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Clemson flips the script, upsets No. 3 UNC in Chapel Hill

Toby Corriston
Clemson center PJ Hall celebrates after hitting a 3-pointer against North Carolina on Feb. 6, 2024.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Clemson center PJ Hall said that it was “about time to flip the script” after Clemson’s loss to Virginia last Saturday afternoon. A game later, the Tigers defeated No. 3 North Carolina 80-76 at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in a massive upset on Tuesday night.

Despite a slow comeback by the Tar Heels in the second half, key shots by the Tigers and stingy defense allowed Clemson to hold its lead throughout the contest. The teams were level at 70-70 at the 4:18 mark in the second half before Clemson slowly pulled away, scoring seven unanswered points to take control of the game and eventually win.

With the victory, Clemson earned its second win at Chapel Hill in program history, as the Tigers entered Tuesday with a 1-60 all-time record when playing there.

“I’m really happy for my players,” head coach Brad Brownell said after the win. “We’ve been working really hard and they’ve stayed connected and stayed positive through some of the adversity.”

Brownell and his squad gave the Heels their first home loss of the season through a strong start to the game, leading by as much as 16 points in the opening frame.

The Tigers (15-7, 5-6 ACC) drowned out the home crowd noise early, bursting out the gate with a 15-2 run over the Tar Heels. In the first contest between the two squads on Jan. 6, Clemson only scored one shot from deep all game. In the first three minutes, the Tigers sank attempts from beyond the arc.

North Carolina (18-5, 10-2 ACC) hung around throughout the first half, using center Armando Bacot to grant the team a lot of early success. Following Clemson’s early lead, the Tar Heels responded with an 8-0 run, cutting the lead to five before the Tigers regained control of the match. The Tigers’ nine-point lead at the break was the largest halftime deficit the Tar Heels faced all season.

Hall had a tough task on Tuesday night, guarding Bacot, an All-ACC center. The senior standout prevailed as he finished with a team-high 25 points and nine rebounds, hitting four 3-pointers in the win.

“PJ is an unbelievable kid, and he is a terrific player, but he is a better person,” Brownell said of his center. “He wants to win so bad. Today, he played much ‘free-er’ once he saw the first (shot) go in.”

Hall had a plethora of notable plays throughout the match, including an and-1 finish to extend the lead with around three minutes left in the game that was capped off with a flex over North Carolina guard RJ Davis.

In the win, Clemson guard Joseph Girard III made several impactful plays, especially from downtown. The Syracuse transfer scored five 3-pointers, pouring in 21 points and adding six rebounds. His biggest 3-pointer came at the best time for the Tigers, as he sunk a shot from the right wing with 2:08 remaining to put the Tigers up five.

Meanwhile, Clemson forward Ian Schieffelin recorded another double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. It marks the fifth double-double for the junior this season, who continues to be one of the most improved players in the country.

The Tigers will be back in action on Saturday afternoon, as they will travel north to Syracuse to take on the Orange in an ACC matchup.

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About the Contributors
Griffin Barfield
Griffin Barfield, Asst. Sports Editor
Toby Corriston, Asst. Photo Editor
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