Brownell, Tigers look for upset over UNC

Clemson begins ACC play Saturday night by hosting No. 19 North Carolina.

WHAT: Clemson (8-4, 0-0 ACC) vs. North Carolina (10-3, 0-0 ACC)
WHEN: Saturday, Jan. 3 (8:15 PM)
WHERE: Littlejohn Coliseum (10,000)
TV: ESPN (Dave O’Brien-pbp; Doris Burke-color)
SPREAD: North Carolina by 7.5

With eight wins in 12 games in the books, Clemson now begins conference play in the improving ACC by hosting rival North Carolina Saturday evening in Littlejohn Coliseum.

It is the first time the Tigers have battled UNC to open their ACC regular season since 2007-08.

Clemson is coming off back-to-back wins over Oakland and Robert Morris, and head coach Brad Brownell told CUTigers Friday he feels like his team's non-conference slate will assist in transitioning to league play.

"I think it will help, yes," he said. "The fact that we beat LSU and Arkansas - those are two teams that can compete with just about anybody in the country. We did some good things in our last game against Robert Morris but we know we've got take it up another level against North Carolina. Their athleticism and overall talent from top to bottom is what you would expect it to be."

Clemson has 13 wins over top-20 Tar Heel teams in its history, including its most recent win - an 83-64 victory over 12th-ranked UNC team in 2010.

Brownell says it will be key for his team to hit the boards hard Saturday night to secure another upset.

"We've got to rebound the basketball and limit their opportunities in transition," he said. "Once they get out into the open floor there's not a lot of teams that can slow them down. So we can't let that happen and we have to hit the boards hard for 40 minutes."

Clemson's fifth-year head coach is also hoping for a boost of energy from the crowd as well.

"It's huge. It's going to be important for us to get off to a fast start because once we get our crowd behind us it changes the feel of the game," he said. "We've got to be able to rebound, slow them down in transition and have some good things happen to us early. We know we can win a game like this if we play well. Now we just have to go out there and do it."

Meanwhile North Carolina coach Roy Williams said Friday sophomore big man Kennedy Meeks and reserve point guard Stilman White are battling a stomach bug and may not play versus the Tigers. White won't travel with the team for Saturday's game at Clemson and it was unclear whether Meeks would be limited for the No. 19 Tar Heels.

The 6-foot-9 Meeks is second on the team in scoring (12.8 points) and is averaging a team-high 8.9 rebounds. He's also an outstanding outlet passer who helps ignite North Carolina's potent transition game.

"Even with Meeks out of the game, they've got other players who are talented. Whether it's Brice Johnson down low or Marcus Page or J.P. Tokoto. Tokoto really looks like he's taken his game to the next level, so we have to be ready to play against all of these guys," Brownell added.

The Tigers are led in scoring by redshirt sophomore forward Jaron Blossomgame, who averages 13.7 points and over 8 rebounds per game. Blossomgame is also coming off a fifth double-double this season, which ties for the ACC lead. He posted 16 points and 12 rebounds in the win over Robert Morris.

UNC is led by preseason player of the year Marcus Page, who averages 13.8 points and just over 3 assists per contest.

The Tar Heels' three losses this season have come against Butler, Iowa and No. 1 Kentucky. Top Stories