But Roy Williams wasn’t too impressed; especially after Carolina blew an 11-point first half lead to go into intermission tied at 27-27. In the locker room, Williams blew a gasket.
Cheyenne Moore’s two three-pointers led a 14-2 run that gave the Tigers their first lead of the game at 22-21. But Jawad Williams, who had 10 points and nine rebounds, tied it up just before the break with the first of his two threes on the night.
“We stunk it up,” Williams said. “I’m extremely happy with the road win, but I’m extremely ticked off about the way we played.”
Sixteen UNC turnovers – four by Raymond Felton, as well as what Williams deemed soft inside play by Sean May, who would finish with just four points, had the veteran coach steamed at the break.
But for the first time since the 2001-02 season, Clemson wasn’t capable of pulling the upset over the Tar Heels in Death Valley. The Tigers only shot 33.3 percent for the game, while Carolina was able to eek out a 50-percent shooting performance, thanks to a second half in which it broke down Clemson and looked much more like the team that took a 14-game winning streak into Winston-Salem last Saturday.
The Tar Heels (15-2, 4-1 ACC) scored 50 points in the final period, converting 17 of 32 shots – many either coming on easy inside baskets or from beyond the three-point arc, where Carolina was 4-for-8 after Williams’ tongue-lashing.
“We were not ready for their intensity early in the game and they really took it to us in the first half,” Williams said.
His players were listening. UNC stormed out of the third floor dressing room, hopped an elevator down to the first floor, found its way through the myriad of hallways out to the court, and scored the first 11 points of the second half.
Felton committed just one turnover the rest of the way, en route to a “double-double” performance that included 11 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Carolina also got a big lift off the bench from freshman Marvin Williams, who scored 12 points, pulled down eight rebounds and was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line -- all of which came in the second half.
“They are very deep,” Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. “The game as a whole was ugly – good for us, low-scoring, but we could not score. So they broke it open.”
May remarked after the game that last year’s team might not have been able to handle the adversity UNC faced. But McCants was quick to acknowledge this year’s team was nothing like those Tar Heels teams of the recent past.
“We play harder,” McCants said. “They shot the ball well down here last year, you can’t take anything away from them, but no team is going to come out and shoot 11-for-13 from three,” as the Tigers did in defeating then No. 7 UNC, 81-72, a little less than one year ago.
The Tar Heels return home to the Smith Center Saturday night to face surprising Miami (12-4, 3-2).