Clemson’s lone ACC regular season title came in 1990 on the backs of Elden Campbell and Dale Davis. As good as that Cliff Ellis squad turned out to be (24-8, 10-4 ACC), the Tigers were blown out 83-60 at the Smith Center.
In 2002, the Tigers entered a late February contest ahead of the Tar Heels in the ACC standings, but fell behind by 13 points less than three minutes in and never posed a serious challenge, thereby providing the lone highlight to UNC’s 8-20 season.
And in 2008, Clemson led by 11 with three minutes to play with Ty Lawson sidelined by an ankle injury. Tyler Hansbrough and Quentin Thomas, however, rallied the Tar Heels for a 103-93 double-overtime victory.
On Sunday, Brad Brownell’s club entered the Smith Center with a 4-2 conference record that included a 13-point victory over then-No. 16 Duke.
The Tigers were the ACC leaders in field goal percentage defense (37.2) and ranked second nationally in effective field goal percentage, according to kenpom.com, and their crawling pace appeared to be yet another tough matchup for the Tar Heels.
Instead, UNC won 80-61, shooting a blistering 55.4 percent from the field while becoming Clemson’s first opponent this season to crack the 80-point threshold. The Tar Heels (12-7, 2-4 ACC) led by as many as 31 points early in the second half.
James Michael McAdoo led UNC with 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting and three other Tar Heels scored in double figures – Marcus Paige (15), Leslie McDonald (12) and Kennedy Meeks (1). UNC held Clemson (13-6, 4-3 ACC) to 34.0 percent shooting and claimed a 37-31 victory on the boards.
UNC has won 25 of its last 27 contests against Clemson in Chapel Hill by double digits. The Tar Heels’ 57-0 mark against the Tigers at home is the longest such streak in NCAA history.
Roy Williams and his coaching staff never discussed the streak with their players this week.
“The coaches didn’t bring it up – I don’t know if they thought we were going to put too much pressure on ourselves or anything – but we all know,” Paige said. “We’ve seen it on Twitter, we hear about it, former [players] tell us about it. We definitely knew and we just didn’t want to be the group that messed that up.”
The pressure Paige references is real. The previous NCAA record was Princeton’s 52-game home winning streak against Brown, which was snapped in 2002. The longest current home winning streak is Marquette’s 35-game roll over Milwaukee.
But this series is more than about a winning streak; Clemson has never won in Chapel Hill.
Meeks acknowledged the oddity of the streak with a laugh.
“I don’t know why they haven’t won,” he said.
The easy answer is that North Carolina consistently puts a better product on the court, although that can be said about most of UNC’s opponents. The fact that Clemson’s best teams have historically wilted when encountering the streak provides a peculiar feeling that the end may not be in sight.