Clemson is 5-9 in the ACC. But North Carolina coach Roy Williams, whose team faces the Tigers at Littlejohn Coliseum on Thursday night, knows better than to take that record at face value -- especially with the way Clemson has been playing at home.
“I’ve watched those two [games] where they lose to Miami on a last-second shot and lose to NC State on a last-second shot; you flip those two games and it’s a whole different scenario for them," Williams said. “They have played very well at home. They’ve had some tough losses at home and on the road. They’ve played a lot of people really close.”
Indeed, three of the Tigers’ past four games have been decided by three or fewer points: on Feb. 10, they lost to NC State 58-57; four days later, they won at Georgia Tech by a point; and three days after that, they lost to then-No. 3 Miami 45-43. And they’ve played at lot better at Littlejohn, where they are averaging almost 11 more points per game and holding foes to about nine fewer points than on the road.
A few things to watch:
UNC’S LITTLE GUY
It’s been fun, watching Tar Heels freshman point guard Marcus Paige gain his footing -- and confidence. Over UNC’s past three wins, the 6-foot, 157-pound ball handler has averaged 13 points, 5.3 assists and only 1.3 turnovers.
Williams likes to call him a “tough little nut,” and perhaps most importantly, he’s been getting tougher. “That’s just going through ACC play, learning from it," Paige said recently.
CLEMSON’S BIG GUYS
It’s been an inconsistent season for forward Milton Jennings, who has yet to post back-to-back double-digit scoring games this season. He does tend to play well against UNC, though, averaging 9.6 ppg in five meetings.
Fellow senior Devin Booker, though, has been solid in ACC play, averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds. He’s posted double figures in five of the Tigers’ past six games -- including two double-doubles.
Clemson freshman guard Jordan Roper has averaged 12.3 points over his teams past six contests, including 36 total points in the Tigers’ past two home games, against NC State and Miami. UNC has committed only 26 turnovers in its past three games, all wins. Tar Heels sophomore P.J. Hairston is averaging 18.5 points and 6 rebounds since he was inserted into the starting lineup; UNC is now 3-1 since it went to a four-guard opening five. North Carolina leads the series 126-20.