CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — One-56 or 0-57. Those were the series record options coming in for Clemson in Chapel Hill.
Tigers coach Brad Brownell, in his third trip to this part of Tobacco Road, was just looking for a team ready for the road challenge after a 33-point defeat at No. 20 Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
What he saw Sunday night was a team far from it, notching the streak-extending loss by an 80-61 final and dropping to 13-6 overall and 4-3 in ACC play.
Tigers have to keep 'fighting'
McDaniels shoulders blame for loss
Clemson entered the week with a top-five scoring and field goal percentage defense nationally, but the two-game road set proved those figures to be somewhat of a mirage.
UNC shot above 50 percent all game long, finishing at 55, with four players in double-figures. Junior forward James Michael McAdoo was the second player of the week to put up 20 or more points on the Tigers (22), after only four had done so all season previously.
The damage overall in the losing stretch? Seventy-eight points per game and 56 percent shooting — after giving up only 53.5 points and 36.2 percent offensively through their first 17 games.
“I probably made some mistakes preparing for this game,” Brownell said. “We spent a little more time on offense in practice. It showed from a defensive efficiency. I don’t know that our offense showed a lot. I’m glad that we didn’t turn it over, but we’re not a good offensive team when it comes to shooting.
“There’s going to be issues there. If we don’t defend at a high level, we can’t play with the best teams in our league.”
Clemson attacked the hoop early with success, scoring 10 of its first 11 points in the paint. After early foul troubles hampered junior forward K.J. McDaniels at Pitt this week, he was able to stay on the court at the Dean Dome — and the Tigers needed it. A quick six points from the Birmingham native kept it a three-point game over six minutes in.
“I screamed at (my team),” UNC coach Roy Williams said about the Tar Heels’ start, where Clemson had a decided advantage in offensive rebounds. “I told them we were killing ourselves because we weren’t doing a good job of boxing out. You’ve got to go get somebody, you’ve got to go put a body on somebody.
“It was a story for the first eight or 10 minutes of the game. And then I thought the story for the next eight or 10 minutes was (our) offensive rebounding.”
Unfortunately for the Tigers, much like last Tuesday, North Carolina (12-7, 2-4) had their offense in rhythm early, sinking six of their first eight shots.
Questionable attempts from Clemson’s big men only exacerbated the situation as they fell behind more and more.
Hitting the game’s first trey over 13 minutes in, senior UNC guard Leslie McDonald extended the Tar Heels lead to 10. After freshman guard Nate Britt hit their second, North Carolina had equaled its biggest lead in ACC play to that point (15), on a 12-2 run.
At halftime, Clemson trailed 37-21 with a lone star on the court. McDaniels hit four of his six attempts for 11 points, while the rest were a combined 2-for-20.
“We got to find guys that help him out,” sophomore center Landry Nnoko said, who joined McDaniels in double-figures eventually (12). “He can’t do it all by himself and we have find a way to do that.”
Between free throws (9) and points in the paint (11), the Tigers didn’t knock down a jumper in the session, shooting 23 percent from the field. That only got worse.
A Clemson field-goal drought that started after the 6:27 mark in the first half continued 6:53 into the second, missing 14 shots in between while outscored 30-7 by the Heels.
Not even McDaniels could get going in the second session, missing all six shots he took and finishing with 13 points and nine rebounds.
“Credit to North Carolina, they played great defense tonight,” McDaniels said, “locking in on their scouting report. They were all up on me and played great team defense. They were tough. North Carolina came out with intensity and made us earn our baskets.”
With Tar Heel walk-ons in and under a minute left, a “you can’t win here” chant rang loud from the student section, as the series did indeed extend to 0-57 in their favor (an NCAA record). The Tigers have lost 16 of their last 17 against the program anywhere.
“I feel like we’ll have a team that has the heart to come in here and play and compete no matter what,” McDaniels said. “I wish (that I’ll have) another chance to come back here and play again. I need to do more as a leader. I’ll take this one right here.”
Brownell couldn’t fault McDaniels though, as one of two Tigers he had that had ever step foot on the UNC court before.
“K.J. competed at a high level today,” said Brownell. “He played harder than anybody on our team. He played well tonight — those were hard-earned points.”
McDaniels serves as an example for the rest that will collectively need to step it up going forward.
“There’s a point here where players from within have to have some spirit and fight on their own,” Brownell said. “Coaches can talk about things and we can practice things, but we have to play and invest and they need to hurt over this.
“It’s not the end of the world. We had a bad week and you’re going to have bad weeks in the ACC when you play at Pitt and at North Carolina. We have to rally and rebound from it.”
The Tigers have three more road contests in their next four games, starting at 3 p.m. at Florida State this Saturday.
“We’re in a brutal stretch and we have to figure a way to hang in there and work ourselves out of the hole,” Brownell said.