North Carolina (19-8, 9-5) vs. Clemson (13-13, 5-9)
Clemson, S.C. -- Littlejohn Coliseum
Thursday, 7 p.m.
ESPN (Mark Jones, Paul Biancardi)
“We certainly have our hands full with a North Carolina team that is playing really well [and] shoots the ball extremely well from the perimeter. Just seems to be in a very good rhythm right now, playing with a lot of confidence, especially the last couple of weeks.” – Clemson head coach Brad Brownell on UNC
“I thought we played some stretches of very good basketball. I think that's kind of been what we've done this year - we've played very good in stretches, then we've had some things happen to us and not respond very well, then play good again a lot of times in spurts in games. We're just not consistently as good as we need to be to finish off some of these games. But we're hanging in there okay.” – Brownell on his team’s play in February
Season to Date: Clemson enters Thursday night’s contest with a 13-13 (5-6 ACC) record. The Tigers showed promise early in the season, winning six of their first nine games with losses to No. 2 Gonzaga (57-49) and No. 11 Arizona (66-54). Things quickly nosedived as Brad Brownell’s squad was throttled by Coastal Carolina, 69-46, on Dec. 19. Clemson has lost 12 of its last 21 games, including five of its last six.
More Booker Trouble: Senior forward Devin Booker leads Clemson in both scoring (12.4 ppg) and rebounding (7.8). The Whitmire, S.C. native is shooting 53.3 percent and has blocked 33 shots on the season, but he’s elevated his play during ACC ball, averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds. Devin’s older brother, Trevor, led Clemson with 21 points in its upset of 12th-ranked UNC in 2010.
Scoring Woes: In ACC play, Clemson ranks 12th in scoring offense (57.7), field goal percentage (39.7) and assists (9.2), while fairing a touch better – 11th – in 3-point field goal percentage (31.8). On the season, the Tigers rank 293rd nationally in scoring offense (61.8), 215th in field goal percentage (42.6), 224th in 3-point field goal percentage (32.4) and 305th in assists (10.7).
Relying on Defense: While Clemson’s scoring defense (61.7) ranks third in ACC play, its percentage defense hasn’t been quite as productive. The Tigers rank fifth in ACC play in field goal percentage (41.6) and seventh in 3-point field goal percentage (36.7). Brownell’s squad does lead the league in blocked shots with 5.4 per contest.
Tough at Home: In line with the ACC’s ever-growing trend this season, the Tigers play like a different team at home (4-3 in league play). Clemson is averaging 10.1 more points (66.6-56.5) at home than on the road while holding its opponents to 9.4 fewer points (55.7-65.1). The Tigers are shooting 45.3 percent at Littlejohn, while allowing opponents to connect on just 36.8 percent. In Clemson’s three ACC losses – Florida State, N.C. State and Miami – it held the lead in the final minute twice and had the ball down three with 37 seconds to play against the Seminoles.
Emerging Talent: In his first 20 collegiate games, Jordan Roper averaged 6.2 points with five double-figure outings. Since then, however, the freshman guard is averaging 12.3 points per game over his last six contests, including four double-figure games. The 5-foot-11, 165-pounder out of Columbia, S.C. has been especially lethal at home in recent weeks, scoring 36 total points and connecting on 6-of-8 3-pointers in close losses to N.C. State and Miami.
Last Meeting: North Carolina defeated the Tigers, 74-52, on Feb. 18, 2012. Harrison Barnes led UNC with 24 points and Reggie Bullock added 11 as the Tar Heels extended their home record against Clemson to 56-0.
Series History: UNC leads the overall series with Clemson, 126-20. The Tar Heels have won 14 of the last 15 meetings, including four of the last five at Littlejohn Coliseum.
12 Rod Hall (6-1, 210, So.) - 5.8 ppg, 3.5 apg
20 Jordan Roper (5-11, 165, Fr.) - 7.6 ppg, 1.2 rpg
32 K.J. McDaniels (6-6, 200, So.) - 10.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg
24 Milton Jennings (6-9, 225, Sr.) - 9.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg
31 Devin Booker (6-8, 250, Sr.) - 12.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg
3 Adonis Filer (6-2, 190, Fr.) - 6.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg
21 Damarcus Harrison (6-4, 200, So.) - 5.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg
22 Bernard Sullivan (6-7, 230, So.) - 2.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg
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(Photos by USA Today Sports Images)