Tar Heels Crush Clemson 74-50 To Win ACC Opener

The UNC men’s basketball team got back on track when it comes to winning ACC openers, crushing the Clemson Tigers 74-50 Saturday night at Littlejohn Coliseum.

The No. 19 Tar Heels, who dropped their last two such contests, bolstered that otherwise impressive mark to 51-11. More importantly, they won their fifth straight tilt of the season in improving to 11-3 overall, 1-0 ACC.

Both teams started slowly, with the Tar Heels leading just 7-5 five minutes in on the strength of baskets from three different players. J.P. Tokoto led the way with a jumper and free throw.

Roy Williams addresses his team (Todd Melet)

Roy Williams addresses his team (Todd Melet)

UNC led just 11-7 eight minutes in when Landry Nnoko drilled a pair of free throws for the Tigers (8-5, 0-1).

Brice Johnson’s dunk, off a terrific feed from Tokoto, put the Tar Heels up 13-7 at the 10:12 mark and seemed to spark UNC. The Heels enjoyed a 28-10 scoring run before intermission to essentially pull away for good.

Marcus Paige, who has struggled with his shot at times this season, found his rhythm in Clemson in draining three of his first four three pointers. Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson also excelled, while Justin Jackson scored nine straight points during one scintillating stretch.

Jackson led UNC with 13 points, while Meeks had 12 and Paige chipped in with 11. Meeks also dominated the boards with 12 rebounds, including five on the offensive end.

Clemson’s offense struggled mightily in the first half, due in part to a strong effort by hard-charging Tar Heel defenders. The Tigers connected on just 5 of 28 field goal attempts for a paltry 17.9 success rate.

Damarcus Harrison and Donte Grantham netted six points each in the opening 20 minutes, though the latter was 0 for 4 in three-point attempts. He wasn’t alone, as the Tigers launched 14 trey attempts with only Harrison hitting his pair.

Clemson’s bench provided little help, with Jordan Roper scoring the lone point on a free throw attempt.

Marcus Paige jumps over a Tiger defender (Todd Melet)

Marcus Paige jumps over a Tiger defender (Todd Melet)

Jaron Blossomgame led Clemson with 13 points, while Harrison was the only other Tiger to reach double-figures with 11.

Roy Williams’ troops didn’t let up after the break, with a Jackson jumper and Johnson dunk coming in the opening 90 seconds for a 43-19 advantage.

Paige continued to glide on the court, hitting a three-pointer and a running jumper as the Heels extended their lead to 54-26 with a dozen minutes remaining.

Isaiah Hicks put an exclamation mark on the Tar Heels impressive win with an emphatic dunk with 10 minutes remaining.

With huge advantages in both rebounds (49-30) and assists (20-6) and just six turnovers committed, even the hard-driving Williams had to be satisfied with the Heels on this night.

The timing for a crisp performance was ideal, with the Tar Heels facing Notre Dame on Monday night and Louisville on Saturday afternoon. Both games are at the Smith Center.



Scouting Report: A Chat with Clemson Coach Brad Brownell

WCHL’s Matt Oakes had the chance to speak with the the head coach of the Clemson Tigers, Brad Brownell, as his men’s basketball team prepares to host No. 19 North Carolina Saturday night at 8:15 p.m. The two discussed KJ McDaniels’ departure for the NBA, the rugged ACC schedule and of course, the matchup with the Tar Heels.

***Listen to the conversation***

Listen to this interview and much more in our Countdown to Tipoff pregame show starting at 6pm Saturday!


Tar Heels Hope To Tame Tigers In ACC Opener

The No. 19 North Carolina men’s basketball team sits at 10-3 on the season, but is still in search of consistent play heading into its ACC opener. Saturday night’s matchup against the 8-4 Clemson Tigers in the hostile atmosphere of Littlejohn Coliseum will be no easy hurdle to clear.

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The Tar Heels are still uncertain with what exactly they’ve got.

So far this season, they’ve shown bursts of the kind of athletic offense and lock-down defense that could rival nearly any team in the country, but then UNC has also displayed vulnerability that the players and coaching staff says is stemming from a lack of focus and intensity.

Brice Johnson extends for the dunk (Todd Melet)

Brice Johnson extends for the dunk (Todd Melet)

There could be no better time for Carolina to begin locking in for a full forty minutes of basketball than conference season.

