CHAPEL HILL – The streak lives on, but it certainly wasn't easy.
North Carolina needed two overtime periods and 39 points from Tyler Hansbrough to extend its NCAA-record home winning streak against Clemson to 53 games with a 103-93 win at the Smith Center.
The Tar Heels (22-2, 7-2 in the ACC) were without starting point guard Ty Lawson for the second straight game but overcame a 15-point second-half deficit to send the game to overtime.
"We never gave up," Hansbrough said. "I think that's what was so special about this win."
Hansbrough had seven points in the second overtime and made a key steal with 1:33 remaining that finally got the game to swing the Tar Heels' way.
"Tyler's an animal," said Wayne Ellington, who scored 28 points behind a career-high five 3-pointers. "He was everywhere."
Quentin Thomas – starting in place of Lawson – had a career-high nine assists and scored the points that sent the game to overtime and then double-OT.
North Carolina didn't lead in the game until the first basket of overtime but put on quite a tension-filled show for the home crowd in erasing a nine-point deficit in the final three minutes.
Danny Green hit a pair of 3-pointers late, the second of which pulled the Tar Heels within a basket of the Tigers (17-6, 5-4 in the ACC) with 70 seconds to play.
"All of a sudden, the guys felt like they really did have a chance," UNC coach Roy Williams said.
After Clemson's Demontez Stitt missed the front end of a one-and-one – the Tigers were just 1 for 7 from the line in the game, including a pair of misses in extra time – Thomas drove the lane and made a layup to tie the game at 82 with 25 seconds remaining.
K.C. Rivers missed a layup with two seconds left, and the two teams headed to overtime for the second time this season.
Terrence Oglesby hit a contorted 3-pointer over Ellington with 45 seconds to go in the first overtime to give Clemson a two-point lead.
"I don't know how he hit that shot," Green said.
But Thomas again tied the game, this time with a pair of free throws.
The Tar Heels kept the game knotted by forcing a Clemson shot-clock violation in the final seconds of overtime.
"If we wanted this win, we needed stops," said Thomas, who was making his third career start.
The senior point guard made his personal contribution to that effort by preventing Cliff Hammonds – who led Clemson with 31 points – from scoring in either overtime period.
And before that, Thomas flexed some leadership muscle in the huddle, urging the Tar Heels to step up their effort and make a comeback.
"He came in there and he really got after us," Hansbrough said. "I think he picked up the whole team."
Carolina turned the ball over on its first five possessions of the game and had its first two shots blocked.
The Tar Heels had seven turnovers in the first four minutes and finished the half with 13.
Clemson, meanwhile, shot 50 percent in the first half and hit 7 of 12 3-point attempts. Midway through the first half, UNC fell behind by 14 points, its largest deficit of the season, and trailed 45-34 at the break.
That was the Tar Heels' largest halftime deficit since trailing by 13 on Feb. 15, 2006 against Georgia Tech – a game North Carolina won by seven points thanks to a career-high 40 points from Hansbrough.
"I thought they hit us right between the eyes, and we backed off a bit," Williams said. "I have no idea why we started the game like that."
Carolina's home win streak over Clemson now stands alone in the NCAA record book, passing Princeton's 52-game streak against Brown that ended in 2002.
The UNC players said that neither they nor the coaches talked before the game about the fact that the Tigers had never won a game in Chapel Hill.
"But I'm happy it's still going on," Hansbrough said. "We didn't want to be the team they break it on."