CLEMSON, S.C. – Joel Berry scored 23 of his career-high 31 points after halftime as No. 14 North Carolina charged past Clemson at Littlejohn Coliseum for an 89-86 overtime victory on Tuesday.
The junior point guard closed 2016 in a brief funk, shooting 26.9 percent over his last three games. Berry matched his field goal total of the previous three games (7) in the first 12:36 of the second half.
Berry regained his footing in the first half with eight points on 3-for-6 shooting (2-of-4 3FG) before exploding for 21 of UNC's 30 points over a 10-minute, 40-second stretch midway through the second half.
"At that time he was the only person that was scoring, so it was big for us," UNC head coach Roy Williams said during his postgame press conference. "When you do that, it shows some toughness because he didn’t play very well on Saturday. He missed a bunch of shots, 3-13. Sometimes it goes in, sometimes it doesn’t. He made some big time shots tonight, though."
Berry was 9-for-13 after halftime, including a 5-for-6 effort from long range. His previous scoring high was 24 points against Oklahoma State in Maui in November, and his previous 3-point career high was five against Virginia on Feb. 27, 2016.
"Once I came out tonight, I just felt good," Berry said. "I hit my first three, and when it came off my hand, I was like, 'Yeah, this is going to be a big night.'"
Meeks Nets Double-Double
With Clemson leading 82-81 in overtime, Nate Britt’s driving layup missed its mark. Fortunately for UNC, Kennedy Meeks was there for the offensive rebound and putback. It was a common occurrence throughout the night as the senior forward tied his career high with 16 rebounds and set a new career high with 10 offensive rebounds.
Meeks also scored 14 points for his fifth double-double of the season.
Heels Own the Glass
The Tar Heels’ work on the offensive glass kept their deficit to a manageable spread throughout the first half until they were finally able to create some momentum and regain the lead at 50-49 with 14:54 to play. UNC held an 11-2 offensive rebounding edge in the first half, resulting in a 14-2 advantage in second-chance points. That differential only grew after halftime, as the Tar Heels finished with a 23-3 edge in second-chance points.
The Tigers, who entered the game ranked 291st nationally in opponents’ offensive rebounding percentage, were unable to keep Meeks (10) and Isaiah Hicks (4) off the offensive glass.
UNC outrebounded Clemson, 51-32, including a 23-10 OR margin.
Turnovers Trip Up Heels
The Tigers scored 18 points off 18 Tar Heel turnovers. Of the seven in the first half, four were live-ball miscues that yielded nine points, including three layups or dunks in transition. The Tar Heels coughed up 10 turnovers after halftime, including a pair by Berry in the final minute of the game.
UNC, which averaged 12.5 turnovers through its first 13 games, has its three highest turnover totals of the season in its last three games (17, 20, 18).
Heels Finally Find Shooting Touch
UNC shot 33.3 percent from the floor in both halves – 12-of-36 in each - in its loss at Georgia Tech on Saturday. Those struggles continued in the first half on Tuesday as the Tar Heels shot 41.7 percent on 15-of-36 shooting.
UNC, due in large part to Berry’s hot hand, converted 45.5 percent of its field goal attempts in the second half.
Hicks Fouls Out… Again
Isaiah Hicks fouled out on a moving screen whistle in overtime, marking the third time he’s fouled out this season. The senior forward is averaging four fouls per game over UNC’s last seven contests.
Williams improved to 4-0 over Clemson in overtime games. The Tar Heels are 10-9 in overtime games during the Williams era, and have won seven of their last nine.
UNC opens its home ACC slate against rival N.C. State in primetime on Saturday. Mark Gottfried’s Wolfpack are 11-3 (0-1 ACC) and host upstart Virginia Tech on Wednesday.