"On their home court, we are going to have to play extremely well to beat them. Playing a half like we played here is not good enough. It's going to take the kind of effort we had against Maryland, against South Carolina and maybe against Ohio State. Forty minutes of really battling, starting on the defensive end of the floor, we are really going to need to make some shots in order to beat them. We are going to have to play extremely well, Carolina needs to be less than at their best in order to beat them." -- Oliver Purnell
"There is no question that Clemson's aggressivness was [their advantage] the last time we played. Their size and aggressivness were really impressive and even Ray Charles knew they kicked our butts in the first half. They embarrassed us and that was the worst feeling I've had all year." -- Roy Williams
First Matchup with UNC: The Heels played one of their worst halfs of the season to start the Jan. 19 game at Clemson, committing 16 turnovers and going into the break tied, 27-27. But in the second half, UNC took over, as the offense and defense worked in tune for a 77-58 final. Carolina forced 20 turnovers and held the Tigers to 33% FG. Rashad McCants had 23 points and six assists, while Marvin Williams contributed an important 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
Season To Date: Head coach Oliver Purnell is still in the initial stages of his rebuilding process at Clemson, so few expected the Tigers to climb out of the ACC basement this season. Still, some flashes of impressive play have made the tough losses and poor play more disappointing. They had two solid non-conference wins over Ohio State and South Carolina in December, they hung with Duke at Cameron in January and then stunned Maryland earlier this month. Those have been the highlights. The overall picture is a 2-9 ACC record and more than 17 turnovers per game. The Tigers are coming off of a 59-42 win over SEC cellar-dweller Georgia on Wednesday in which they held the Bulldogs to only six second-half field goals.
Outgunned: In 11 league games this season, the Tigers trail their opponents in every major shooting category. Clemson is shooting just 41.1 percent from the field, while its opponents are hitting 50.3 percent of their shots. Also, the Tigers have nailed just 31.3 percent of their three-point attempts, while the opposition is knocking down 40.0 percent from beyond the arc. And even at the free throw line, Clemson has made 60.2 percent of its foul line attempts, while the other team makes 66.5 percent.
Lineup Shuffle: In an attempt to reward their defensive play and infuse more energy into the lineup, Purnell has started freshmen James Mays and Sam Perry the last four games. "These guys have earned the right to play that role, and this team needs that role," Purnell said. "We need guys who are committed to the defensive end of the floor to start the game because if we don't play that way for 40 minutes, we're not going to have a chance to win in this very talented league." Clemson has more freshman starts than any other team in the ACC.
Ford Factor: Senior Sharrod Ford is going to conclude his career at Clemson without ever garnering the attention he deserves as one of the better big men in the conference. The 6-9 shotblocker is averaging 14.1 points, 8.1 boards and nearly two blocks per game. Purnell called him out after a three-point, zero-rebound showing against Georgia Tech two weeks ago and Ford has responded. He also had 14 points, nine boards and three blocks in the loss to UNC earlier this season.
The Streak: Clemson has made 50 trips to Chapel Hill since 1926 and come away with losses each time, which is one of the ACC's most remarkable streaks and gets heavy media play each season. The Tar Heels also hold a 113-19 record in the all-time series against the Tigers.
Projected Starters: 25 Cliff Hammonds (6-3, 175, G, Fr.) – 10.1 ppg, 3.0 apg 3 Vernon Hamilton (6-0, 192, G, So.) – 5.9 ppg, 2.6 apg 32 Sam Perry (6-5, 190, F, Fr.) – 3.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg 44 James Mays (6-9, 215, F, Fr.) – 4.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg 5 Sharrod Ford (6-9, 223, F, Sr.) - 14.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg Key Reserves: 22 Shawan Robinson (6-2, 183, G, Jr.) – 10.7 ppg, 3.2 apg 33 Akin Akingbala (6-9, 220, F, Jr.) – 7.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg 12 Olu Babalola (6-6, 242, F, Sr.) – 6.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg 15 Cheyenne Moore (6-6, 190, F, Fr.) - 6.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg
Ford ... Robinson
Hamilton ... Babalola
Mays ... Akingbala
Purnell and Hammonds