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Previewing Clemson

No. 7 North Carolina opens ACC play in December for the first time since the 2004-05 season on Wednesday against Clemson. Tip-off at the Smith Center is set for 7 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2.

North Carolina (11-2) vs. Clemson (7-5)
Chapel Hill, N.C. – Smith Center
Wednesday, 7 p.m.
ESPN2 (Dave O’Brien, Jay Bilas)

Quotable

“We’re just struggling right now because we don’t have a great perimeter driver to break teams down. It makes it hard for us.” – Clemson head coach Brad Brownell on his team’s offensive struggles following last week’s loss at Georgia

PREGAME NOTES

Season to Date: Clemson enters Wednesday’s contest with a 7-5 record. After winning six of their first eight games, the Tigers have dropped three of their last four, beginning with a 51-50 loss to Alabama and ending with a 23-point blowout at Georgia on Dec. 22. Clemson’s best win to date is likely a 76-58 decision over Rutgers, which is ranked No. 244 in the RPI.

A Blossoming Game: Junior forward Jaron Blossomgame has improved his status as Clemson’s primary offensive weapon, averaging 15.4 points per game on 55 percent shooting. He’s also the Tigers’ biggest threat on the boards, averaging a team-high 6.9 rebounds per contest, as well as a capable outside shooter (42.9 percent on 28 3-point attempts). Blossomgame will give UNC’s interior defense a legitimate test to start conference play.

Perimeter Threat: Donte Grantham has the most potential on the Clemson roster to capitalize on UNC’s struggles at defending the 3-point shot. The sophomore guard leads the Tigers in made 3-pointers with 24 through 12 games, knocking down 36.9 percent of his attempts. He’s a high-volume outside shooter who has potential to stretch the floor in tandem with Blossomgame’s post work. Clemson ranks 87th nationally in made 3-pointers (8.1) and 135th in 3-point field goal percentage (35.3), while UNC ranks 316th in 3-point field goal percentage defense (38.2).

Offensive Struggles: Brad Brownell’s grind-it-out style is made all the more difficult to execute when the shots fall to fall as has been the case this season. Clemson is shooting 43.3 percent from the floor (204th nationally), although its aforementioned success from long range boosts its effective field goal percentage to 50.4 (132nd), according to kenpom.com. Each of the Tigers’ wins this season has come when holding the opponent to under 60 points. Conversely, North Carolina has scored more than 89 points in each of its last nine games.

Thought It Was a Drought: Clemson has lost its last two games, both largely in part due to backbreaking first-half droughts. Against South Carolina on Dec. 18, Clemson allowed a 24-1 run, turning a 13-9 lead into a 35-14 deficit. Against Georgia four days later, the Tigers again built an early lead, this time up 13-5, but watched it crumble after the Bulldogs ignited a 23-3 run. Clemson’s lone field goal in the final 11:15 of the first half against Georgia can on a buzzer beater.

Stats of Note: Clemson has a winning record due to a combination of solid defense and taking care of the basketball. The Tigers rank 58th nationally in field goal percentage defense (39.4), 41st in assist-turnover ratio (1.38) and 20th in turnovers per game (10.4).

Last Meeting: Justin Jackson scored 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting in leading UNC past Clemson, 74-50, at Littlejohn Coliseum on Jan. 3, 2015. Kennedy Meeks added 12 points and 12 rebounds. The Tar Heels held the Tigers to 28.3 percent shooting, including a 17.9 percent effort in the first half.

Series History: UNC leads the all-time series, 129-20, and has won 17 of the last 18 meetings. Clemson is 0-57 all-time in Chapel Hill, which is the longest such losing streak by one program to another in NCAA history.

Projected Starters:
12 Avry Holmes (6-2, 195, Jr.) – 9.8 ppg, 3.2 apg
20 Jordan Roper (6-0, 165, Sr.) - 8.1 ppg, 3.7 apg
15 Donte Grantham (6-8, 210, So.) - 10.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg
5 Jaron Blossomgame (6-7, 220, Jr.) - 15.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg
50 Sidy Djitte (6-10, 240, Jr.) - 4.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg

Top Reserves:
35 Landry Nnoko (6-10, 255, Sr.) - 8.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg
10 Gabe DeVoe (6-3, 205, So.) – 5.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg

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