Tigers win 3 out of 4 on Heels for first time in series history
Clemson got 14 points and nine rebounds from Clyde Trapp and another 10 points, six rebounds and five assists from Aamir Simms, as the Tigers beat North Carolina in back-to-back meetings for the fourth time in history with a 63-50 victory Tuesday at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson.
It also marked the first time in history that Clemson has won three out of four meetings against the Tar Heels.
“Tremendous win, North Carolina has been playing good basketball and our guys were really ready,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “I thought we competed well, and they played with great physicality. We really covered all the areas tonight. We only turned it over seven times and held them to seven offensive rebounds. I am just proud of the physicality with which we played and Clyde and Aamir played like seniors.”
Hunter Tyson added 16 points, all coming in the second half, as Clemson ran away from UNC in the last four minutes of the game. Al-Amir Dawes sealed the victory when he drove the lane with 1:52 to play and went up-and-under a UNC defender to hit a layup as the shot clock expired. That gave Clemson a 54-43 lead at the time.
“It’s a huge confidence booster,” Tyson said. “It’s really not about who we are playing but how we are playing. When we come out and play like that with maximum effort that’s when we play like who we are.”
Despite being outrebound by 10, the Tigers (11-5, 5-5 ACC) outscored a much bigger UNC team, 26-18, in the paint.
The Tar Heels (11-6, 6-4) had won six of their last seven games coming into the night. Clemson on the other hand was struggling, and had lost four of its last five games, all by wide margins, including a 26-point loss at Duke this past Saturday.
“When we got back from Duke, we usually meet for a few seconds, but we met for an hour and a half,” Simms said. “(Brownell) questioned our effort, grit and intensity and that’s something you don’t like as a man. I think a lot of guys took that personally. He challenged us about our integrity fight and grit, and I think our whole team responded really well.”
Tuesday night marked the fourth time this year Clemson has held the opposition to 50 or less points. The Tigers won all four games and are now 49-2 under Brownell when that happens.
“We knew we haven’t been playing our best basketball and we wanted to get back to us,” Trapp said. “Everybody focused on what we had to do and what we usually do so that was the focus.”
UNC was just 11-of-21 from the foul line, while the Tigers were 9-of-12.
Clemson shot 40 percent from the field, including 35 percent from three (8-of-23).
Clemson led 33-21 at the break thanks to balance of good defense and good offense. The Tigers forced 10 UNC turnovers in the opening 20 minutes. They used those 10 turnovers for a 10-0 advantage.
The defensive effort allowed Clemson to shot 41.4 percent from the field in the opening half. But the Tigers also had one of its best shooting halves in a long time from three-point range. They connected on 6-of-15 (40.0) shots from behind the arc.
Clemson’s largest lead was 16 points in the opening half, 32-16, following a Trapp dunk with 2:12 to play before the break.
“If you are not physically ready for a fight, they will destroy you and our guys really responded to the challenge,” Brownell said. “At halftime, I wrote that it’s us against human nature right now because it doesn’t tell you to battle like that.”
The Tigers will host Syracuse at 2 p.m. The game will be televised by the ACCN.