And the chance to erase the horrid memories that took place in No. 4 North Carolina’s 77-55 victory at a sold-out Littlejohn Coliseum can’t come soon enough for No. 16 Clemson.
“We don’t want to leave this taste in our mouth,” Tigers point guard Vernon Hamilton said. “We want to have it in there as short as possible. We can’t dwell on what happened. We have to put this behind us and move on and get ready for Boston College Saturday.”
To look at the numbers – 33.8 percent from the field; 4-of-19 from 3-point range; 5-of-19 from the free throw line – gives a sense of just how off Clemson was with its shooting.
But the fact that forward James Mays hit more 3-pointers (1) than Hamilton and K.C. Rivers combined speaks the most volumes.
Rivers, who entered as the team’s leading scorer and had reached double digits in points in every game this season, was held to just four points on 2-of-9 shooting. It appeared once again that his lower back spasms were a problem and limited him in what he could do.
However, Rivers refused to use that as a crutch for his shooting.
“My back didn’t bother me,” he said. “I felt fine. I don’t really want to talk about it anymore.”
To delve into the shooting woes even further reveals that the Tigers (17-2, 3-2 ACC) also shot eight air balls.
“Carolina played really well and took us out of our comfort zone,” Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell said. “When you come up dry from the field and from the free throw line, you can’t catch up.”
Poor free throw shooting has again reared its ugly head. The Tigers were just 1-of-9 from the line in the second half. Mays was 4-of-6 from the line, while the rest of the team was 1-of-13.
Clemson has made only 17 of its last 47 free throws, which equates to 36 percent. Conversely, the Tigers have made 16 of their last 47 3-pointers.
“Let’s be honest about it, we caught Clemson on a night where thy ball wasn’t going in the hole for them,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said.
Defensively, the Tigers played well enough to keep the score close and even win it. They created 22 turnovers, 20 of which were steals, which is a school record for an ACC game.
Clemson also had 12 blocks, eight of which came from freshman Trevor Booker. He finished just one block shy of tying Tree Rollins’ school record for most blocked shots in a game by a freshman.
For the most part, only two players did real damage for the Tar Heels (16-2, 3-1 ACC). Freshman forward Brandan Wright had 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting and four blocks, while fellow freshman Wayne Ellington had 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
Sophomore All-American Tyler Hansbrough had a quite 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
But because of the bad shooting by the Tigers and 19 turnovers of their own, the outcome was pretty ugly.
However, in a few days all thoughts will turn to Boston College and this will be a distant memory.
“If we can get that one on Saturday, then we’re looking at it through a different lens,” Purnell said. “You’ve got to push all the way through. … This is the ACC and you have to know where you live. You can’t let it linger.”
CLEMSON PLAYER OF THE GAME: Cliff Hammonds
The junior guard had 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting, five rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block. He was the only perimeter player that made any shots for the Tigers. He played well in all facets, but had little help.
TURNING POINT: The Tar Heels closed the first half on a 22-7 run to give them a 44-31 halftime lead. Clemson was never able to get it close than 11 the rest of the game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “It’s very important that we understand that we got beat pretty good tonight, but it’s also important to learn from it and move on,” Tigers coach Oliver Purnell said.