CLEMSON, S.C. -- Any thought Clemson couldn’t be a pressing, disruptive, turnover-producing team at Littlejohn Coliseum this season was dispelled in the first 20 minutes Wednesday night, as the Tigers have a 50-32 lead on No. 13 North Carolina.
Sure, the Tigers gave up a 23-point lead to Illinois early in the season and lost.
Yes, the Tigers beat Boston College here last Saturday and were able to dictate the pace. But the Eagles have traditionally been bothered by the Tigers’ pressure here or in Chestnut Hill.
But for the Tigers to do to North Carolina what it did last season to Duke was a significant confidence boost in the first half. Clemson scored 50 points before halftime after racing out to a double-digit lead within the first few minutes. The Tigers forced Carolina into 16 turnovers and the Tar Heels couldn’t make a 3-pointer.
Clemson shot 57 percent, 46 on 3s and shared the ball well with 12 assists on 19 field goals.
It didn’t help the Heels that they weren’t full strength, either. For the second straight time UNC came limping into the state of South Carolina.
A week ago Monday, the Tar Heels lost to the College of Charleston without Marcus Ginyard and Will Graves (both out with ankle injuries). This time, Tyler Zeller is out and was wearing a boot on his right foot. An MRI proved negative but he will get a bone scan when he returns to Chapel Hill. The move is meant to be preventive with so much of the season still to go.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams said to me at the half: “Our big guys have to move more.’’
“(Clemson’s) pressure was really good,’’ Williams said. “Our team was scared to death. I’ve never seen anything like that (from one of his teams).’’