CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Something about the color orange seems to bring out the
best in North Carolina.
The Tar Heels, they of the 7-18 record entering Wednesday night, looked like
the North Carolina of old in a 96-78 Senior Night victory over Clemson in the
Dean Smith Center.
And for all the hype in the days preceding the game - strange enough for two
teams likely destined to meet again next week in the Atlantic Coast
Conference Tournament play-in game - it proved to be just another chapter in
Clemson's historically fruitless efforts to win a game in Chapel Hill.
For the record, the futility now stands at 0-48.
"I thought North Carolina shot the ball very well in the first half, and I
thought they played well in the second," said Clemson head coach Larry
Shyatt. "They really moved and passed the ball well in the second half. Their
three seniors (Jason Capel, Kris Lang and Brian Bersticker) were 15-for-20
from the field. That ain't bad."
The Tar Heels (8-18, 4-11 ACC), who nearly blew a 19-point first-half lead,
had no such problems against the offensively-challenged Tigers (13-16, 4-12)
in the second half. North Carolina opened the final 20 minutes with a 14-2
run, and effectively cruised from there.
Capel had six of his team-high 28 points during the stretch. North Carolina
led by as many as 24 points in the half.
The Tigers never got closer than 16 the rest of the way.
"This is how you want Senior Night to go," said UNC coach Matt Doherty.
"People ask me if I'm ready for this season to be over. No, I'm not. Except
for the Ohio game, we've been playing better basketball. And I've got a good
group of kids. That's the biggest thing."
The Heels effectively shut down Clemson's only offensive weapon, guard Tony
Stockman. Stockman, who parlayed an incredible shooting performance into a
28-point first half, scored just two in the second half on 1-of-6 shooting.
"In the first half I want to say almost every shot he got was a clean catch
and look at the basket," Shyatt said. "In the second half, they did a better
job on him, even switching players on him two or three times, and made him
put the ball on the floor to get shots."
Were it not for Stockman, Clemson might have been run out of the Dean Dome in
the first half.
North Carolina came out smoking, hitting seven 3-pointers in the first 10:37
of the game en route to a 34-15 lead. Jason Capel did the damage early,
hitting three of his first four attempts from behind the arc, and Jackie
Manuel's trey at 9:23 gave the Tar Heels the 19-point lead.
But Stockman fell into a zone the likes of which he's never seen. The
sophomore hit 8-of-10 3-pointers in the half - a career high. He scored 12
consecutive Clemson points at one juncture, and 24 of his team's final 30 in
Clemson now has seven days before its next game, the dreaded play-in game in
the ACC Tournament next Thursday in Charlotte. It will be the Tigers' third
consecutive appearance in the play-in game.
Clemson's likely opponent will again be the Tar Heels, barring a UNC upset of
No. 3 Duke this weekend.
If Georgia Tech beats Florida State Saturday, that technically creates a three-way tie for seventh place in the conference. Under that scenario, Clemson would face FSU in the play-in game next Thursday.
McKnight 1-6 0-0 2, Hobbs 2-6 1-2 5, Henderson 2-4 0-0 4, Stockman 9-16 4-6 30, Scott 3-10 0-0 6, Nagys 1-2 4-4 6, Christie 5-8 0-0 11, Clifton 1-3 2-2 5, Ford 3-4 0-0 6, Babalola 0-3 2-4 2, Allen 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 27-63 14-20 78.
NORTH CAROLINA (8-18)
Everett 1-2 0-0 2, Bersticker 5-5 0-0 10, Lang 2-3 2-3 6, Melendez 0-2 0-0 0, Capel 8-12 9-12 28, Scott 1-6 2-2 4, Williams 6-8 0-0 14, Boone 4-8 3-4 13, Morrison 0-3 0-0 0, Manuel 5-7 4-4 16, Johnson 1-2 0-0 3, Holmes 0-0 0-0 0, Price 0-1 0-0 0, McLamb 0-0 0-0 0 Totals 33-59 20-25 96.
Halftime: North Carolina 48, Clemson 40. 3-point goals: Clemson 10-22 (McKnight 0-2, Stockman 8-12, Scott 0-2, Christie 1-2, Clifton 1-3, Babalola 0-1) North Carolina 10-26 (Everett 0-1, Melendez 0-2, Capel 3-5, Scott 0-2, Williams 2-3, Boone 2-6, Morrison 0-3, Manuel 2-3, Johnson 1-1). Fouled out: Hobbs, Nagys, Lang. Rebounds: Clemson 29 (Hobbs 5), North Carolina 32 (Lang, Capel, Williams, Manuel 5). Assists: Clemson 16 (Scott 9), North Carolina 23 (Boone 8). Total fouls: Clemson 23, North Carolina 20. A: 16,125.