Tigers stun Heels, 81-72

CLEMSON, S.C. – When Shawan Robinson nailed his fifth 3-pointer of the game with 4:38 left to play, only a miracle could save North Carolina. But those have come few and far between for the traveling Tar Heels, which felt the sting of an 81-72 loss at last place Clemson on Saturday.

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    "We were getting real good looks," said Robinson, whose career-high 24 points led five Tigers in double-figures.

    UNC lost its 10th-straight conference road game spanning two seasons, while blowing a perfect opportunity to make a move in the league standings. Instead the Tar Heels (13-5, 3-4 ACC) slipped back to the ACC's second division, while a Thursday night date with No. 1 Duke looms on the horizon.

    "We're not really worried about the standings right now; we're just taking it one game at the time," said Rashad McCants, who led the Tar Heels with 26 points. "I just know we need to win on the road; it's very simple."

    Perhaps it's not that simple. After a two-game winning streak, the Tar Heels appeared close to recovering from their sluggish start to the conference season. So this one will take a while for Carolina and its fans to digest, as the roller coaster ride continues.

    One day they're up, the next day they're down.

    A blown 24-point lead down the stretch at Florida State was frustrating, but so were the perimeter defensive lapses Carolina suffered through all afternoon at Clemson.

    "We're the remedy for anybody that is having shooting woes right now," UNC coach Roy Williams said.

    The Tigers (9-10, 2-6 ACC), which entered the game converting a meager 23-percent of their shots from beyond the arc, made 11-of-13 3-pointers. Clemson's school-record 84.6-percent from 3-point range was also the highest percentage ever given up by a Tar Heels' team, topping an 8-of-12 outing by Richmond in a loss to UNC on Nov. 28, 1987.

    "They kept leaving people, and we we're just knocking down shots," Robinson said. "I haven't changed anything in my shot, but tonight they were falling. Chris Hobbs was looking out from the post and the others kept finding me on the wing."

    Hobbs, a Chapel Hill native who has participated in three of Clemson's wins over the Tar Heels, finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.

    As a team, the Tigers out-rebounded UNC 34-27.

    "This means so much to me," Hobbs said. "The fan support is just unbelievable. Every time they come here, the fans are on their back."

    As hot as the Tigers were from beyond the arc, Carolina was cold as ice, converting 6-of-19 3-pointers. McCants was just 1-of-6 from bonus land.

    "Every time we came down and hit two, they hit three," McCants said. "If they don't hit two-thirds of those shots, we're in the game. I guess we over pressured a little bit, and they got open shots and knocked them down."

    Led by Olu Babalola's 12 first half points, Clemson went on a 14-0 run, holding UNC scoreless for 8:18 to open a nine-point lead. Carolina pulled back within a field goal, before the Tigers recovered and took a 43-34 lead into halftime.

    "We went zone and stopped them a few times," Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. "Then they through a lob against it so we got out of it. Basically, we just tried to get in and out of stuff defensively."

    The Tar Heels would continue to whittle at the lead throughout the remainder of the game, but every time they would get the deficit down to a working margin, Robinson, Babalola, Chey Christie or Vernon Hamilton would drop another bomb on UNC's comeback effort.

    "Clemson really made plays today," Williams said. "They made some big time shots."

    An ineffective Sean May (8 points, 3 rebounds) spent the final 6:36 on the bench.

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