CHAPEL HILL– The North Carolina men’s basketball team, 11-7 overall and 1-4 in ACC action, will defend its 56-game home unbeaten streak against Clemson, 13-5 on the season and 4-2 in conference, Sunday night in Chapel Hill.
***Listen to the story***
The 6 p.m. tip will serve as the first game action for the Tar Heels since their rough loss at Virginia on Monday night. Clemson is also coming off disappointment, falling on the road at Pittsburgh.
Head Coach Roy Williams says the Tigers will present a formidable challenge for the Tar Heels, especially defensively.
“Well first of all you look, and you say okay, they beat Duke. They beat Wake Forest, they beat Boston College at Boston College, and they beat Virginia Tech at Virginia Tech. Their results are the first thing that catches you, and they do a really nice job defensively. Teams shoot like thirty-seven something percent against them,” Coach Williams says.
Clemson Head Coach Brad Brownell says he’s pleased with the progress of his team this season, but recognizes the deficiencies in the Tiger offense.
“I think they’ve really responded. I think they’ve been very coachable and played very hard. Defensively, for most nights, we’ve been pretty good. Offensively, it’s still a little bit of a challenge for us. […] All in all, I’m very pleased with what we’re doing,” Coach Brownell says.
Clemson’s K.J. McDaniels is leading the team in points scored and rebounds per game. Coach Brownell says McDaniels’ athleticism is what sets him apart and puts him in a class with a current Tar Heel.
“Athletically, he’s like J.P. Tokoto. Those two guys are as good of athletes as there are in the league. And K.J. is on par with that in terms of playing above the rim and he can get to the rim in a few dribbles. He’s a guy who I’m really proud of because of how much he’s improved over the course of his career,” Coach Brownell says.
Clemson likes to slow the game down and grind games out. But UNC sophomore Brice Johnson, who Coach Williams calls a “wacko”, says the Tar Heels want to make Sunday a track meet.
“Play great defense and run. If they score a basket, get it out quickly and run. That’s one thing Coach always talks about just telling us to get the ball out quickly and be able to push it back up the court, push it back up somebody’s back,” Johnson says.
Coach Williams says there isn’t any aspect of the game that he hasn’t been working on with his players in practice, saying Carolina is “a jack of all trades, but a master of none” right now.
“There’s not one thing that we’re doing that I’m satisfied with. […] There is no phase of the game that we haven’t continued to work on even from a technical aspect,” Coach Williams says.
UNC has dominated the all-time series with Clemson, winning 127 of the 147 meetings. Coach Williams has only lost to the Tigers twice in his tenure as the Carolina skipper, both on the road.