Clemson must overcome history in rematch with Heels

by - Senior Writer -
The Tigers are 1-14 all-time against the Heels in the ACC Tournament.

GREENSBORO, NC – Rematch Saturday will be front and center for the Clemson Tigers in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament.

Clemson won its first ACC Tournament game since 2008 on Friday in a 70-47 win over Boston College, and will attempt to advance to only the school’s third overall championship game appearance when it takes on North Carolina in Saturday’s 1 p.m. semifinal.

Clemson’s other two appearances in the championship game were in 1962 (a 77-68 loss to Wake Forest) and in 2008 (an 86-81 loss to North Carolina).

In order to advance, however, the Tigers will have to knock off the top-seeded Tar Heels, who own two victories over Brad Brownell’s club this season. North Carolina won 75-65 in mid-January in Chapel Hill, and came away with a 64-62 victory in Littlejohn Coliseum in mid-February.

Clemson senior forward Jerai Grant, who was second on the squad in scoring this year at 12.4 points per game, scored a grand total of two points in the two losses – struggling against UNC’s taller frontcourt - and he said he knows he will have to play better if the Tigers are to have a chance.

“I have to just work on different parts of my game and being physical. I have to score outside of the paint and on different parts of the court. I have to work on my screens and getting other people the ball. They are a really long team. They have [Harrison] Barnes who is 6-foot-8. Everyone on their team is long. The shots we were hitting today, we are going to have to hit them tomorrow.”

Former North Carolina center Eric Montross, who played for the Heels in the early 90’s and currently works as a color analyst on North Carolina’s radio network, said Grant needs to not only extend North Carolina’s John Henson and Tyler Zeller – he needs to get them in foul trouble.

“Jerai is a talented player,” Montross said of Grant. “He is a guy that has been affected by Henson, but he is in a crowd with that, not singled out. There have been a lot of very good players bothered by Henson and Zeller. Their inside play has been pretty consistent, but Carolina is not real deep. If either of those guys get in foul trouble it could really open it up.”

The Tigers are 1-14 all-time against the Heels in the ACC Tournament, and Grant called the game an ‘all or nothing’ contest.

“It would be great to beat them,” he said. “It's all or nothing right here and everyone on this sideline knows it. We have to get this win to make it to the championship game.”

Junior guard Andre Young said the Heels will be playing a different team than they faced even a month ago – the Tigers have won four out of their last five games.

“I just know that as the season has gone on, we have been playing better,” said Young, who averaged 10 points per game against UNC this season. “We've already played them twice. We know what they like to do. It's going to be a really good game. We are going to come out and play hard. They are going to come out and play tough. It's going to be a really good ACC game.”

Montross said Clemson has the horses to hang with his Heels.

“Clemson certainly has a lot of very good players, and Demontez Stitt was very good today,” Montross said. “Clemson is very well-coached, and they have the potential to threaten you from a lot of different positions. What Clemson has to do is rebound the ball well. That is something that has been really consistent for Carolina this year – they have gotten a lot of offensive rebounds and controlled the offense that way. Clemson also needs to control the perimeter – if Carolina doesn’t have perimeter shooting, then they aren’t as good.”

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