Published November 20, 2014
Any chance Clemson had Saturday of earning the program's first win at North Carolina ended during a 2-minute stretch of missed chances.
After cutting a 15-point deficit to six, the Tigers came up empty on four straight possessions that could have increased the pressure on the eighth-ranked Tar Heels to protect their perfect record against Clemson in Chapel Hill. Instead, the Tar Heels went on to blow the game open in a 74-52 victory.
"To that point, we hadn't played as well as we wanted to, so we definitely had a chance to try to steal this one," Clemson's Andre Young said. "But we just kind of broke down halfway through the second half."
Tanner Smith knocked down a 3-pointer and followed with a transition layup to make it 47-41 at the 12-minute mark. But Smith threw a ball out of bounds, then Milton Jennings traveled. Next came an offensive foul on K.J. McDaniels, followed by an airball from Young.
Once John Henson scored inside for UNC, the opportunity had passed.
"That's the end of the game," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. "Certainly they capitalized. We needed to play better in that stretch."
For North Carolina, Harrison Barnes scored 24 points to lead the team.
Tyler Zeller added 14 points for the Tar Heels (23-4, 10-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who improved to 56-0 all-time here against Clemson (13-13, 5-7). That's an NCAA record for the most consecutive home wins against one opponent.
The Tar Heels didn't look particularly sharp in this one, yet they weren't in any serious danger of fumbling away that long winning streak against the Tigers, either.
Henson added 13 points for the Tar Heels, while Kendall Marshall had 13 assists.
Young scored 13 points to lead the Tigers, who shot 38 percent.
With the win, the Tar Heels kept pace with No. 20 Florida State in a tie atop the league standings. The Seminoles won 76-62 at North Carolina State earlier Saturday, while fifth-ranked Duke can make it a three-way tie again by winning Sunday at Boston College.
North Carolina shot 49 percent, finished with a 39-26 rebounding advantage and went ahead for good midway through the first half. But coach Roy Williams frequently looked flustered by his team's cruise-control demeanor for much of the second half, too.
By the time Barnes hit a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock with 90 seconds left, UNC led 72-50. And there were soon the familiar chants of "You can't win here!" coming from the Smith Center stands.
Williams had waved off fans from continuing that cheer in past years. This time it was Marshall, who had already checked out of the game for the afternoon with the victory in hand.