Here Come the Heels

By simply looking at all the factors, there's no reason to believe that Clemson's basketball team can hang with and actually beat highly-ranked North Carolina Wednesday night at Littlejohn Coliseum.<br>

Of course, that's exactly what naysayers have said the last two years and in four of the last six. And the Tigers proved them wrong.

And because of that recent history against the Tar Heels at Littlejohn, Clemson players believe they can duplicate the outcome.

"I still think we can win this game," Tigers senior forward Sharrod Ford said. "We've beat them before. If we play like we did at (Duke), then I think we can come out with a win. …

"I'm trying to tell everybody that we've beat them the last two years and we can beat them again."

Admittedly, however, the Tigers are going to have to play a near perfect game to get the win.

After all, the Tar Heels (14-2, 3-1 ACC) are the highest scoring team in the country and have apparently no weaknesses at any position. They are also one of the deepest teams in the nation.

"We can't go into the game thinking about last year when we hit 11-of-13 3-pointers, that's pretty freakish," junior shooting guard Shawan Robinson said. "We've got to slow the game down a little bit and take opportunistic fast break."

If Clemson (10-6, 1-3 ACC) is to have any shot of pulling off the monumental upset, there is little question that the backcourt has to shoot well.

"Our guard play hasn't been great and it hasn't been very good," Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. "We've got to have more consistent good play. We want to have the type of play we can rely on."

"I have struggled," Robinson said. "I can't put my finger on why. I'm probably out there thinking too much. When you think too much, it clouds my ability to play.
While freshman Cliff Hammonds has performed well splitting time between point guard and shooting guard, it's the play of sophomore point guard Vernon Hamilton and Robinson that has been below par.

Hamilton has committed 18 turnovers in four conference games, while Robinson is shooting 29.6 percent from the field in ACC games.

"I have struggled," Robinson said. "I can't put my finger on why. I'm probably out there thinking too much. When you think too much, it clouds my ability to play. All you can do is play through it. It could be something as little as a layup that gets everything clicking again where you're not out there thinking about it."

Defensively, North Carolina guard Rashad McCants, who is averaging 16.6 points per game, creates the biggest problem for the Tigers.

"McCants is a matchup nightmare," Purnell said. "We'll spend another sleepless night on that one."

But even if McCants is held in check, the Tigers still have to contend with point guard Raymond Felton (11.0 ppg, 7.5 apg), center Sean May (15.3 ppg, 8.9 rpg) and forward Jawad Williams (16.6 ppg. 4.1 rpg).

Making matters worse is the fact that there will be plenty of fans wearing baby blue sitting in the stands to cheer on the Tar Heels.

"The weird thing about playing Carolina is there's a lot of blue in the stands," Robinson said. "It's about half-and-half. Some people joke that we play Carolina twice a year on the road."

None of that matters to Ford. And he's trying to make sure none of it matters to his teammates.

"I think people aren't giving us a chance again," Ford said. "But we can't worry about them. We just have to believe we can win."