The Streak Continues: An Energized North Carolina Dismantles ClemsonPosted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 27th, 2014
North Carolina played its best game in weeks on Sunday night in handily beating Clemson, 80-61. The final margin of victory was quite deceptive, though, as the Tar Heels led by more than 25 points for most of the second half. This means, of course, that Clemson is still winless all-time in Chapel Hill, dropping to 0-57 after the latest loss, but the story from the game centered around a revitalized unit that showed some hustle and fight for the first time in a long while. North Carolina dominated the shooting at both ends, hitting 55.4 percent of its field goals, while holding Clemson below 30 percent for most of the contest. But even more importantly, the Tar Heels played with an intensity that’s been missing, frequently diving for loose balls and making hustle plays throughout the game.
The Tigers started out cold and turned downright frigid quickly thereafter. Clemson only hit six of its first 20 shots and found itself down by eight with 6:27 left in the first half, but the Tigers then proceeded to miss 14 consecutive field goals over the next 13:21 of play. During that stretch, North Carolina outscored Clemson 30-7 and the outcome was already decided. In the postgame press conferences, both coaches singled out the play of Tar Heels’ forward, James Michael McAdoo, and rightfully so. McAdoo was in attack mode throughout the contest and finished with a game-high 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting. While many have considered the junior a disappointment this season, he has been playing at a higher level for the past month. After 12 games, McAdoo was averaging 12.8 points per game and shooting a chilly 41.4 percent from the field. However, in his last eight outings, he has averaged a highly-efficient 15.9 points per game while converting an outstanding 59.1 percent of his field goals. For Clemson, K.J. McDaniels played well with 13 points and nine rebounds but got little support from the rest of his team. Here are some key takeaways for each team after Sunday night’s game.
Takeaways for North Carolina (12-7 , 2-4 ACC). Coming into the game Marcus Paige and Leslie McDonald had been ice cold from behind the three-point line. After missing all three of his first half long range attempts, Paige responded with 3-of-4 long-range shooting after the break. McDonald also shot well, going 2-of-5 on threes and 4-of-7 overall. Both players worked well within the North Carolina offense and didn’t force shots. Perhaps the assertive and effective play from McAdoo has lessened the pressure on the perimeter players so that they can play with more confidence. Freshman center Kennedy Meeks continued his emergence as a strong inside presence with his third straight double-figure scoring game. He’s averaged 12.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in those contests. Meeks also logged a season-high 26 minutes, possibly a sign that Williams now has faith in Meeks’ improved conditioning level as well as his fine play. Up next for North Carolina is a visit to Georgia Tech (Wednesday – 7:00 PM) followed by a home rivalry game with N.C. State (Saturday – 1:00 PM).
Takeaways for Clemson (13-6 , 4-3 ACC). Not only was Clemson trying to end that oh-for-forever streak in Chapel Hill, the Tigers were looking to rebound from a horrible performance in their last game, a 31-point loss at Pittsburgh. They accomplished neither. It’s starting to look like Clemson’s great ACC start (4-1) was more of a mirage than anything substantial. That start included two close road wins, but those were over Boston College and Virginia Tech. The last two games have exposed Clemson as a team that’s closer to the bottom half of the ACC than the upper half. While the Tigers have struggled to score for most of the season, their defense had been terrific before this week, allowing 53.5 points per game and holding opponents to 36.2 percent shooting. In back-to-back games at Pittsburgh and North Carolina, however, each opponent has scored over 75 points and shot over 55 percent against them. Clemson has the next five days off before traveling to Florida State (Saturday – 3:00 PM). The Tigers will be seeking revenge for the 15-point beating the Seminoles gave them January 9 at Clemson.
- “We played with a much greater sense of urgency. It’s the hardest we’ve played in several weeks.” – Roy Williams, assessing his team’s dominant performance.
- “We’re just not a good offensive shooting team. If we don’t defend at a high level, we can’t compete in this league.” – Brad Brownell, discussing Clemson’s struggles in its last two games.
- “James Michael was very active, very effective. He was the first one to dive on the floor and they [teammates] fed off of him” - Williams, on James Michael McAdoo setting the tone for North Carolina.
- “There’s not a lot of guys playing at that level, the level he played at tonight.” - Brownell, also on McAdoo .