CHAPEL HILL–The North Carolina men’s basketball team ran away from Clemson 80-61 in a determined effort to improve to 12-7 on the season and 2-4 in the ACC while keeping intact the home unbeaten streak, now at 57, against the Tigers Sunday night in the Smith Center.
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With the loss, Clemson dropped to 13-6 on the year and 4-3 in conference play. The Tiger offense struggled to cope with the inspired defensive play of Carolina.
“You’ve heard me say that you shouldn’t have to coach effort. It’s like the stock market. You can’t make money if you don’t invest. It’s basketball. You can’t get success unless you really invest,” Coach Williams said after the game.
The intensity and effort level was certainly ratcheted up by the Tar Heels in the contest, establishing authority early on with hustle plays and an unselfish offensive game plan.
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James Michael McAdoo led the scoring charge for Carolina with 22 points, his 12th straight game scoring in double figures while Marcus Paige and Leslie McDonald provided double figure point outings of their own to guide the Tar Heels to the comfortable victory. Kennedy Meeks displayed more progress in his freshman season with some physical play around the rim.
Clemson star K.J. McDaniels finished with 13 points to lead the visiting team that displayed poor shooting, amassing a mere 34 percent clip from the field as a team.
Coach Williams said it was his team’s spike in intensity that made the difference in the contest.
“Playing with that sense of urgency that we had today certainly makes you feel better in the locker room. I told them when I got in there it feels a lot better when you invest more,” Coach Williams said.
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The opening tip was won for the Tar Heels by McAdoo, and he found J.P. Tokoto inside for a quick score to gain the early lead.
Meeks followed with a two-point jumper that staked UNC out to a 4-0 advantage. A defensive block by Meeks ignited the crowd on the other end of the floor.
McDaniels ran right by Paige, though, to get Clemson’s first points on the board. Paige and McAdoo each picked up early fouls in the contest.
With 17:18 left in the first half, the Tar Heels maintained a 6-3 lead thanks to a McDonald shot that found the nets.
McDaniels tipped one through the basket to spur the Tiger charge, and McAdoo responded with a nice play of his own on the other end to give UNC the 10-7 lead with 15:30 to play.
Meeks muscled his way to the basket and a score to get the three-point advantage for the home team. With 14:08 remaining in the first half, Carolina held a 12-9 lead.
Nate Britt popped a deep two-point jumper to hand the Tar Heels a 14-9 lead. The defensive pressure by UNC was taking an early toll on Clemson.
Offensive rebounds helped the Clemson cause on the next possession. With 11:36 to go in the opening half, Carolina held a 14-11 advantage.
McDaniels knocked down a pair of free throws to tally his seventh and eighth points of the contest. Brice Johnson got in on the scoring fray next, and he earned a trip to the charity stripe as well to get Carolina the 17-13 lead.
Meeks displayed some battling qualities in the paint, resulting in free throw opportunities. He made one.
Isaiah Hicks was inserted into the lineup for the first time on the night, and he didn’t waste time making an impact, scoring on UNC’s next possession to give the Tar Heels the 21-14 lead with 8:40 to go in the half.
Leslie McDonald was left open, and he took full advantage, netting a three-pointer to the delight of the Smith Center crowd.
With 6:20 to play in the first half, Carolina maintained a relatively comfortable 25-16 lead.
A hustle play by McAdoo saved the ball and kept it alive. McDonald received a breakaway pass inside, and he promptly made the layup to stake the Tar Heels out to a 27-16 lead, the largest of the game.
The UNC defense was emboldened by the athletic block by Desmond Hubert. Meanwhile, the UNC offense was playing unselfishly, spreading the ball around.
Britt hit his second three-pointer of the season to get UNC a 31-16 lead with 3:30 to play before halftime.
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Meeks’ effort level on the night was tremendous, shoving the ball through the nets. UNC led Clemson 35-20 with 1:17 left on the first half clock.
The players ran into the locker room with the scoreboard reading 37-21 in favor of the Tar Heels.
McAdoo led the Tar Heels in scoring with nine points while McDonald and Meeks followed with 7 points apiece.
The second half got underway with a quick Tar Heel score, and then Clemson answered with a successful trip to the foul line to place the score at 39-23.
Paige popped a three-pointer to ignite the Tar Heel faithful and extend the lead out to 42-23 with 17:11 to go in the contest.
McAdoo finished at the rim next. Carolina was clicking on all cylinders with a steal and then an emphatic slam finished off by McAdoo.
A timeout was called with 16:19 to play. UNC had built a 46-23 cushion.
A beautiful spin move produced a score for Meeks, and the game was quickly getting away from the Tigers.
Desperation was settling in for Clemson as the players resorted to throwing up deep three-point attempts for low percentage plays. Meanwhile Paige knocked down a three-pointer for UNC on the ensuing possession.
Clemson finally scored their first points of the half seven minutes into it. But the poor shooting continued to plague Head Coach Brad Brownell’s squad.
With 12:05 to go in the game, Carolina was leading 56-28.
McDonald made a three-pointer for UNC to get in double figures on the night and extend the margin out to 30 points.
A timeout was called at the 7:34 mark in the second half with Carolina leading 66-39, in full command.
Tokoto survived contact inside and banked the ball off the glass for a score that only continued the Tar Heel dominance.
Tiger Rod Hall netted a deep three-point attempt for a rare positive offensive play for Clemson on this night.
But Clemson was never able to make significant inroads in the game. The Tar Heels snagged the victory and extended the home winning streak against the Tigers to 57.
Next up for the Tar Heels is a trip down to Atlanta to face the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Wednesday for a 7:00 p.m. tipoff. Our pregame coverage on WCHL begins at 5:30 p.m.
View all the game photos here.