Sophomore forward Kennedy Meeks, who’s been the most reliable performer on an inconsistent squad up to this point, says he’s bracing himself for the ACC grind ahead.

“That’s the toughest part of the year, honestly. It’s just a grind seeing the same teams twice. They’re figuring out your plays and being a lot more aggressive on defense. It’s going to be hard, but we just have to overcome and keep playing every play,” Meeks says.

Meeks even goes so far as to say the ACC gauntlet is tougher than having to face the undefeated and unanimous No. 1 team in the land, Kentucky.

“It’s definitely tougher. Like I’ve said, the grind of back-to-back games or seeing teams twice – that’s as hard as it gets seeing a team twice in a month and a half or so,” Meeks says.

The Tar Heels have seen a lot of zone defense so far this season and will likely be seeing a few more teams adopt the formation against Carolina in the conference slate.

UNC head coach Roy Williams says the big men like Meeks and Brice Johnson need to be more active inside to free up shooters like Marcus Paige and Justin Jackson.

“I said at the start of the year that I thought we’d get better as shooters. I think we have. We got to do a better job of moving against the zone. Kennedy and Brice got to do a better job for sure. Then the zone has to worry about those guys a little bit and then, we’ll have more open outside shots as well,” Coach Williams says.

The Tigers boast a trio of players averaging in double digits per game, including talented freshman Jaron Blossomgame, but UNC may get a heavy dose of Rod Hall, who’s been knocking down 50 percent of his shots from behind the arc.

Roy Williams hasn't been pleased with UNC's inconsistency (Todd Melet)

Roy Williams hasn’t been pleased with UNC’s inconsistency (Todd Melet)

Junior forward Brice Johnson says he’s under no illusions and knows any team in the ACC is capable of taking the Tar Heels down if they don’t give every opponent their full attention.

“It’s a whole different ball game once you start ACC play. Every night you have to bring it and if you don’t you’re going to get beat. We have to play with a lot more consistency than we have. We have to get ready for it,” Johnson says.

Coach Williams says he had hoped the sloppy mistakes and turnovers would have been all cleaned up by now, but nevertheless, there’s still plenty to focus on at practice.

“I think we’ve gotten better, but we made more mistakes tonight [vs. W&M] than I would hope we’d make. I would hope that we’d get rid of those mistakes four days before the first conference game. It will be a bog challenge for us in practice to focus on the things that we need to focus on to get a heck of a lot better,” Coach Williams says.

With games against Top-25 ranked Notre Dame and Louisville on deck after the Clemson excursion, the Tar Heels are running out of time to get in peak form.


Tar Heel Men’s Soccer Edges Clemson, Advances To QFs

Rob Lovejoy netted a pair of goals and goalie Brendan Moore turned aside every shot he faced except for a penalty kick to help the UNC men’s soccer team advance to the final eight in the NCAA tournament with a 2-1 road win over Clemson Sunday evening.

Lovejoy, who missed the entire 2013 season due to a torn groin muscle, was terrific in scoring his fourth and fifth goals of the season for the Tar Heels (15-5-1).

Lovejoy’s first goal came off a superbly placed corner kick by Omar Holness that he headed into the top right corner of the netting for a 1-0 lead 13 minutes in.

The senior forward’s second tally came after he burglarized the ball from Manolo Sanchez in the offensive zone and ripped a shot into the lower right corner of the goal.

The Greensboro native’s second goal came after the midpoint of the second half and snapped a 1-1 tie.

Moore was terrific throughout, using superb positioning and quickness between the pipes to shut down Clemson. The Tigers (12-7-3) lone goal came via a Kyle Fisher penalty kick that he blasted down the middle of the goal at the 23-minute mark of the opening half.

Moore started to go to his right but still nearly booted the shot away, though the force of the drive was too much to be denied. Moore still collected seven saves, compared to just a pair for Tiger netminder Andrew Tarbell.

Otherwise it was match of missed opportunities for Clemson, as Sanchez either shot wide on a few chances or was stymied by Moore. Clemson’s national title count will hold at two, while the Tar Heels will continue their pursuit for a third crown.

UNC moved on to the quarterfinals for the sixth time in the last seven years. The Tar Heels will play the winner of Sunday night’s match between No. 2 seed UCLA and 15th-seed California.


Soccer Sweet Sixteen: Tar Heels @ Tigers

The North Carolina men’s soccer team meets seventh-seeded Clemson Sunday evening at 6 p.m. at Historic Riggs Field in the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship Round of 16.

