Clemson-North Carolina Preview

With its offense scuffling a bit, North Carolina is starting to

pick up the pace on the defensive end of the court.

That surely doesn’t bode well for Clemson, which was likely

already dreading a trip to Chapel Hill.

Hoping to keep pace in the race for the ACC regular-season

crown, the eighth-ranked Tar Heels try to improve to 56-0 at home

against the Tigers on Saturday.

North Carolina (22-4, 9-2) leads Division I with 83.1 points per

game, but has gone cold from the field over its last two contests –

shooting 36.8 percent.

The Tar Heels have managed to overcome that anemic shooting with

stifling defense. Four days after quieting then-No. 19 Virginia

70-52, North Carolina stymied Miami on Wednesday, holding the

Hurricanes scoreless for almost five minutes down the stretch while

coming from behind for a 73-64 road win.

“It was one of those wins you have to have to have a fantastic

year,” coach Roy Williams said. “It was a tough win, it was an ugly

win in some ways. To be able to grit it out defensively – we did

some better things there. That’s a huge benefit to win games when

you play ugly.”

Currently tied with No. 5 Duke and No. 20 Florida State for the

ACC lead, the recent dominant defense is serving the Tar Heels

well.

“Defensively we can be a very good team,” said center Tyler

Zeller, who scored just nine points Wednesday but also had eight

rebounds, three steals and a block. “We can win games in the 50s

and 60s. And when we start making shots, hopefully we can win by a

bigger margin.”

North Carolina has won all 55 home matchups in its history with

Clemson (13-12, 5-6), many of them lopsided. The Tar Heels have

outscored the Tigers by an average of 17.9 points over the last six

meetings at the Smith Center.

While North Carolina has also won 13 of 14 in the series

overall, its last two victories over Clemson – one on the road and

the other in last year’s ACC tournament – came by a combined seven

points.

Clemson is seeking its first three-game winning streak of the

season and its first in ACC play since Feb. 10-20, 2010. After

prevailing 78-58 at Wake Forest last Saturday, the Tigers upset

Virginia 60-48 at home Tuesday.

Clemson limited Virginia to a 3-of-16 (18.8 percent) effort from

3-point range and forced 18 turnovers. Offensively, starting guards

Tanner Smith and Andre Young led the way with 13 points apiece

while big man Devin Booker added 10.

While the Tigers are well aware of their lack of success at

North Carolina, they’re not acting intimidated.

“This is just another game. You can’t let it get to you,” Young

told Clemson’s official website. “It is important that we stick

together as a team, especially on the road.”

Coach Brad Brownell knows his Tigers will have their hands

full.

“They are certainly the most talented team in the league and one

of the more talented teams in the country,” Brownell said. ” … It

will be a tremendous challenge for us to try and slow them down.

And in the end, if the Tigers hope to win in Chapel Hill, that will

be the only thing that matters, not any streak.”