Heels not looking past Tigers

CLEMSON, S.C. -- North Carolina is becoming more and more consistent entering what should be a pre-Duke tune-up at Clemson on Saturday; still its ACC road-losing streak remains intact. The Tar Heels went 0-for-2003 in conference games away from the Smith Center and remain 0-for-2004. That should provide plenty of incentive not to look past the Tigers, losers of four in a row and six of their last seven.

"I'm trying to get the guys to understand that we can win anywhere," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "I'm hopeful that we can get a couple of breakthroughs and get them to believe in that, because that's what we did in 15 years at Kansas. We got them to believe that they could win anywhere and that it didn't matter what color of blue we were wearing or what kind of red they were wearing – that type of thing."

Although the Tigers have never won a basketball game in Chapel Hill, some of Carolina's most succesful teams have struggled over the years at Death Valley. Just one example occurred on Feb. 8, 2001, when top-ranked UNC traveled to Clemson and was defeated, 75-65. The loss snapped an 18-game win streak for the Tar Heels, and began a string of five consecutive Sunday setbacks, ending with losses to Duke in the ACC Tournament final and Penn State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Tigers have won three of the last five games at home against the Tar Heels, for the first time since 1977-80. However, North Carolina holds a 21-11 advantage in the series in games played at Littlejohn. North Carolina has more wins than any other opponent in the 36-year-old facility.

"When you are in a very tough league, the home court advantage is a universal thing," Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. "You've got people cheering for you and you go through your regular routine – all those kinds of things play into a team being very comfortable at home. A team has to be very tough-minded to go on the road and play well."

In UNC's (13-4, 3-3 ACC) last two wins, the most effective offensive and defensive stretches have come in the second half. The corner appears to have been turned, as the Tar Heels inconsistent play that led to a 1-3 league start is becoming less evident with every game.

Although playing catch up in the standings was not of its choosing, Carolina is entering every match-up focused on the issue at hand, knowing full well a loss to Clemson (8-10, 1-6 ACC), would severely cripple the Tar Heels' hopes of finishing at or near the top come tournament time.

"We can't go down there thinking that we have a win," Raymond Felton said. "We have to play everybody in the ACC, no matter who it is. Clemson is a good team; they beat us down there last year."

Carolina's pressure defense has been pleasing to its coach over the last several games. The Tar Heels have forced its opponents into 20 or more turnovers in six of their last seven contests, and eight out of their last 10.

"You've got to have intensity and a sense of urgency on every single play," Williams said. "You've got to have pride that [defense] is an important part of the game, and you've got to do it every time down the court."

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