Clemson, SC (SportsNetwork.com) - The 19th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels and Clemson Tigers will begin play in the ACC when the two schools square off at Littlejohn Coliseum on Saturday evening.
Roy Williams' Tar Heels are clinging to their spot in the Top-25 with strong play of late. The team has reeled off four straight victories since a 6-3 start to the season and comes into league play off an 86-64 rout of William & Mary. UNC is 50-11 all-time in ACC openers, although it has lost its last two league lid-lifters.
Brad Brownell's Tigers will be closing out a three-game homestand with this contest. Clemson has won two straight and four of its last five games to sit at 8-4 on the year. The team has knocked off Oakland (70-60) and Robert Morris (64-57) in the first two legs of this homestand. Brownell will earn his 250th career victory with the team's next win.
UNC holds a huge 128-20 edge in the all-time series with Clemson, including a 26-13 mark at Littlejohn Coliseum. The Tar Heels have claimed victory in 16 of the last 17 meetings.
The Tar Heels jumped all over the Tribe early on, shooting a scorching .656 from the floor in the first half and effectively putting the game out of reach, taking a 49-27 lead into halftime. UNC cooled off considerably after the break, converting just 34.5 percent from the floor, but William & Mary couldn't take advantage, despite a strong comeback bid over the final 20 minutes. J.P. Tokoto led the way for North Carolina with a 19-point, 10- rebound double-double. Marcus Paige finished with 14 points and six assists, while Nate Britt chipped in with 11 points.
When North Carolina is on, this is an extremely tough team to keep pace with. The Tar Heels enter league play shooting .460 from the field overall and averaging 81.3 ppg. In addition, the team has dominated play on the boards, and currently boasts of a +9.7 rebounding margin. Paige is a difference maker in the backcourt and leads the team in scoring at 13.6 ppg. Big man Kennedy Meeks provides frontcourt balance. The 6-9, 270-pound sophomore is converting over 62 percent from the floor and is averaging 12.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. Depth comes in the form of Brice Johnson (11.6 ppg), Justin Jackson (9.6 ppg) and Tokoto (9.4 ppg).
Clemson's approach is more defensive in nature. The Tigers come into conference play allowing a mere 61.7 ppg, as foes are shooting under 40 percent from the floor overall (.392) and just over 30 percent from behind the arc (.308). Offensively, it is sophomore forward Jaron Blossomgame that leads the attack, as he paces the team in both scoring (13.7 ppg) and rebounding (8.6 rpg). Despite putting up a modest 66.5 ppg, Clemson has scoring depth, as both Demarcus Harrison (11.0 ppg) and Donte Grantham (10.3 ppg) are in double figures, while Landry Nnoko (9.9 ppg) and Rod Hall (9.5 ppg) are just under that mark.
The Tigers got another strong effort from Blossomgame, fueling the seven-point win over Robert Morris last time out. Blossomgame recorded a double-double, going 6-of-9 from the floor and tallying 16 points and 12 rebounds in the win. Grantham and Harrison played big roles as well, finishing with 13 and 11 points, respectively.