Clemson basketball completed the ultimate upset Tuesday night, defeating No. 3-ranked North Carolina 80-76 at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
It was Clemson’s second win at the Dean Smith Center in program history. Its first win came in 2020, and it took overtime to pull it off. Prior to that win, UNC was 59-0 at home against Clemson.
“I’m just really happy for my guys,” coach Brad Brownell said. “The first one is different. The second one, now we’re just playing basketball.”
For this matchup, Brownell leaned on experience, starting graduate transfer Jack Clark over sophomore Chauncey Wiggins, and the change paid off. The Tigers (15-7, 5-6 ACC) started the game with a 17-4 run.
The Tigers built on their double-digit lead, increasing it to 16, tying its largest lead ever against UNC (18-5, 10-2). The other time that happened was during the 1974-75 season.
Yet UNC took Clemson’s early punch and fought back to cut the lead to nine at half and to tie the score at 70 with 4:17 left in the game.
But unlike the Tigers’ previous matchup against North Carolina, at 65-55 loss on Jan. 6 at Littlejohn Colisuem, they responded and made key baskets, highlighted by Joseph Girard III’s 3-pointer to put Clemson ahead by five with a little over two minutes left. From there, the Tigers pulled out the win.
Here are three takeaways from this ACC matchup:
Clemson basketball finally closes a tight conference game
The ghost of Clemson basketball’s past was on everyone’s mind as UNC battled back. The Tigers were coming off a tough one-point loss to Virginia after losing by one point to Duke and by three in two overtimes to Georgia Tech in January.
This time around, the Tigers didn’t falter. They countered every UNC rally by making critical baskets. When the score was tied at 70, Clemson went on a 7-0 run highlighted by Hall’s layup, Girard’s 3-pointer and Clark’s two free throws.
“People kind of forget that we have won a few down the stretch, and our guys know that,” said Brownell, who mentioned close wins against UAB and Davidson early in the season. “Certainly, when you haven’t done it recently, it feels good to make some plays down the stretch.”
Hall finished with 25 points in 27 minutes, and Girard scored 21 points, including five 3-pointers. Ian Schieffelin recorded his fifth double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Clemson finally makes from deep
Clemson found its 3-point shot, burying 11 against UNC, which entered the game with the best 3-point field-goal percentage defense in the conference (26.8%).
The Tigers shot 6-for-14 on 3-pointers in the first half with Hall (three), Girard (two) and Chase Hunter (one) contributing. Clemson ended the night shooting 11-for-31 from 3-point range. It was the team’s most made 3-pointers since Jan. 3 against Miami.
The Tigers will celebrate this victory and travel to play Syracuse (14-8, 5-6) on Saturday at the JMA Wireless Dome. The Orange are 10-1 at home this season, and Clemson has won just once in six tries under Brownell at Syracuse.
“We’ve had some close losses here recently, and I’ve said many times I think we’re playing better than our ACC record, but I think our league is good,” Brownell said.
Derrian Carter covers Clemson athletics for The Greenville News and the USA TODAY Network. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, @DerrianCarter00
First appeared on www.greenvilleonline.com