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February 27, 2013
Heels ready to run with Tigers
North Carolina has been one of the top scoring teams in the nation under Roy Williams over the years.
This season has been no different, as the Tar Heels rank in the Top 15 in scoring, with 78.1 points per game (which is third in the ACC).
The Tar Heels look to continue the high scoring and put on a show on the defensive side, something that has to be done when traveling on the road in the ACC, when they take on Clemson Thursday evening in Littlejohn Coliseum.
Last weekend, North Carolina (19-8, 9-5) used a couple of runs and defensive stops to take down N.C. State 76-65, avenging a defeat to the Wolfpack earlier in the season.
Clemson (13-13, 5-9) has been struggling of late, but they're solid on its home floor and a team that has given the Tar Heels trouble in the past down there.
Thursday's tipoff is 7:00 pm on ESPN.
North Carolina holds a huge overall advantage in the series between these two teams, leading 126-20.
However, most of those wins have come at home, where UNC has never lost to Clemson (56-0) whether the game was played in the Smith Center, Carmichael Auditorium, or Woollen Gymnasium.
In Littlejohn, the Tar Heels have a record of 27-13, with the last loss coming in the 2009-10 season, when then #19 Clemson defeated #13 North Carolina 83-64.
This is the eighth and next-to-last game that the Tar Heels will travel to play on a road court, as they'll travel to College Park next Wednesday to take on Maryland.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
Like several teams in the ACC, North Carolina included, Clemson has been a team that has had rough patches away from home this season, but at home they've competed with some of the best teams in the league and figure to do so again on Thursday.
Even though the Tigers have gone 1-5 in the last six games, in the two home games against N.C. State and Miami, the Tigers lost by a total of three points, showing that when at home, Clemson can provide a test.
Williams talked about how tough this team has been at home in Wednesday's press conference.
"You can flip those two games (talking about losing to N.C. State and Miami), it's a whole different scenario for them," Williams replied.
"They have played well at home, they had tough losses at home and on the road. They have played a lot of people really really close. We can't feel fat and happy because we won a home game on Saturday. We got to try to keep playing down the stretch the teams that emphasize and focus on each game as it comes; those are the teams that generally do well."
The Tar Heels will take what they learned on Saturday and apply Williams' philosophy on Thursday night.
It will definitely be a game of contrasting styles, as Clemson is last in the ACC when it comes to scoring points (61.8), compared to the Tar Heels who are on the top.
In fact, Clemson ranks among the worst statistically in several categories nationally, but will look to break UNC down defensively and force them into poor shots.
Clemson's Statistics (Ranked Nationally)
Points per game: 61.8 (#294)
Rebounds per game: 34.2 (#200)
Assists per game: 10.7 (#308)
Field goal percentage: 42.6 (#214)
Look for UNC to push the pace in the game, making the Tigers score more than they have in the past few games.
Clemson has only scored 75 or more points in five games this year, compared to North Carolina, who has scored 75 or more points in 18 games.
Another statistic contrasting how different these teams are is that even though in field goal percentage these two teams are similar (UNC leads 44.2 percent compared to 42.6 percent), North Carolina has shot almost 400 more shots compared to Clemson this season (1,787 compared to 1,376).
That's approximately 15 more shots per game, and if UNC gets that many more shots Thursday evening they've got to like their chances.
Clemson will be led by its two seniors down low, Devin Booker and Milton Jennings, who are the leading rebounders on the team and who rank first and third on the team in scoring.
Booker has been a force in ACC games, scoring 16 points against Maryland last week. Booker is the leading scorer and rebounder on the team, and second in blocks (1.3).
One potential concern for UNC is the fact that Clemson leads the league in blocks per game with over five per game.
Three of Clemson's players average more blocks per game than Desmond Hubert, the Tar Heels leading shot blocker (0.9 per game).
K.J. McDaniels, the 6-6, 200 pound sophomore, has been a bright spot for the Tigers, averaging 10.7 points per game and almost two blocks per game.
The starting guard play for Clemson hasn't been great at times, and that will be an area North Carolina will look to take advantage of from the beginning.
Head Coach Brad Brownell has started sophomore Rod Hall and freshman Jordan Roper, who average under 14 points per game combined.
The two guards also average six-foot even in height, making all the starters for North Carolina taller than the two guards.
Clemson has to control the clock and speed of the game while also forcing turnovers and sinking some shots, to stay competitive against a Tar Heel squad that seems to be getting better and better with its new lineup.
Naturally, how well or poor the Tar Heels shoot will also be a factor that contributes to the outcome of the game.
If North Carolina is able to push the pace and really work the ball inside against Clemson's frontcourt, either scoring or putting them in foul trouble, the Tar Heels could come away with an easy victory.
Brownell commented on UNC and its recent play as the season is coming to an end.
"We certainly have our hands full with a North Carolina team that is playing really well and shoots the ball extremely well from the perimeter. Just seems to be in a very good rhythm right now, playing with a lot of confidence, especially the last couple of weeks."
McADOO ADJUSTING WELL
James Michael McAdoo is a very athletic big man, that can run the floor with anyone.
With his athletic ability, North Carolina has been able to use him in multiple scenarios. Whether it is using him in a pick and roll, stepping out of the paint, or posting down low, McAdoo has the ability to contribute in so many ways.
With the smaller lineup now on the floor for the Tar Heels, McAdoo seems to be at his best when he plays a two-man game with one of the guards.
When McAdoo is able to get his man to guard him outside the paint, McAdoo can receive the pass and make a quick move to the basket by driving.
It's a particularly difficult thing for teams with slower big men to handle, but Clemson does have guys in Jennings and Booker who can make his life difficult if they come to play.
Brownell mentioned McAdoo and his athletic ability in his press conference this week.
"McAdoo is very good inside and driving. He is an athletic power forward type center that he is not a guy that lays in the low post, he plays well 15 to 18 feet away from the basket."
With the smaller lineup leaving McAdoo as the only post presence for UNC for substantial chunks of the game, McAdoo has been looked at to rebound more down low, while being the main focus down low in the paint, both offensively and defensively.
Players have to make adjustments all through the season and McAdoo has done just that, something that has allowed the Tar Heels to make this late run in the season.
McAdoo needs to continue what he has been able to do Thursday night going up against a couple solid defenders in Jennings and Booker, and he needs help from P.J. Hairston, Reggie Bullock, and the other UNC wings who will provide assistance at times on the boards, and also by making shots.
Simply put, this is the kind of game that North Carolina should expect to win. Since the losses at Miami and Duke the Tar Heels have been more cohesive
At the same time, Clemson has been losing. A lot. They're due for a break, which would tend to make this seem like a trap game for UNC, but let's face it, this was a trap game for anybody. Ask N.C. State, who needed a Scott Wood buzzer-beater to walk out of Littlejohn victorious.
UNC will surely face a hostile orange-clad environment that will only get more challenging if Clemson gets off to a fast start. It's up to the Tar Heels to come out determined, focused, and ready to produce. If they can withstand Clemson's initial surge, certainly there's the possibility of wearing them down and dominating like they did in road wins at Boston College and Georgia Tech.