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Brownell, Clemson look to regroup with matchup vs. North Carolina ahead

Matt Mynes // Photo Editor

Clemson head basketball coach Brad Brownell talks to forwards PJ Hall (24) and Ben Middlebrooks (10) against Miami in Littlejohn Coliseum on Feb. 4, 2023. 

The Clemson Tigers (18-6, 10-3 ACC) will head to Chapel Hill on Saturday to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels (15-9, 7-6 ACC) in another loaded conference matchup. 

Clemson has been one of the surprise stories in the ACC conference, as well as the college basketball world. After being widely predicted to finish between the middle and bottom of the ACC standings, the Tigers came out of the gate hot, winning their first seven in-conference games, setting a school record. 

If Clemson comes out victorious in one more ACC game, this season will mark the most in-conference wins in a single season in school history. However, with back-to-back losses against Boston College and Miami, the Tigers are looking to bounce back on Saturday after a much-needed six-day break before this weekend’s game.

“We need a break for a little bit,” head coach Brad Brownell said after Saturday’s loss to Miami. “We need a week to, hopefully, get a little more healthy and rest a little bit.”

Brownell is happy to have everybody return from injury, with guards like Brevin Galloway, Chase Hunter and Alex Hemenway returning to lineups.

“What I am excited about this week is we get a little bit of rest, and we have our full team and go through the nuances of what we need to do to get better,” Brownell said on Monday. 

The returning guards are able to join the stable frontcourt of Hunter Tyson and PJ Hall, who have shown no signs of stopping their dominant partnership this season. The two lead the Tigers in scoring, as Tyson and Hall are averaging 16.1 and 14.3 points per game, respectively.

On the opposing side is North Carolina. After starting the season as the Associated Press’ No. 1 seed, the Tar Heels have had a lackluster season, going 5-4 in the first nine games. Although they have gotten back on track, they have fallen in some pivotal matchups as of late, falling to Duke and Virginia in the last month and most recently losing to Wake Forest on Tuesday. 

However, with the school’s name comes stars, and North Carolina certainly has a plethora of scorers to help them win on Sunday, one of which is Armando Bacot. The senior forward/center finished as the runner-up ACC Player of the Year last season and is continuing a dominant season, averaging 17.5 points and 11.3 rebounds, 4.4 of which come on the offensive end. 

Bacot’s prowess on the offensive glass could present a challenge for the Tigers, who haven’t lived up to their head coach’s expectations in regard to rebounding. 

“The only thing I’ve been disappointed in my team a little bit this year is our guys not aggressive enough offensive rebounding,” Brownell said last week. “We’ve got a lot of really nice kids, and they’re skilled players. They’re good basketball players, but we need more toughness sometimes.” 

In the backcourt for the Tar Heels are juniors Caleb Love and RJ Davis. Love averages 16.3 points per game and provides the Tar Heels with a spark plug. Meanwhile, Davis averages 15.8 points and a team-high 3.3 assists per game.

Tipoff is set for 2:00 p.m. EST, and the game will be broadcasted on ESPN2.

Statistics accurate as of Feb. 6.

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Griffin Barfield, Asst. Sports Editor
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