The Tar Heels, 14-5-1 on the season, advanced to the third round with a thrilling 2-1 victory at 10th-seed Charlotte last Sunday. Tyler Engel scored both goals for the Heels, including the game winner in the 89th minute.

Clemson, meanwhile, held off Coastal Carolina by the same 2-1 margin in a Monday night matchup on home turf.

The two ACC foes played earlier this season on Oct. 3 in Chapel Hill. Carolina fell behind 2-0, but the Tar Heels stormed back and won the match on a Raby George penalty kick in the 102nd minute.

But the Tigers went on the claim the ACC Championship earlier this month at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.

The winner of Sunday’s match moves on to the quarterfinals and will face the survivor from the California-UCLA contest.


UNC Defense Still Struggling To Find Its Form

The UNC defense improved against the run Saturday night at Clemson, but the big plays down the field engineered by freshman Tiger quarterback Deshaun Watson doomed the Tar Heels.

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“We didn’t make enough plays on offense, and we gave up too many big plays on defense. That’s all there was to it,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora says.

For Carolina’s much-maligned defense, Saturday was a bit of a mixed bag. The Tar Heels managed to stop the Clemson rushing attack, giving up a stingy 71 yards on the ground.

But through the air, it was another story altogether.

Clemson receiver gets in front of UNC defenders (Thestate.com)

Clemson receiver gets in front of UNC defenders (Thestate.com)

Watson torched the UNC secondary to the tune of 435 yards and six touchdowns. Watson’s six touchdowns tied an ACC record.

All in all, following Saturday, UNC’s pass defense ranks second to last nationally, ahead of only Bowling Green. Shockingly, the Tar Heels average giving up 6.62 yards per play. No power five conference team is allowing more yardage per snap of the football.

Coach Fedora says the only thing that kept UNC hanging around in the contest was their success against the run.

“There were too many major mistakes on the back end. We turned them loose. We’ll have to figure out what went wrong in those situations. We did do a much better job against the run, which gave us a chance,” Coach Fedora says.

Williams was under pressure all night at Clemson (Keepingitheel.com)

Williams was under pressure all night at Clemson (Keepingitheel.com)

On the other side of the ball, Coach Fedora says he was pleased with the play of junior signal caller Marquise Williams, especially given the duress he was under most of the night.

“I thought he stood tough the entire game. He had a lot of pressure. They have a very good defensive line. We knew that was going to happen against our offensive line. Marquise got the ball out. There were just a couple times that he held onto it. Other than that, I think he did a nice job,” Coach Fedora says.

Williams’ four touchdown passes at Clemson moved his career scoring throws up to 25, he is now just one shy of the top 10 in school history.

Looking across the field at Clemson’s quarterback, Coach Fedora says he was thoroughly impressed with the maturity of Watson in leading the Tiger attack.

“He did a really nice job. The kid can throw the ball and run it. He’s a very good player and going to be really good in the future,” Coach Fedora says.

Despite recording their second loss of the year, Coach Fedora says he was happy with the competitiveness and fight displayed by his players.

“Our guys fought. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. There was no lack of confidence that people were worried about. Our guys got after it. We just didn’t make enough plays,” Coach Fedora says.

But in order for Carolina to be successful moving forward, it’s not so much the plays they need to make; it’s the big plays they’ll need to prevent opponents from making that will likely decide UNC football’s 2014 fate.


Clemson Clobbers Carolina 50-35

The North Carolina football team fell behind 17-0 early and couldn’t recover in a 50-35 loss at Clemson Saturday night, dropping to 2-2 on the season.

With the win, the Tigers evened their record up at 2-2 on the year. For the third straight season, the Tar Heels have now dropped their conference opener

Clemson  freshman signal caller Deshaun Watson threw for 435 yards and set a school record with six touchdown passes in his first ever start to lead the Tigers to the victory.

The 19-year-old didn’t shrink in the spotlight. Watson completed 27 of his 36 passes.

Watson’s six TDs tied the ACC record and only Tajh Boyd has thrown for more yards in a game for Clemson.

The Tar Heel defense continued to struggle, giving  up 528 yards, and has now allowed its opponent to gain more than 500 yards in the past three games.

Mike Williams had six catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns for Clemson, which has scored 49 or more points in five of its last 10 ACC games.

UNC was clamping down on the run game, but Watson excelled.

