In some ways, Saturday night’s visit to Chapel Hill, North Carolina by No. 19 Clemson to face North Carolina marks a long-awaited rematch for host Tar Heels.
This will be the first Clemson-North Carolina meeting since last January’s historic outcome. That’s when the Tigers first won at Chapel Hill, ending a 0-for-59 mark courtesy of a wild comeback. Aamir Simms was one of Clemson’s heroes in last season’s 79-76 overtime win at Chapel Hill, with the Tigers eliminating a 10-point deficit in the final two minutes of regulation time. Simms scored 20 points, including a triple that forced overtime.
The Tigers are realizing they don’t always have to count on him. Alex Hemenway has clashed recently.
“Alex has a temper always about him,” said Clemson coach Brad Brownell. “He doesn’t get too high or too low, and that’s one of his strengths. We have a lot of confidence in him.”
The Tar Heels have been involved in closer results in their last two games. They have won back-to-back games, 66-65 against Notre Dame and then 67-65 on Wednesday night in Miami, by two points or less for the first time since 2017 when they beat Kentucky 75-73 and then Oregon 77-76. in the regional final and national semifinal of the NCAA tournament, respectively.
The latest closed calls have been filled with nervous moments for the Tar Heels (7-4, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who have fallen from the national rankings.
“We have to stop losing the ball, that’s the most important thing,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. “This is not biddy basketball. Sometimes you have to figure it out and play better.”
Clemson (9-1, 3-1) has found ways to win, too, including in overtime 74-70 Tuesday night against visiting North Carolina state.
Second-year backup guard Nick Honor led the Tigers with a season-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including the game-tied 3-pointer in the final minute of regulation time. Made five of six attempts from beyond the arc.
“Nick hit shots and gave us a big boost of confidence,” Brownell said.
North Carolina hit nine 3-pointers at Miami, the season-high. That included 45 percent shooting from long range, the best of the season.
However, the Tar Heels’ 20 turnovers were concerning. North Carolina somehow prevailed despite combining 2 of 14 shots with seven turnovers for point guards Caleb Love and RJ Davis.
“We have to play better,” Williams said. “They’re both terribly throwing the ball and they’re good shooters. Sometimes you have to be a man and start shooting.”
North Carolina can be cheered on by junior guard Leaky Black, who took the winning shot last weekend against Notre Dame and followed with 16 points, his personal best, in Miami.
Moving Garrison Brooks forward at a pace is considered crucial for the Tar Heels.
“You just have to get the feeling back,” Williams said. “… Garrison has to be Garrison again, and if he does, it will really help our team.”
Meanwhile, Day’Ron Sharpe has given the Tar Heels a boost in the position. He had 16 rebounds in Miami’s game, tying for second-highest for a rookie from North Carolina.
For the Tar Heels, this game begins a stretch with three home games in a four-game span. They are 3-0 at home, although they were scheduled for just two home games in their first nine games for the fewest starts at Chapel Hill since the 2007-08 season.
This is the first of two meetings scheduled between Clemson and North Carolina this season.
–Field level media
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.