Clemson head coach Brad Brownell after win over UNC. BART BOATWRIGHT/Staff
CLEMSON – Well, the streak in Chapel Hill may live on, but the one at Littlejohn Coliseum came to a halt Tuesday night.
No. 20 Clemson jumped out to a 16-point halftime lead, then held on for an 82-78 victory against 17th-ranked North Carolina in Atlantic Coast Conference play Tuesday night at Littlejohn Coliseum.
The victory snapped a 10-game losing streak against North Carolina, including a four-game losing streak at Littlejohn, that dated to the 2010 season.
The win boosted the Tigers’ record to 18-4 overall as they continued pursuit of their first NCAA Tournament bid since the 2010-11 season. Clemson also moved to 7-3 in the ACC and into a tie for third place with preseason favorite Duke in the league standings.
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell reacts after a Tiger basket and foul by North Carolina during the 2nd half on Tuesday, January 30, 2018, at Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum.
(Photo: BART BOATWRIGHT/Staff)
Clemson was picked to finish 13th in the ACC preseason poll.
The Tigers improved to 12-0 at home this season and are 6-1 in games decided by five points or less.
Even as Tuesday night’s game drew close in the second half, Clemson coach Brad Brownell reminded his team to savor the experience.
“One time I told them to smile, let’s enjoy this moment,” Brownell said. “We’ve got a sellout crowd, we’re playing well. Let’s enjoy what we’re doing.
“Fortunately, we’ve got good players and they made big plays.”
They had to.
Playing their third game since losing senior forward Donte Grantham to a season-ending knee injury and its first without Mark Donnal, who is in concussion protocol after a blow to the head Sunday at Georgia Tech, the Tigers led by 15 four minutes into the second half, but the Tar Heels went on a 13-1 run to pull within three points, 52-49, with 11:19 left. Clemson responded by pushing its lead back to 10, but North Carolina methodically chipped away at the Tigers’ lead and eventually tied the game at 74 with 2:04 remaining.
That’s when junior guard Marcquise Reed took over. He buried a 3-pointer from the left wing to give Clemson the lead for good with 1:41 left, then had a nifty under-the-basket assist to Elijah Thomas for an easy layup with 27 seconds remaining.
Fellow guard Shelton Mitchell made three of four free throws in the final 16 seconds to seal the win.
Clemson fans storm the court after the Tiger’s 82-78 win over North Carolina on Tuesday, January 30, 2018, at Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum.
Reed filled the stat sheet. He played 37 minutes without a turnover and led the Tigers in scoring (20), rebounds (8) and assists (5).
Mitchell finished with 14 points while Gabe DeVoe had 17. DeVoe made five 3-pointers for a second straight game and is shooting 47.5 percent from beyond the arc over the Tigers’ six games.
Clemson guard Gabe DeVoe (10) shoots a jump shot over North Carolina guard Cameron Johnson (13) during the 1st half on Tuesday, January 30, 2018, at Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum.
“When our three perimeter guys are rolling, they’re pretty good players,” Brownell said. “We really attacked them early and we were trying to play with them pace-wise. We wanted the crowd to get into the game. That helped us. It set a mindset for our team that was real good.”
Clemson’s first 21 points all came on 3-point shots as they build an early 21-9 lead. The Tigers kept the pressure on and took a 16-point lead – their largest of the game – when freshman Clyde Trapp made a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
North Carolina, the defending national champion and picked second in the ACC preseason poll, fell to 16-7 (5-5) with its third consecutive loss. It marked the first time the Tar Heels have lost three consecutive games since January of 2014.
Clemson forward David Skara (24) guards North Carolina forward Luke Maye (32) during the 1st half on Tuesday, January 30, 2018, at Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum.
Guard Cam Johnson led North Carolina with 32 points. The graduate transfer from Pittsburgh made 6-of-10 3-pointers and in two games against Clemson this season has made 12 from long range – the same number he’s totaled against all of the Tar Heels’ other opponents combined.
Senior guard Joel Berry II added 27 points, including 19 in the second half. Clemson held Luke Maye, North Carolina’s leading scorer in check, to only four points.