Watson had a 50-yard TD pass to Hopper in the second quarter, waiting in the pocket until the last moment to drop the pass right into the receiver’s hands. Clemson gained 218 yards in the first half, with Watson’s two long passes accounting for more than half that total.

Elijah Hood led UNC in rushing yards (UNC Athletics)

Elijah Hood led UNC in rushing yards (UNC Athletics)

In the second half, Watson had two 33-yard touchdown passes and a 24-yard scoring throw before tight end Jordan Leggett jumped high in the end zone to pull in the freshman’s record-breaking TD pass.

Clemson needed Watson’s passing as the Tigers gained only 71 yards on the ground.

Artavis Scott had eight catches for 66 yards and a touchdown, while Hopper caught three passes for 139 yards and 2 TDs.

Ammon Lakip hit a 27-yard and a 45-yard field goal. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney stuck with the junior kicker after he missed two field goals in last week’s overtime loss to No. 1 Florida State.

The Tar Heels are still struggling, a week after allowing the most yards, points and first downs in school history. On Saturday night, the Tar Heels had 15 penalties, one off the school record, for 130 yards, which was 20 yards away from their worst game.

Marquise Williams was 24-of-38 for 345 yards for North Carolina and threw to 13 different receivers. Elijah Hood ran 13 times for 71 yards to lead the team in rushing.

Next up for the Tar Heels is a home contest in Chapel Hill against ACC Coastal foe Virginia Tech on Saturday, Oct. 4.



Buckingham’s Goal Powers Tar Heels Past Tigers

CLEMSON – Freshman forward Megan Buckingham scored on header with 13:01 to play in the second half to lift #9 North Carolina to a 2-1 victory over #16 Clemson in women’s soccer action at Historic Riggs Field. It was an evenly played match between the two teams before a crowd of 1,853 fans.

Buckingham’s game-winner, her second of the season, came nine minutes after Clemson had tied the game on a goal by Salma Anastasio in the 68th minute. UNC had led 1-0 since the fourth minute of the game on a goal by Joanna Boyles, assisted by Summer Green.

UNC has now won four straight matches, all against Top 20 NSCAA-ranked teams, and improves to 5-2-1 on the campaign and 2-0-0 in the ACC. Both Tar Heel conference wins have come in tough road environments at Notre Dame and Clemson. The Tigers, who started the year 7-0-1, have now dropped back-to-back matches against Top 10 teams Virginia Tech and North Carolina. Clemson is 7-2-1 overall and 0-2 in the league. UNC has now won 28 of 29 matches in the all-time series against the Tigers.

The stats ended up as mirror images of each other as both teams took 11 shots, had two corner kicks and six fouls. UNC goalkeepers Bryane Heaberlin and Lindsey Harris combined for six saves, making four and two, respectively. Kailen Sheridan made three saves for the Tigers.

The Tar Heels got on the board with 41:17 left in the first half as Joanna Boyles scored her second goal of the season on a header off a corner kick by Summer Green. Cameron Castleberry dribbled with the ball deep into the right corner and earned the corner kick. Green stepped up and sent a perfect ball from the corner to Boyles who was stationed at the far post. Boyles headed the ball from three yards out and it glanced off the left post and hit the underside of the interior netting. Boyles now has three career goals, two in the last two games.

Carolina and Clemson both had six shots in the first half. UNC starting goalkeeper Bryane Heaberlin made four first half saves to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard. Her best save of the half came on a shot by Tina Shakes at the 16:42 mark of the half. The Tigers also had a dangerous chance in the 39th minute when a ball bounced around the Tar Heel penalty area before a Clemson shot by Catrina Atanda was deflected into the outside left netting.

In the 52nd minute, Carolina almost doubled its lead as Joanna Boyles fed a perfect through ball to Amber Munerlyn who got behind the Clemson defense. Clemson goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan smartly came off her line to cut down the angle and kicked Munerlyn’s shot away at the 12-yard line.

Clemson tied the score at 67:28 of the match after the Tar Heels committed a foul near midfield. The ball was sent into the box where an initial shot by Savannah Coiner was deflected by the Tar Heel defense. The ball fell directly to the Tigers’ Salma Anastasio who looped a shot from 12 yards out over UNC goalkeeper Lindsey Harris, who had replaced Heaberlin at halftime.

