No. 19 North Carolina, No. 20 Clemson meet in rematch
Quite a bit has changed since the first meeting of the season, and so when No. 19 North Carolina faces No. 20 Clemson for the second time in a two-week period Tuesday night at Littlejohn Coliseum, there could be different twists.
This time, North Carolina is trying to shed a surprising two-game losing streak and Clemson is dealing with a different lineup after an injury.
This matchup is between two of the four Atlantic Coast Conference teams in the national rankings.
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“It’s a little bit of adversity right now,” Tar Heels swingman Cameron Johnson said. “We need to keep composed and keep pushing.”
North Carolina hasn’t lost three in a row in ACC play since the start of its conference schedule in January 2014.
North Carolina won 87-79 at home against Clemson on Jan. 16. In that game, the Tigers made a big second-half rally when they connected on 15 consecutive shots from the field. That helped Clemson rack up 56 second-half points, marking the most allowed by North Carolina in any half this season.
For North Carolina, part of the puzzling overtime loss to visiting North Carolina State on Saturday was that the Tar Heels shot 63 percent from the field in the second half after leading at halftime.
But long-range shooting has continued to be a problem for the Tar Heels, who made 4 of 19 3-pointers Saturday.
“I think making shots would definitely help,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “I just want us to play better. We’re not ready to panic. I’m not ready to panic and abandon the ship and all that.”
In the first meeting with Clemson, North Carolina bagged 15 shots from 3-point range.
North Carolina has yet to figure out how to sustain good rebounding stretches since going to a smaller starting lineup with Johnson in that role instead of freshman post player Garrison Brooks.
North Carolina is trying to wipe away the shock from Saturday’s overtime home loss to rival North Carolina State.
Among the oddities from the game against the wolfpack was that despite leading at halftime, the Tar Heels couldn’t pull out a victory despite shooting 63 percent from the field in the second half.
Part of the damage done was by the Wolfpack outscoring the Tar Heels 22-18 on second-chance points.
“It’s not a good feeling, but it’s the ACC and we have to see if we can bounce back,” Williams said Monday.
Clemson picked up a 72-70 victory Sunday night at Georgia Tech, so this marks a quick turnaround for the Tigers, who lost last year at home in overtime to North Carolina.
Since North Carolina won the first meeting this month, Clemson lost forward Donte Grantham to a knee injury.
“We’ve obviously had to deal with a lot of things here with Donte, who is really our leader and probably our best player in terms of everything he does,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “But our guys have continued to battle and we have to change some things in how we play, not drastically, but you know there are some subtleties that Donte brings to our team.”
Roy Williams said it’s clear that Grantham’s absence is a detriment to the Tigers but pointed out that he was just 1 of 9 from the field in that meeting.
“He didn’t play that well against us,” Williams said.
The Tigers are hoping for more contributions from senior guard Gabe DeVoe, who scored a career-high 25 points against Georgia Tech. He had a big first half against North Carolina earlier in the month.
“He’s a senior and he’s been in our program a long time,” Brownell said. “He’s battled tested.”