CLEMSON - There's a loss and then there's the losing streak, and Clemson coach Brad Brownell is more concerned about one than the other.
Fifty-six times the Tigers have taken the floor against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and 56 times they have come away with an "L." In fact, 15 of the last 16 matchups anywhere have resulted in a Tar Heels' win in the series.
Brownell not thinking 'streak'
Matchup No. 57 tips Sunday night at 6 p.m. in the Dean Dome (on ESPNU), and rest assured – despite some struggles of late – UNC (11-7, 1-4 ACC) is well aware.
"I really don't want to be a part of that (streak ending)," Tar Heels forward Brice Johnson said. "Knowing that past guys and past teams before me have been keeping the streak going. They've been beating Clemson every year since they've going to Chapel Hill so I just want to keep the tradition going around here."
"I was trying to remember if I had ever said anything about the streak," longtime UNC coach Roy Williams said this week. "Usually with streaks, I say, 'Well, it has to come to end sometime. Let's put it off one more year.' I haven't talked to the team about it and I don't plan to."
Clemson coach Brad Brownell didn't address his team on it either.
"To be honest, I'm not too concerned about that too much," said Brownell. "I'm not concerned with the streak at all. I'm more concerned with our guys, what we think and what we're doing to get ready."
No, the Tigers' last time out gave the fourth-year coach plenty of material this week.
On Tuesday, Clemson was handed its worst loss of the season, 76-43, at No. 20 Pittsburgh. They had used a top-flight defense to their best ACC start in 17 years (4-1), but the Panthers got to the basket early and often, shooting 56 percent from the field.
Brownell says his team, which features no seniors and nine underclassmen, struggled with their first big ACC road test.
"I didn't think we fought very well in the Pitt game," he said. "The environment bothered us. We lost composure a little bit...Once the dam broke in those last four minutes (of the first half), we never recovered. At halftime, I sensed that we weren't going to recover. That disappointed me."
They trade a 12,500-seat venue for almost 22-thousand in Chapel Hill Sunday.
"You better get over being nervous," Brownell said. "Better handle your business and pay attention on the court. If you're worried about what's off the court - if you're not experienced with dealing with some of that, you're going to be exploited again.
"That's the next step our team must take, going into a hostile environment and compete at a level where we can compete."
In the late-going Tuesday, Brownell benched a number of his starters in favor of rarely-seen benchwarmers. Effort was an issue.
"That's the part that had me angry and playing other players to be honest with you," said Brownell. "We just talked about it. We've watched film and talked about effort. We need to play better and coach better. We better fix it here in the next couple days before we have another opportunity and we better be more prepared.
"Not anything drastic - we do need to understand what makes our team play well and what we're going to do to compete. We especially better do it against a big, strong team like UNC."
The Tar Heels have battled some ups and downs, on-and-off the court.
Junior shooting guard Leslie McDonald missed their first nine games due to impermissible benefits, while another former starter (P.J. Hairston) was never cleared for the same. They were two of the five starters in double-figures in a 68-59 win over Clemson last year in Littlejohn.
North Carolina's resume includes upsets of Louisville, Kentucky and Michigan State, but there's also losses to Belmont, UAB and in four of their first five conference games.
But as the Tigers have received most every one of their 56 trips north of the Carolina border, Brownell expects UNC's best shot.
"There's some unique challenges that they had to deal with early," he said. "Roy Williams has won a lot of games and national championships. He knows what he's doing."