Tigers Looking for Landmark Win in Chapel Hill

by - Correspondent -

CHAPEL HILL -- Oliver Purnell would love to see his Clemson team get an Atlantic Coast Conference victory today.

But his reason for that win might have more meaning than just his squads third victory in 12 ACC games. It would be a watershed victory not just for the program, but the entire Clemson family.

Clemson is 0-50 at Chapel Hill and as the Tigers enter today's 1 p.m. tip against No. 4 North Carolina, no one, with the exception of the Tigers themselves, expect Clemson to leave with its first victory.

"Winning at Duke is probably a watershed win, but I guess in reality in this league you could get a lot of those because the teams are so good," said Purnell. "(Winning at North Carolina) would mean a lot to the Clemson faithful, they have been long-suffering for years and having not gone up there and won, it would resonate throughout the area and throughout our alumni base to people who have come and gone.

"We would love to see that happen."

Clemson's two seniors would love nothing more than to see the streak end.

Center Sharrod Ford and Olu Babalola have a chance to end their Clemson careers with a win no Tiger before them has ever seen.

Two years ago the Tigers lost by just two points in Chapel Hill, 68-66. That was the closest a Clemson team has come to beating the Tar Heels at Chapel Hill since 1975 when the Tigers also lost by two points.

Ford and Babalola were apart of that team, and will do there best to convince the underclassman they can compete and beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

As for Purnell, he is trying to convince the underclassmen the streak has nothing to do with them.

"The reality is that when I talk about the streak, is that you guys were not even born when the streak started,'" he said. " I have been here and a lot of us have only been here for two years, so the reality of it is that we are playing one of the top five teams in the country in my estimation, and a team that is favored by many to go to the Final Four." If Clemson is going to win, it will need a great game from its senior center. The Tigers leading scorer is averaging 14.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.

Ford has played some of his best basketball against North Carolina. He has a

9.7 scoring average and has made 29-of-44 field goal attempts (66 percent) over his career against the Tar Heels. That includes a 12-of-17 shooting performance in three previous games in the Smith Center.

But as important as Ford's performance will be, Purnell knows Clemson has to have everyone playing at a higher level if they are to have any chance against North Carolina.

In the Tigers' 77-58 loss to the Tar Heels on Jan. 19, Clemson played North Carolina to a 27-27 tie in the first 20 minutes. Freshman Cheyenne Moore made 4-of-7 three-point goals and the Tigers seemed poised for an upset victory. But the second half was a different story. North Carolina's Rashad McCants scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half as he hit consecutive 3-pointers to close a 19-7 run at the start of the half.

Clemson never recovered.

"On their home court, we are going to have to play extremely well to beat them. Playing a half like we played (at Clemson) is not good enough," said Purnell. "It's going to take the kind of effort we had against Maryland, against South Carolina and maybe against Ohio State.

"Forty minutes of really battling, starting on the defensive end of the floor, we are really going to need to make some shots in order to beat them.

We are going to have to play extremely well, Carolina needs to be less than at their best in order to beat them." And if the Tigers do, Purnell's team will get their long awaited third ACC victory. Oh yeah, it would be Clemson's first ever win in Chapel Hill too.

But what would that mean?

Will Vandervort is the Sports Editor for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger.

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