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No. 16 Clemson set to take on top-10 UNC team

Clemsons+leading+scorer+PJ+Hall+sends+a+shot+past+an+outstretched+defender+in+the+Tigers+72-67+win+over+South+Carolina+last+month.
Ashleigh Snyder
Clemson’s leading scorer PJ Hall sends a shot past an outstretched defender in the Tigers 72-67 win over South Carolina last month.

The No. 16 Tigers will look to earn their second conference victory against the No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels today at noon in Littlejohn Coliseum. With the calendars flipping, March and its ensuing madness draws closer, and Clemson has blown away preseason expectations as it looks primed to make a deep run in the tournament.

Before that, however, they must take on a top-10 squad to cement themselves as a team to be feared come tournament time. In their 159th meeting, Clemson battles a talented North Carolina team, marking the first top-20 matchup between the two since 2018. The Tigers have had a strong showing thus far, getting off to their fastest start since the 2008-2009 season, but with a tough defeat against Miami, Clemson needs a win to stay on track.

In their loss to the Hurricanes on Wednesday, guard Joseph Girard III led the team with 18 points in the high-scoring affair. PJ Hall trailed narrowly with 17 points, despite being in foul trouble for the majority of the contest. The star center has been dominant for the Tigers this season and has been matched well by the play of Girard and Chase Hunter on the perimeter.

Girard has been a key piece for Clemson’s offense, complimenting Hall’s play with his shooting from behind the arc to stretch out their opponent’s defense; he is currently shooting an impressive 45.2% from behind the arc this season. Although Clemson has remained consistent offensively all season, the real struggles come on the defensive side of the floor.

“We have a lot of good offensive minded players who are probably more offensive-minded than defensive-minded. Sometimes that can work against us,” head coach Brad Brownell said following his team’s 95-82 loss in Miami. Clemson has run into trouble when it has allowed open baskets which make it easy to match the Tiger’s scoring volume.

This focus remains true as senior guard RJ Davis and North Carolina come to Littlejohn. Davis is currently averaging 21.1 points for the Tar Heels to lead the ACC with a total of 274 points thus far, and he looks to continue his stretch of dominant showings.

Following the Miami loss, Brownell spoke on how important it is to contest the shots of these dominant players in the ACC. “The higher levels you play, you get the ACC, you’re gonna deal with guys that are shot makers. Usually the guarded shots don’t get you beat. It’s the easy baskets, the open ones,” he explained.

The Tigers will focus on limiting open shots if they want to secure their first win against a top-10 North Carolina team since 2001. The 10-3 Tar Heels are indisputably a top team in the country, and look to continue their current three-game road winning streak.

With Davis on the perimeter and forward Armando Bacot battling down low, few teams have been able to overcome North Carolina. However, keeping up with Hall and the Tigers offense is no easy task – only time will tell how this explosive matchup will end.

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Brett Porter, Senior Reporter
Ashleigh Snyder
Ashleigh Snyder, Photo Editor
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