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No. 16 Clemson, coming off loss, faces mighty No. 8 North Carolina

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The North Carolina-Clemson basketball rivalry has been one-sided for as long as ACC basketball followers can remember.

Predating current coach Hubert Davis’ time on the Tar Heels bench, North Carolina legends such as Roy Williams, Dean Smith and Frank McGuire terrorized the Tigers since the two programs were members of the Southern Conference.

Coach Brad Brownell’s No. 16 Tigers likely won’t be thinking about their 23-135 all-time record against the team in Carolina Blue when they host No. 8 North Carolina on Saturday. Instead, Clemson will focus on picking up a marquee win after a disappointing loss to Miami on Wednesday.

Clemson (11-2, 1-1) held an eight-point lead early in the second half before Miami scored 60 points over the final 19 1/2 minutes en route to a 95-82 win.

“Disappointed in our performance, obviously, the last 20 minutes was maybe as bad of a defensive half as I have had as a coach,” Brownell said. “We didn’t do any of the things that we wanted to … It was one of the few times this year where we kind of got out of sync. We just lost our flow on both ends in the second half, and I have got to do a better job.”

Wednesday’s loss was a rarity, as all five Clemson starters scored 11 or more points but were still sent home with a double-digit loss. The Tigers’ scoring was led by fifth-year Syracuse transfer Joseph Girard III, who tallied 18 points, followed by senior big man PJ Hall, who had 17.

The defensive side of the ball plagued Clemson, allowing the Hurricanes to shoot 53 percent from the field and 45.8 percent on 3-pointers.

The ACC schedule-makers didn’t do Clemson any favors, as the Tigers welcome a Tar Heels team that averages 85 points per game, just behind Miami (85.5) atop the conference leaderboard.

North Carolina (10-3, 2-0) will make the second of three stops on its current ACC road trip. Fresh off a 70-57 slugfest win at Pitt on Tuesday, the Tar Heels hope to extend their winning streak to four following a mid-December mini-skid.

Since dropping games to UConn and Kentucky, North Carolina has won three in a row by an average of 23.3 points.

The Tar Heels found a new way to win against Pitt: using suffocating defense. North Carolina allowed the Panthers to shoot just 30.9 percent from the field, including a dreadful 5-for-29 (17.2 percent) 3-point shooting performance.

North Carolina’s defense has struggled at times this season — allowing 72 points per game (third-most in the ACC) — but it came through in Tuesday’s victory.

“For us, it’s limiting teams to one shot every possession,” coach Hubert Davis said. “Trying to keep them off the free-throw line, cutting off paint touches, no shots at the rim, no dunks and no wide-open threes, and I felt like we did a really good job of that tonight.”

On a night when the Tar Heels’ defense shined, its leader eclipsed new heights on the offensive end.

Armando Bacot paced the scoring with 16 points and became the seventh player in program history to reach 2,000 career points. RJ Davis added 15 points in the victory and leads the team in scoring at 21.1 points per game, while Bacot adds 14.9 ppg.

–Field Level Media

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