Bill Guthridge needed only one sentence to sum up the challenge of shutting down the ACC’s most prolific scorer, Clemson’s Will Solomon.
“Solomon’s a handfull,” said the North Carolina head coach.
After Solomon scorched the Tar Heels for 26 points on 10-18 shooting- including 6-7 from three-point range- North Carolina players and coaches alike were singing the praises of the sophomore guard.
“I tried not to give him much space but he’s so good of a player that it turned out he didn’t need much space,” said Tarheel freshman Joe Forte. Forte drew the unfortunate task of attempting to guard Solomon for most of the afternoon.
“I think he’s right up there with the A.J. Guyton’s (Indiana’s All-American guard) and what have you. He’s as big of a player as anybody we’ve played against,” Forte said.
“I knew this was a big game for us and I know that my needed me offensively so I came out fired up and I tried to get the team fired up. I just shot the ball really well,” said Solomon.
“Look at how Will Solomon played,” said North Carolina center Brendan Haywood.
“At halftime they had 30 and he had 16 . You take him away and what do you have? They’re still a great team but Will Solomon came in and played out of his mind tonight.”
In the two team’s first meeting in Chapel Hill, Solomon was limited to 13 points on only 5-19 shooting. Haywood credited the friendly confines of Littlejohn Coliseum for Solomon’s Sunday outburst.
“For the most part, he had a hand in his face and he was hitting the shots. In Chapel Hill, he was missing them. Something about playing at home, the rims you shoot on most of the time, the balls you like use. He scored 43 here earlier, didn’t he? It’s just something about being at home,” Haywood said.
- Following the final buzzer, Solomon and North Carolina’s Terrance Newby had to be separated as the teams entered the tunnel leading to the locker rooms, with Brendan Haywood playing the role of peacemaker. Solomon said afterword that the incident was nothing particularly serious.
“It was just part of the game. It was something that will be left out on the court.”
In The Crowd
Among the crowd at Littlejohn Coliseum for Sunday’s Clemson-North Carolina game was current St. Louis Rams and former Clemson defensive back Dexter McCleon. A steady stream of autograph-seekers surrounded one of the newly crowned Super Bowl champions throughout the afternoon.
“I just wanted to come back and see everybody and check out a basketball game. I haven’t been back in two years and I’m glad to have the opportunity to finally come back,” McCleon said.
The third-year cornerback said that his visit provided a much-needed break from the week’s Super Bowl festivities.
“It’s been hectic. We’ve got a lot more attention, a lot more stuff going on in St. Louis. Overall, it’s been alright,” he said.
When asked about the dramatic final play of the Super Bowl where Rams linebacker Mike Jones stopped Tennessee’s Kevin Dyson inches short of the goal line, McCleon says that he was there in the thick of things.
“I was there. Actually, it started off where he (Dyson) was my man but on the play we did a type of coverage where we had a little switch off with me and Mike Jones. So we ended up switching off. Now, after I’ve seen all of the attention Mike is getting, I should have stayed on him.”
- Also on hand Sunday was former Clemson center Tom Wideman. Wideman, currently playing professionally with Continental Basketball Associations Fort Wayne (Indiana) Fury, said that he was pleased with what he saw from the Tigers in his first game back at Littlejohn.
“I enjoyed it today. I know some people think it’s a down year or whatever but I’m excited to see this many fans here.”