Clemson‘s futility against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., is well-documented, with the Tigers having never beaten the Tar Heels on their home floor. But the South Carolina-based program has struggled against the national power in its home arena for a while as well.
On Tuesday night, however, the No. 20 Tigers snapped that skid by beating the No. 19 Tar Heels 82-78 at Littlejohn Coliseum.
This marks the first time this decade Clemson has beaten North Carolina, with the previous such instance occurring in January 2010. The Tar Heels have lost three straight games for the first time in four years.
These Tigers didn’t make it easy, either, nearly blowing a 16-point halftime lead. But Clemson (17-4, 7-3 ACC) held off the ACC powerhouse, prompting orange- and purple-clad students to stream onto the court.
— Clemson Men’s Basketball (@ClemsonMBB) January 31, 2018
North Carolina (16-6, 5-5) drops to seventh in the ACC table because of this defeat, with Clemson now up two games on the defending national champs and sitting in a third-place tie with Duke. No. 2 Virginia leads the league at 9-0 and would at this point be one of many teams that would stand to force North Carolina to wear their away blues in the ACC Tournament.
Clemson led 44-28 at halftime but saw North Carolina slash the deficit to one score at multiple second-half junctures. The Tar Heels tied the game at 74 on a Joel Berry jumper just outside of two minutes remaining, but Clemson scored on back-to-back possessions — Marcquise Reed hit a 3-pointer then dished to Elijah Thomas for a layup — to recapture command. A Gabe DeVoe offensive rebound set up Thomas’ pivotal make with 27 seconds left, and the Tar Heels couldn’t counter.
Reed led the Tigers with 20 points, and DeVoe added 17. They helped stave off a two-headed Tar Heel attack, triggered by Cameron Johnson’s 32 points (6-for-10 from 3-point range) and Berry’s 27.
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