Here is a look at the good and the bad from UNC's 11th loss in 23 games and seventh defeat in 11 Atlantic Coast Conference contests.
Raymond Felton – Felton's ascension as a player, leader, and clutch performer continued on Saturday. He missed two key late shots, but also hit some big ones to get to that point. The Latta, S.C., freshman finished with 19 points and seven assists with just one turnover. He was only 6-18 from the field, but as is often the case, UNC's often-inept offensive approach forced Felton to take some tough shots, hurting his FG percentage. His defense was solid as well.
Jackie Manuel – Manuel still has a lot of issues offensively – he dribbles when getting the ball right away with almost every touch, is rarely successful driving to the hole, doesn't catch the ball all that well, and takes a healthy handful of ill-advised shots – but he also works as hard as any Tar Heel, is a great defensive player, a capable offensive rebounder for his thin 6-foot-5 frame, and even offensively has made strides in recent weeks. Although his assist-to-turnover ratio has been poor, he doesn't appear to make as many mistakes as earlier in the season. On Saturday, he dropped a career-high 16 points on the Tigers and got to the free throw line - another recent improvement - six times as well.
Rashad McCants – McCants didn't really do anything special that warrants a mention here except for putting up decent stats (15 points on 5-11 shooting). His overall performance was okay, although he could have been a bit more aggressive on offense and snared a couple more rebounds. But he did nail some big shots.
Free throw shooting – The Heels haven't been great at the line this season, but did convert 13 of 17 (76.5 percent) on Saturday.
Last 4:10 - UNC didn't handle the end of the game well at all. Aside from not calling a timeout, The Heels' offensive execution was plain bad. Williams' 3-point attempt with just over three minutes left would have normally been a quality shot in the game's first 34 minutes, but not ahead 75-73 and so early in a possession. Felton could have passed up his attempted 3 with 22 seconds left as well, as UNC had plenty of time to get a better look. But this team's impatience (youth, coaching, or a combination of the two?) and inability to consistently get good looks when needed should concern Carolina fans. The Heels missed their final five shots.
Boxing out/rebounding - The Heels have rarely been so consistently bad at boxing out as they were on Saturday. There were numerous times when Clemson would grab one of its 18 offensive boards when NONE of UNC's players even attempted to box out. Trying to and getting beaten on the play is bad enough, but making little effort is inexcusable. Overall, Clemson outboarded Carolina 42-27. The Heels had just 10 defensive rebounds. UNC was also outrebounded 8-3 over the last 4:10 of the game, in which Clemson scored seven of the game's final nine points. Of the Tigers' last eight boards, half were on the offensive end.
Interior defense – UNC allowed too many lightly challenged shots inside, often because of slow reaction to cuts and entry passes. This occurred when Carolina was employing its halfcourt trap and a Clemson big man would either already be open in the paint or would slash to the basket. Because the trap pulled the Heels' entire unit away from the basket, their big men were forced to react when Clemson beat the traps. There is no way that Jawad Williams, Byron Sanders, and David Noel are as slow as they appeared on Saturday. It was just one of those days.
FG % defense – Clemson hit a bunch of very tough shots, but the Tigers still shot 54.9% (28-51) from the field, including 43.8% (7-16) from 3-point range.
No timeout? - Why didn't Carolina call a timeout during either of its last two possessions? The Heels were once again in a field goal drought, which lasted the final 4:10 of the game, and it would have made sense for Doherty to gather the team and give direct instructions to get a quality shot off. Now, it's not always a bad decision to let the team go as he did, and perhaps may have set up a play during a timeout when Edward Scott was to shoot free throws, but with the trouble this club has in such situations it would have been the right thing to do.
No continuance – As with most young teams, Carolina has had trouble stringing together more than a handful of quality performances. After two excellent efforts in losses to Wake Forest and Duke and a solid game in a must-win victory over FSU, the Heels popped Virginia. But they couldn't get back to that level against a Clemson team that was more than conquerable. The inconsistencies reach virtually every facet of what takes place in a basketball game, and at Littlejohn, UNC's overall performance was very different than it was against UVa. Youth is only somewhat a justifiable excuse. Doherty's game plan against Virginia was brilliant, but on Saturday it wasn't. There was no continuance in game plan, and hence none in performance either.
Droughts – UNC went through more impotent phases again. The Heels went 4:03 in the first half with just one field goal, 4:23 in the second half with a single field goal, and closed the final 4:10 without a basket – being outscored 7-2 by the Tigers over that final stretch. Many teams go through four-minute scoreless or basketless periods, but UNC had three of them, with the final coming at the worst possible time.
The Tar Heels return home Tuesday night to take on winless North Carolina A&T. The Aggies are coached by former Tar Heel and Matt Doherty teammates Curtis Hunter. Game time is 8 p.m. and will be televised regionally by Raycom.
Senior writer Andrew Jones is in his seventh year with Inside Carolina. He also covers the ACC for the Wilmington Star-News/Morning Star and can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.