North Carolina-Clemson Preview
North Carolina has won a season-high four in a row entering ACC play, but it hasn’t been the most impressive winning streak.
The 19th-ranked Tar Heels seek a cleaner performance Saturday night in an attempt to continue their dominance of the Clemson Tigers.
North Carolina (10-3) split six games from Nov. 26-Dec. 13, including an 84-70 loss at top-ranked Kentucky in which it let the Wildcats shoot 56.3 percent. The Tar Heels have since won four in a row, averaging 84.0 points and holding opponents to 34.6 percent shooting, but still remain sloppy in some respects.
They’re averaging 16.0 turnovers over their last five games and have failed to outscore three opponents in the second half during the winning streak. Preseason All-American Marcus Paige is 8 of 27 from 3-point range over the last four games.
North Carolina comes off an 86-64 win over William & Mary on Monday. Both teams scored 37 in the second half, and the Tar Heels’ 22-point halftime advantage shrunk to as little as nine with 6:03 remaining.
"I feel like we’ve gotten better, but we made more mistakes tonight than I would hope we would make," coach Roy Williams said. "…I would hope that you would get rid of those mistakes in the five days or four days before the first conference game. It will be a big challenge for us. In practice we need to focus on the things we need to focus on to get a heck of a lot better."
While Clemson is not expected to compete with the conference’s top teams, North Carolina will return home for meetings with No. 14 Notre Dame and No. 5 Louisville next week. The Tar Heels, who tied for third last season with a 13-5 conference record, are 50-11 in ACC openers but have lost their last two.
Williams has seen his team shoot better from deep lately, going 15 for 39 over the last two games after shooting 23.1 percent or worse from 3-point range in four of five.
"You know, I think we’re getting better," Williams said. "… We’ve got to do a better job of moving against a zone."
The Tar Heels have won 16 of the last 17 meetings and five of six on the road, only falling 83-64 at then-No. 24 Clemson on Jan. 13, 2010. They won last season’s lone matchup 80-61 at home while shooting 55.4 percent.
This figures to be a clash of styles as North Carolina leads the conference with 81.3 points per game while Clemson, opting for a slower pace, ranks last with 66.5.
Clemson (8-4) has won back-to-back games against Robert Morris and Oakland since being limited to 15 second-half points in a 68-45 loss at South Carolina on Dec. 19. The Tigers have some solid wins on their resume, knocking off then-No. 18 Arkansas in overtime and defeating LSU. But they’ve also suffered puzzling losses, falling to Winthrop and Gardner-Webb.
"I think we’ve improved through the course of November and December," coach Brad Brownell said. "We’re certainly going to get a great test over the first four or five games in the league."
Clemson, which went 10-8 in the league in 2013-14 to finish sixth, is led by forward Jaron Blossomgame, who is averaging 17.0 points on 57.1 percent shooting over his last five games.
The Tigers have split their last six home games against ranked opponents.