Photo credit to Bob Donnan-USA Today
For the second straight game, Clemson’s offensive woes led to a frustrating loss on the road when the Tigers had an opportunity to make a case for the post season. This time, it was a 61-80 loss at the hands of the North Carolina Tar Heels at the Dean Smith Center of Chapel Hill; a building that has been a house of horrors for the Clemson basketball program. This loss puts Clemson’s all time record vs the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill at 0-57, which continues as the record for the losing streak at one team’s home building. Star Forward KJ McDaniels led the Tigers with 13 points, sophomore center Landy Nnoko had 12 points, and sophomore point guard Adonis Filer came off the bench to add 12 of his own, but that wasn’t enough to overcome a motivated Tar Heels team looking for something to hold on to in a season which has seen several lows and few highs. Early in the first half, the Tigers went toe to toe with Carolina, keeping the score close and winning the foul count by having 0 fouls called to the 3 that were called on the Tar Heels. But, the Tigers quickly found themselves in foul trouble and losing the battle for loose balls and rebounds. Clemson faced a 37-21 defect at the half. The second half was not better, as North Carolina jumped out to 43-28 lead by the first media time out. A Rod Hall 3 pointer at the 13:09 mark was Clemson’s first field goal since the 6:28 mark of the first half. At that point, the Tigers faced an 18 point deficit, and a comeback was not promising. The Tigers saw an increase in scoring as the reserves began to enter the game for both teams, but it was too little too late as the the Tar Heels held on for the 80-61 win. In the post game interview, Coach Brad Brownell stated that his Tigers had lost “some of the competitive spirit on defense” and pointed out that his team must defend at a high level to compete in the ACC. He also noted the high point that his team did a better job of not turning the ball over. Nnoko stated “when our defense doesn’t work, our offense obviously doesn’t”, which echoed his coach’s concern about the Tigers defense, which is ranked first in the nation in points allowed, over the last two games. “I believe we just need to stay together and stay positive”, said KJ McDaniels. The Tigers will look to regain their defensive prowess this week as they prepare for their Saturday afternoon tilt in Tallahassee with Florida State, who defeated the Tigers 56-41 in Littlejohn Coliseum 2 days before Clemson’s upset victory over Duke. The Tigers now sit at 13-6, with a 4-3 conference record. After Saturday’s game, Clemson returns to Littlejohn to face conference rival Georgia Tech. The Tigers will then hit the road for games at two of the ACC’s newcomer schools, #2 Syracuse and Notre Dame.