UNC regained the lead 2-1 with 13:01 to play in the second half as freshman Megan Buckingham tallied her second goal of the season off assists by Paige Nielsen and Jewel Christian. Tar Heel freshman forward Christian tracked down a pass deep in the left corner of the pitch, kept the ball alive and fed Nielsen on the left side of the penalty area. Nielsen settled the ball, shifted to her left foot and sent a nifty cross to Buckingham who headed her shot from the six-yard line into the lower left corner of the goal.

The Tar Heels held off the Tigers over the last 13 minutes of play to emerge with the victory, Carolina’s fourth in a row after a 1-2-1 start.

UNC returns to action again on Sunday when it plays at local rival NC State at 1 p.m. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN3.

Box Score


Tar Heels Hoping To Tame Tigers In Death Valley

The 2-1 North Carolina football team will open its ACC schedule with a trip down to Death Valley to face the 1-2 Clemson Tigers Saturday night for a nationally-televised 7 p.m. kickoff.

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“They’re really good. They’re really good on defense. They’ve settled on their quarterback for the offense with freshman Deshaun Watson, who’s a very talented young man. He can run or throw. It will definitely be a task,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora says.

UNC will need to reverse its recent trend in head-to-head battles with Clemson as the Tar Heels have dropped four of their last five meetings against the Tigers, including the most recent encounter, a 59-38 loss in 2011.

Photo courtesy of Jeffrey A. Camarati

Photo courtesy of Jeffrey A. Camarati

But Coach Fedora has never taken on Clemson. In his maiden campaign against the Tigers, he’ll be saddled with more inexperience than he’d like.

Coach Fedora says he’s had to work on his patience with the extreme youth on UNC’s roster.

“When you’re playing with young guys, you know there will be mistakes made. I don’t have a whole lot of patience. I have more patience than I used to have, because I have three daughters now. It’s still tough for me. Every day is tough. You want to be as good as you can possibly be every single day,” Coach Fedora says.

For junior wide receiver T.J. Thorpe, an athlete who has persevered through numerous ankle injuries, the key for the Tar Heels is to just keep it simple and compete hard 100 percent of the time.

“We just need to play hard. Above all, that’s the thing that I feel like we lack. We need to play hard and sustain playing hard – just compete. We have good players the same way they do. We have talented guys who can make plays. That’s it – focus, attention to detail and play as hard as we can,” Thorpe says.

With an experienced defensive unit at Clemson that includes National Player of the Week Stephone Anthony, the young UNC offensive line figures to have its hands full.

Sophomore offensive tackle John Ferranto says he’s prepared for a rugged battle Saturday night.

“They’re an experienced group. The interior linemen are big, strong and quick. Their defensive ends are quick and really good pass rushers. They have a really good group on defense,” Ferranto says.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney recognizes the challenge of facing a UNC offense that he says is the most up-tempo unit the Tigers have faced.

Photo courtesy of thebiglead.com

Photo courtesy of thebiglead.com

Coach Swinney says the best defense against the Tar Heels will be a good offense.

“We are a tempo team ourselves, but they’re a little faster than us. We’re trying to do some things ‘good on good’ to try to prepare our guys, use our scouts and get them ready for the tempo that they’ll see. But the biggest thing that we have to do is take care of the football on our side. We’ve got to do a good job offensively and keep them off the field,” Coach Swinney says.

The Tigers have returned 8 starters on their defense. To put that in perspective, the Tar Heels returned a total of 10 starters on their entire team.

Coach Fedora is concerned from the havoc the Tiger defense can create, especially from veteran defensive end Vic Beasley.

“The Vic Beasley kid that everybody talks about is as good as everybody says. He’s relentless and has speed like a defensive back or receiver. He’s quick as a cat. They’ve got guys that can run at every position. They have a lot of confidence right now,” Coach Fedora says.

Coach Fedora identifies two keys to the game – big plays on special teams and stopping the run.

“Starting with special teams, we’ve got to have a game-changing play, we really do. We have to make some plays. It’s going to be vital for our success this week. Jumping over to defense, we have to stop the run,” Coach Fedora says.


Scouting Report: A Chat with Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney

WCHL’s Matt Oakes caught up with Tiger head coach Dabo Swinney as his squad prepares to host the Tar Heels Saturday night. Among other things, the two discussed the legendary Death Valley atmosphere, the emergence of freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson and the best way to stop UNC’s Ryan Switzer on special teams.

***Listen to the conversation***