Clemson managed to stay close through the second media timeout despite a combination of poor defense and mediocre offensive production by imposing its will on the boards. The Tigers trailed 14-13 with 11:21 left before halftime, but held a 10-6 rebounding edge, including a 7-3 advantage on the offensive glass.
As a result, Clemson had outscored UNC 8-2 in second-chance points.
Junior forward James Michael McAdoo opined in his postgame interview that Clemson’s early success on the boards was possibly due to UNC’s lackadaisical approach. The Tar Heels returned to the floor from the commercial break with a more intense, aggressive attitude and promptly pulled away from a Tigers squad that would ultimately fall to 0-57 in Chapel Hill.
UNC head coach Roy Williams admitted to screaming at his players during that second media timeout, although he acknowledged he does that several times a game.
“I told them we were killing ourselves because we weren’t doing a good job of boxing out,” the 11th-year UNC head coach said after UNC’s 80-61 victory. “You’ve got to go get somebody. You’ve got to go put a body on somebody and then you’ve go to rebound like you really want it. It was really the story of the first eight or 10 minutes of the game and then I thought the story of the next eight or 10 minutes was our offensive rebounding.”
The Tar Heels outscored Clemson 23-8 over the final 11:21 of the first half, due in large part to a 16-6 (7-2 OR) rebounding edge. UNC outscored the Tigers 8-0 in second-chance points during that stretch.
Without an ability to manufacture points off the offensive glass, Clemson managed just one field goal on 11 attempts to close the half.
“We saw that was definitely how they were scoring, especially early,” said McAdoo, who finished with 22 points and seven rebounds. “We realized that they were a big team, a physical team, but that doesn’t mean anything. So we just realized that if we were going to win this game, then we definitely had to keep them off the boards and stop letting them get second and third chances.”
The hustle plays weren’t limited to rebounding. The Tar Heels began winning their share of 50-50 balls, which served the dual purpose of point differential and emotional release. J.P. Tokoto’s dive out of bounds for a Damarcus Harrison miss resulted in transition points, courtesy of a McAdoo bullet bounce pass to Leslie McDonald for the layup and a 27-16 lead with 5:44 to play.
UNC carried its effort over to the second half and extended its run to 40-10 with 13:25 to play. Clemson was held to one field goal over an 18-minute period and managed just five offensive rebounds – and zero second-chance points - on 18 missed shots during that stretch.
“It was just wanting the ball and wanting to win,” said freshman forward Kennedy Meeks, who scored 11 points and eight rebounds (5 OR). “I think everybody on our team was tired of losing, so we all had to come together and demand the ball and want the ball.”
UNC outrebounded Clemson, 37-31. The Tigers entered Sunday’s contest ranked 32nd nationally with a plus-5.7 rebounding margin.