ACC Basketball: UNC survives scare against Clemson
North Carolina basketball bounced back from an tough road loss against Georgia Tech.
The first half featured a frenetic pace that resulted in the Tigers leading by five at the break. Clemson did a great job of pressuring UNC’s guards, going on an early 7-0 run thanks to their swarming defense, and were led on offense by their super senior forward Jaron Blossomgame. The All-ACC performer had 14 points at the break, leading all scorers.
The Tar Heels struggled to find any sort of rhythm during the first half and were probably lucky to only find themselves losing by five at the intermission. UNC shot just 41 percent during the first 20 minutes, compared to 53 percent for Clemson, and probably would’ve been down by double digits had they not rebounded so well.
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Considering UNC was coming off one of the bigger upsets of the season so far (their loss to Georgia Tech over the weekend), it was surprising to see Clemson come out of the gate as the aggressor.
While the Tar Heels as a team still looked half asleep in the second half, Joel Berry II definitely woke up. The junior point guard was on fire after the break and finished with a career-high 31 points, including 7-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc.
This hot shooting from Berry allowed UNC to work its way back into the game. The Tar Heels found themselves up three with less than 30 seconds left and on their way to the free throw line. Unfortunately for Carolina fans, Justin Jackson missed the front end of a one-and-one and Clemson’s Marcquise Reed nailed a three on the other end to send the game into overtime.
The extra period was a back-and-forth affair that saw UNC eventually come out on top. But they once again looked like a flawed team in their second ACC contest. They’re far too reliant on either Berry and/or Jackson having big games to be competitive. Plus, Berry is their only real perimeter threat. The Tar Heels are already really missing the services of Marcus Paige, the all-time leading three-point shooter in UNC history.
Despite losing, Clemson will be able to take a lot of positives away from this game. It is just their third loss of the season, and they look like they have one of the more potent offenses in the ACC.
The issue the Tigers face, which was as pronounced as ever against UNC, is the lack of experience their team has playing together. While they’re far from a young team, they do feature multiple transfers in pivotal roles. They’ll need to find a way to play together in a hurry if they want to make the Big Dance.
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