good pass from Walton, but wow. That shows confidence though. That may be considered a bad shot if he misses only being up 5. Love needed confidence though and it is good to see he still had late in the game on an off shooting night.
Pitt made multiple runs at it in the second half. There were 9 times that Pitt closed to within 4 or 5 points. All nine times, the Tar Heels responded on the offensive end. We are usually on the other side of that. Too many games earlier in the season came down to us not being to tie or take the lead with chances. It was nice to see us respond to some pressure. That shows maturity especially from our younger players. And how about this stat, those 9 answers were scored by 5 different players (Love, Bacot, Brooks, Walton, and Black).
Our identity is clearly playing inside out. Our guards did a great job of getting the ball down low and our offense has more of a flow in the last 2 games. It is also a luxury that our bigs are such good passers. Sharpe had 4 assists. The high low between our bigs is almost unstoppable when one of them pins their man under the basketball. Bacot is quickly becoming our most consistent player. He had 21 points and 10 points. He went 8-10 from the field. Brooks added 16 points and 6 rebounds. They combined to go 16-21 from the field. As a team we scored 48 of our 75 points in the paint.
Our 3 point shooting still wasn’t great. Walton has started the last couple of games slow as teams are keying in on him. Teams are selling out to stop his 3 point shot, but it has been fun to watch Walton make improvements. He has a nice head fake that causes every defender to fly by him. He then dribbles in to create more space, and is pretty automatic with that combo of moves. Walton has done the majority of his scoring in the second half the past two games. His in game adjustments have been impressive.
Our shot selection has gotten better in part to our increased effort to get the ball down low. We scored on 14 of our first 15 offensive trips in the second half. We shot 60.7% from the field in the second half and finished with a field goal percentage of 52.5%. It was the second straight game where we shot over 50%. We have had 6 different leading scorers in the last 8 games. It feels like things are starting to come together right when we need them to. Pitt is just the start of a tough stretch that pretty much lasts till the end of the season.
Carolina leads the series, 133-22, including 40-17 on the road.
The Tigers have won two of the last three games, but Roy Williams is 21-4 against Clemson as head coach of the Tar Heels.
Carolina has won five of the last six at Littlejohn Coliseum, including 81-79 in the most recent game there on 3/2/2019.
Clemson beat UNC, 79-76, in overtime in the Smith Center on 1/11/2020.
It was UNC's first loss in 60 games to Clemson in Chapel Hill. The 59-0 record was the longest unbeaten streak at home against an opponent in NCAA history.
UNC led Clemson led, 39-29, at the half and 68-58 with 1:56 to play, but the Tigers tied the game at 70 on a 3FG by Aamir Simms with three seconds left. The Tar Heels committed three turnovers in the last minute and a half, and the Tigers made their last four field goal attempts to send the game to overtime.
Garrison Brooks posted his fourth consecutive double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Armando Bacot had 21 points on 7 of 10 shooting from the floor.
Leaky Black made his first career start at the point and had five assists.
Andrew Platek made his first career start. He had eight points and had career highs in rebounds (eight) and assists (six).
BY THE NUMBERS:
UNC 11-5 (6-3 in the ACC) coming off a win at PITT
CLEMSON 10-5 (4-5 in the ACC) coming off loss at Duke
When the Tar Heels face the Tigers on Tuesday night it will be a battle of two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions. UNC has won 4 out its last 5 while Clemson has lost 4 of its last 5. Clemson had a hot start to the season and made their way into the top 25. Could this just be a rough spot or is this them coming back down to Earth. UNC has a 10 point advantage in points per game 74.5 to 64.4 and a 10 rebound advantage 43.1 to 33.2. UNC has a positive turnover to assist ratio while Clemson’s is negative. UNC has a slight edge in field percentage at 43.6% to 41.3% but Clemson holds a 7 percent advantage on free throws 74.2% to 67%. Lastly both teams shoot equally poorly from 3. Clemson shoots 30.6% while UNC shoots 30.5%. Clemson has over 4 players that shot over 35% from 3 with Honor shooting 37.5% to lead the Tigers. Tyson shoots 36% so I rather brooks or Bacot play him close. He isn’t going to drive past either of them. The Tigers average 7.5 makes a game from behind the arc, so while their team percentage isn’t great, they put up a fair number of 3’s.
Clemson only has one player averaging double figures and that is Simms at 12.5 ppg. He also leads the team in rebounds at 5.9 and assists at 2.5, Stopping him will be key, he scored 19 points against Duke and gave us a fit last year in Chapel Hill. Simms is only 6’8” and starts alongside another 6’8” forward, so once again UNC will have the size advantage. Simms isn’t necessarily a threat from deep so I don’t think he should be as big of a match up problem as other forwards in past games. Brooks and Bacot should be able to give some space and keep him in front.
Clemson has a couple of players at 6’10” but they aren’t an offensive threat. Baehre averages 19 minutes a game and Hall averages 11.4. Clemson regularly plays 9-10 players and relies on bench points. Most of that is a testament to just how many players play every night. Clemson also doesn’t have a stand out point guard so this would be a good game for Davis and Love to be aggressive on both sides of the ball. Love has done a better job of attacking the rim as the season has progressed. Look for that to continue.
UNC’s game plan for the entirety of the year has been to use its size to bully the opponent. At the beginning of the season this was marginally successful as we had trouble feeding the post and being efficient around the basket. This is a trend we have seemed to reverse. UNC shot 52.5% from the field with 22 assists vs Pitt and 54.4% with 18 assists vs NC State. Both games the Heels shot poorly from 3, so the high field goal percentage was a result of converting more shots close to the basket, whether it be feeding the post or offensive rebounds. Feeding the post and being efficient will be key once again Bacot has been a man among boys the past 3 games, scoring 18, 17 and 21 points. Feed the hot hand. Davis and Love are playing much more confidently and I don’t think that its a coincidence that it happened with Harris’s return. He has a high basketball IQ, heart and he doesnt get sped up. He is the steady hand we so desperately needed and I think Love and Davis feed off that. Limiting turnovers will also be key, especially live ball ones. Clemson averages a little over 14 points a game off turnovers and opponents are averaging 15.3 turnovers against them. We seem to be playing faster and better defense. Also not a coincidence. Good defense leads to turnovers which leads to run outs. We also don’t need to allow any easy 3s. Lastly I would like to see our free throw percentage improve. I miss the days when our team average was up in the high 70s-low 80s range. This game seems like a must win as the schedule only gets more difficult from here.
Check out the link below for more info and stats.