CHAPEL HILL — No. 8 North Carolina defeated Clemson 74-52 here on Saturday at the Smith Center. Some thoughts and observations after the Tar Heels improved to 56-0 at home against the Tigers:
Why the Tar Heels won: UNC gave another stellar defensive performance, holding Clemson to 37.5 percent shooting. The Tigers had trouble getting into their offensive sets and, when they were able to execute a play, they had difficulty making shots. UNC converted 11 offensive rebounds into 16 points, and outscored Clemson 36-22 in the paint. Harrison Barnes finished with 24 points – his third consecutive game against the Tigers with at least 20.
The good: The defensive execution and effort. The rebounding – particularly on the offensive end, and especially during the first half. Barnes’ overall performance, which included seven rebounds, two assists and two steals. Kendall Marshall’s 13 assists. And the outside shooting finally got going, too. UNC, which had been shooting 28.3 percent from 3-point range in ACC games, made 6 of its 14 3-point attempts. Barnes and Reggie Bullock each made three 3’s apiece.
The bad: The offensive execution could have been crisper. Or, at the least, UNC could have done a better job of converting its scoring opportunities into points. UNC shot 41.2 percent in the first half, but then warmed up and made 58-6 percent of its field goal attempts in the second half. The Heels also struggled getting to the free throw line. They didn’t attempt a free throw in the first half – coach Roy Williams said he couldn’t remember the last time that happened – and they were 6-of-8 from the line overall.
Key stat: Combine points in the paint and second-chance points and UNC outscored the Tigers 52-31. Naturally, some of those second-chance points came in the paint, so there’s some overlap here. Still, it goes to show how dominant the Heels were in these two key categories.
Key stat II: For the third consecutive game, the Heels held an opponent to less than 40 percent shooting from the field. The Tigers 37.5 percent of their field goal attempts.
UNC player of the game: Barnes. He had a game-high 24 and was effective both inside and outside. He was also active in the Tar Heels’ rebounding efforts, finishing with seven rebounds.
Quotable: “Well, even early I thought we were trying. I don’t believe you’ve heard me come in and say any time, with the exception of Florida State, that our guys didn’t try. I mean, we tried earlier. We had the intensity early. We just weren’t very proficient at it. Everybody thinks that defense is just sweat and slobbering and yelling at guys and stuff like that. You’ve got to know what the dickens you’re doing. And I think our guys are more in tune with our defensive principles right now.” –Williams on his team’s defensive improvement from the start of the season to now