North Carolina raced to quick double-digit lead in the first four minutes and went on to cruise to an 88-56 victory over the Tigers at the Dean E. Smith Center to raise Clemson's winless streak in Chapel Hill to 51 games.
"By the time we gathered ourselves and got back to doing the things we talked about, we're down 20 versus an excellent team on their home court," Tigers coach Oliver Purnell said. "I thought we came unraveled and came back and got it back together. But by the time that you do that against a team like this on its home court it's too late."
Clemson now drops to 12-13 overall and 2-10 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Tigers now need to win three of their remaining four games to qualify for the NIT. The Tar Heels improve to 22-3 and 10-2 in the ACC.
In those opening minutes, Clemson missed its first eight shots and committed four turnovers. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels connected on four of their first five shots and sank all four of their free throw attempts. And before they knew it, Clemson was down 14-1 with 14:34 left in the first half.
"I expected them to come out like they came out, but I didn't expect us to come out like that," Tigers forward Cheyenne Moore said. "I expected us to come out with fire and passion and it took awhile for us to do it."
For the game, Clemson shot 33.3 percent, but making matters worse was the way the Tigers played defense.
At one stretch in the first half, North Carolina had nine consecutive baskets that were either dunks, layups or from directly underneath the goal and as a result, the Tar Heels shot 50.8 percent for the game.
That more than anything bothered Purnell.
"I thought early on when we missed some easy shots, we showed our frustration by getting away from our game plan, which was transition defense, transition defense and more transition defense," he said. "Obviously Carolina got out and ran and nobody does it better than they do."
And if missing shots and allowing easy ones for North Carolina wasn't enough, Clemson committed a season-high 27 turnovers.
"I think we came in here with high hopes," Purnell said. "But then we miss some easy shots early. Now, they're trapping us and we don't go to the right spots. Then the guy with the ball gets nervous and throws the ball up in the air."
Clemson senior center Sharrod Ford, who led the team with 13 points and six rebounds, also had six turnovers. Point guard Vernon Hamilton also had six turnovers.
"Oliver is starting three freshmen, playing another one coming off the bench quickly, so it's a bit difficult for him," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "He's doing a great job trying to get their program back going."
The Tar Heels were paced by Jawad Williams, who scored 17 points. Marvin Williams added 14 points and Sean May chipped in with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
With the loss, Clemson is just one more defeat from tying the NCAA record of consecutive road losses to the same team. Brown lost at Princeton 52 consecutive times before finally pulling one out in 2003.
"I think we'll get a win the next time we play here," Moore said. "I know Coach refuses to let this to keep going and I know the team refuses to let this keep going. I don't want to go through this again. The freshmen aren't use to losing. I'm not use to losing and the ones we got coming in next year aren't use to losing. I'm not going through my career without a win here."
|Officials:||Gary Maxwell, Mike Wood, Mike Eades|