Payback, sort of

CLEMSON - One of the few negative aspects about Wednesday night's thumping of No. 12 North Carolina was that the game wasn't played in Chapel Hill.

While the infamous 0-54 streak in the Dean Dome lives on- and it's truly unfortunate Clemson doesn't get a game there this season by the way - the Tigers erased a series of recent baby-blue frustrations with a convincing 19-point win before a capacity Littlejohn crowd and national television audience.

Included in the recent "mini-streak" of 10 consecutive losses to the Heels was an overtime loss, a double overtime defeat and even a five-point setback in the 2008 ACC Tournament Championship.

But in the end, all of that only made it that much sweeter Wednesday night in Littlejohn Coliseum.

In fact, you could call Wednesday's win payback. Sort of.

"I don't get into all of these streaks," Oliver Purnell said afterwards. "The 0-for-50 something streak or the last 10 streak. This is our team this year, not last year's team last year and that's what I told our team. We wanted to put ourselves in a position to win this game and that's what we did."

Purnell, playing the role of Clemson's head coach perfectly, spoke about the victory in a very matter of fact manner. Perhaps because he knew before tipoff Clemson's full-court pressure would wilt North Carolina's young team.

Perhaps, like most coaches, he simply expected to win.

Regardless, most of his team was a little more emotional following the win.

With 58.5 seconds left and Clemson leading by 15, Demontez Stitt looked to the capacity Littlejohn crowd and merely lifted his jersey towards the rafters, highlighting "Clemson" written across his jersey.

"That meant everything," Stitt said afterwards. "This was what we were practicing the whole week for. The last couple of days this was what we were living for, man.

"I texted my mom earlier that I that I had a dream we beat by Carolina by a lot. Last night. She told me it wasn't a dream, maybe it was foreshadowing or something like that. And it came true."

It was easy to see just how important the win was to Stitt, not to mention a senior class that had never previously beaten the Heels.

"That's why you pop the jersey," Stitt said. "We let them know this isn't the old Clemson that you just run over. This is a team that's going to contend for an ACC title."

So many times over the years North Carolina was the team that overwhelmed Clemson - even in the friendly confines of Littlejohn Coliseum - but Wednesday night it was the Tigers who did the overwhelming.

And honestly, the game wasn't close from the start.

Consider:

-Clemson scored 35 points in the first 10 minutes of the game, the most this season by far, en route to a 35-12 lead.

-North Carolina didn't make a three-point shot until just over 13 minutes were left in the game.

-The Tigers outscored the Tar Heels 33-13 off of turnovers.

-North Carolina's top two scorers, Ed Davis and Deon Thompson, combined to scored eight points- 23 below their average.

And considering how poorly Clemson shot in the second half- the Tigers failed to make a three pointer in 11 attempts, and shot just 10-of-28 (35 percent) overall -it could have been worse. Much worse.

But in the end, remember, all it is, even if it did come against the defending National Champions, is one ACC victory.

Wednesday's win didn't clinch a bid in the NCAA Tournament, nor did it win the ACC Tournament, like it could have in 2008. It didn't even end "the streak."

But it sure was sweet.

"It's always satisfying when you beat a Duke or a North Carolina or any team like that with a storied program, but I don't look at it that way," Purnell said. "This is an early ACC win, which is good for our team, but you don't see me smiling yet."

Call it payback. Sort of.

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