North Carolina (17-6, 7-2) vs. Clemson (17-7, 6-4)
Clemson, S.C. -- Littlejohn Coliseum
1:00 -- Raycom (Bob Rathbun, Dan Bonner)
"Our guys were outstanding defensively in the first half. We really made them work. We were very unselfish moving the ball, getting the ball into good positions on the court. We played good basketball tonight. This might have been our best game of the year. ... We are an improved basketball team." – Clemson head coach Brad Brownell following Tuesday’s 77-69 victory over Boston College
"They'll know what to expect; they've been here before. It should be a good one. We're clearly much better than we were in November and December. The problem is, a lot of teams in our league are that way." – Brownell on UNC’s visit to Littlejohn Coliseum
Since the Last Time We Met… Clemson enters Saturday afternoon’s contest with a 17-7 (6-4 ACC) record. The Tigers have won four of their six ACC contests since losing to North Carolina on Jan. 18, including four of their last five. First-year head coach Brad Brownell’s squad is 5-0 at home in ACC play and has won 10 straight overall at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Second Half Man: Demontez Stitt (13.7 ppg, 4.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists) has refused to let arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Dec. 13 derail his senior season. After struggling in the loss at North Carolina (11 points on 3-of-15 shooting), the veteran guard has responded by averaging 14.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists over his past six games. Stitt has also placed a premium on playing well in crunch time – over his last 10 games, the Matthews, N.C. native has averaged 3.5 points before halftime and 10.7 points after the break.
Defensive Lockdown: The Tigers lead the ACC and rank 17th nationally in scoring defense (60.0 ppg). That mark puts Clemson in line to post the best scoring defense average since the 1996-’97 season and the second-best during the shot clock era. In ACC play, the Tigers rank fourth in both field goal percentage defense (41.4) and 3-point field goal percentage defense (33.0), thanks in part to 5.1 blocks (2nd ACC) and 7.2 steals (3rd ACC) per outing. All but one of Clemson’s 24 opponents have been held to less than 50 percent shooting from the floor – Maryland connected on 50 percent (24-of-48) of its field goal attempts on Jan. 22.
Sneaky Good on Offense: Clemson’s defense may earn the bulk of the headlines in the Palmetto State, but the Tigers’ offensive production has been just as impressive. In ACC play, Clemson is tied with North Carolina atop the conference in field goal percentage (45.2) and also rank second behind Virginia in 3-point field goal percentage (37.0).
Man in the Middle: Jerai Grant continues to provide Brownell a legitimate post presence in averaging 12.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. The senior forward also struggled against UNC last month (2 points of 1-of-12 shooting), but he has averaged 14.3 points in the six games since that season-low output.
Trouble at Home: While Clemson has struggled on the road this season, the familiar confines of Littlejohn Coliseum have provided a significant boost in production. The Tigers are knocking down 48.9 percent of their field goal attempts and 36.2 percent of their 3-pointers at home while holding their opponents to 37.9 percent.
The Return of Mr. Smith: Junior wing Tanner Smith (8.0 ppg) sprained the MCL in his right knee midway through the first half against North Carolina on Jan. 18 and had to sit out the next two games before returning in limited action against Florida State and Virginia. The Alpharetta, Ga. native has returned to starters’ minutes over the past two games against Georgia Tech and Boston College, totaling a combined 15 points and seven rebounds. Smith leads his squad in charges taken (15) and free throw percentage (74.2).
Random Fact of the Day: Clemson has beaten a top-20 North Carolina team 11 times at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Last Meeting: UNC defeated Clemson, 75-65, at the Smith Center on Jan. 18, improving its all-time home record against the Tigers to a NCAA record 55-0. Reggie Bullock scored 16 of his career-high 18 points in the first half for the Tar Heels and John Henson added 14 points, eight rebounds and five blocks.
Series History: North Carolina leads the all-time series with Clemson, 123-20. The Tar Heels have won 11 of the last 12 meetings and 35 of the last 42.
11 Andre Young (5-9, 175, Jr.) - 11.0 ppg, 3.2 apg
2 Demontez Stitt (6-2, 180, Sr.) - 13.7 ppg, 3.5 apg
5 Tanner Smith (6-5, 205, Jr.) - 8.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg
31 Devin Booker (6-8, 245, So.) - 8.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg
45 Jerai Grant (6-8, 230, Sr.) - 12.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.5 bpg
24 Milton Jennings (6-9, 225, So.) - 8.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg
21 Bryan Narcisse (6-6, 220, Jr.) - 3.3 ppg, 1.4 rpg
12 Cory Stanton (5-10, 175, Fr.) - 2.8 ppg, 0.9 apg
3 Zavier Anderson (5-9, 170, Sr.) - 1.3 ppg, 1.4 apg
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