Streak Continues: Second half comeback not enough as Tigers fall to Heels
Marcquise Reed scored 21 to lead Clemson (Photo by Bob Donnan, USAT)

Streak Continues: Second half comeback not enough as Tigers fall to Heels

by - Senior Writer -

CHAPEL HILL, NC – A disastrous first half and clutch 3-point shooting from North Carolina mean the streak is alive and well.

UNC roared out to a 15-point first half lead and hit clutch shots down the stretch in defeating Clemson 87-79 at the Dean E. Smith Center Tuesday night, the 59th consecutive loss for the Tigers in Chapel Hill.

Cameron Johnson scored 21 points to lead Carolina, which shot 15-31 from 3-point range. Marcquise Reed led Clemson with 21 points, all in the second half. Shelton Mitchell added 18 and Elijah Thomas 16 for the Tigers. Donte Grantham was just 1-9 from the field for the Tigers and scored five points.

UNC improves to 14-4 overall and 4-2 in the ACC while the Tigers fall to 15-3, 4-2 in the ACC.

"Give UNC a lot of credit. They were really ready to play," head coach Brad Brownell said. "The way they shoot the ball now, I think it's one of their better shooting teams and we were certainly worried about that. Cam Johnson has been a great addition. There's a lot of guys to cover and because of that, it's hard to cover them all. I'm a little disappointed in the way our guys played tonight. I don't think we played very well. We started the game very poorly with turnovers - some careless ones and then we couldn't make free throws and couldn't make a shot. I thought we were a little down and pouted a little bit based on our poor offense. We never really defended like a team that's a good team. They just made us pay all night."

UNC head coach Roy Williams said it was typical ACC basketball.

"That's ACC basketball. When you shoot 65-percent in the second half and turn it over 10 times and they make 15 of their first 16 shots or something outrageous like that," Williams said. "They shoot 32-percent in the first half and 61 in the second half. It was a weird game. I told the guys that I started the season at 67 (years old) and I'm going to end the season at 97. It's frustrating at times. Some of the turnovers were just outrageous. Kenny turns it over at the centerline. Why does the other team steal the pass? Because his guy guarded so don't throw it to him. Then we have a backcourt violation. We had all kinds of crazy stuff. Cam made some big shots for us. Joel made some big shots for us.

"Luke made a couple of hoops in the second half. They got it to a one-possession game three different times but they never got the ball with it a one-possession game. I think both teams were trying to guard but it didn't look like it from our bunch...We had some silly turnovers. Brad has a really good club. We play them again in 12 days. Elijah was tough for us to handle inside and we didn't do a good job of handling him. ACC basketball, that's what it is."

The teams traded baskets early, but Clemson went scoreless for over three minutes and the Heels went on a 10-0 run, forcing a Brad Brownell timeout with Clemson trailing 15-5 just six minutes into the game. Clemson failed to score coming out of the timeout, and a 3-pointer by Robinson made it 18-5 as the drought continued.

Eli Thomas ended the Heels 18-3 and 13-0 run with a layup off of a Carolina turnover, threading the lane and getting fouled as he hit the running right-hander. Thomas hit the free throw and Carolina led 18-8

Two Gabe DeVoe 3-pointers stopped the bleeding, but Clemson hit just 4-of-10 free throws and went just 3-for-15 from beyond the arc in the first half and trailed 38-23 at intermission. The Tigers didn’t score a point the last 2:44 of the half.

The Heels hit a quick trey coming out the half and Brownell called a timeout just 55 seconds in. The timeout didn’t help much at first as the Heels couldn’t miss from 3-point range, at one point hitting five in a row to keep the lead in double digits.

However, Reed got hot and hit two 3-pointers in a row that made it an eight-point game at 56-48. After two UNC free throws, Mitchell hit a runner off the glass that made it 58-50, but Joel Berry hit one from long-distance that made it 61-50 with just over 11 minutes to play.

Grantham and Mitchell followed that back-to-back 3-pointers, and Clemson trailed by just five at 61-56 with 10 minutes to play. Mark Donnal followed a UNC miss with a 3-pointer that made it 61-59, but the Heels snagged an offensive rebound and Berry drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to push the lead back to five at 64-59. At one point, Clemson hit 15 shots in a row from the field.

Three minutes later Mitchell hit a runner that made it 64-62, but Johnson hit a 3-pointer that made it 67-62 and the Tigers followed that with an empty possession that saw the shot clock run out. Reed hit two free throws to make it 69-66 but the Heels hit yet another 3-pointer and it was 72-66 with just over four minutes to play.

UNC pushed the lead to eight at 76-68 and the Tigers had three chances to trim that margin, but missed shots pushed the time left on the clock to 2:11 with the Heels still holding the lead. However, Grantham hit two free throws and it was 76-70 at the two minute mark.

Maye hit a jumper from the key to make it 78-70, but Mitchell hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to bring it back to five at 78-73. UNC hit two foul shots to go ahead 80-73 with just over a minute to play. Mitchell drove the lane and was fouled by Maye, and he hit two free throws to make it 80-75 with 1:07 left on the clock. The Tigers couldn’t get any closer the rest of the way.

Clemson returns to action at 4 p.m. Saturday, hosting Notre Dame.

Notes: Clemson falls to 15-3 overall and 4-2 in ACC play … Marcquise Reed scored 20+ points for the fifth time this season … for just the third time this season, Clemson shot over 60.0 percent in the second half (61.3 percent) … Elijah Thomas eclipsed 400 career points.

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