“The streak has absolutely nothing to do with my team; we did not talk about it,” Roy Williams said, continuing to downplay the nation’s longest home winning streak over one team.
Few doubted the streak would be snapped this year, but UNC eliminated any chance for drama early, by holding the Tigers without a field goal for nearly six minutes to start the game.
After falling behind 14-1, Clemson rallied and was within eight at the 10:01 mark of the first half. But the Tar Heels then ran off 14 unanswered points in less than three minutes and never looked back.
“We ran into a buzz saw today,” said Tigers coach Oliver Purnell, who was whistled for an early technical. “I sort of wanted to send a message…if they wanted to ‘T’ me up, then ‘T’ me up.”
With the win, Carolina (22-3, 10-2 ACC) moved back into a temporary tie for first place in the conference, pending Wake Forest’s match-up at Duke on Sunday. Roy Williams, as well as most of the players, seemed more interested in the Tar Heels’ upcoming trip to Raleigh to meet N.C. State on Tuesday.
The Tar Heels have now won 19 of the last 21 meetings over Clemson (12-13, 2-10) at home by double-figures. They have won nine games by 30 points or more this season, something no UNC team has done since the 1993 championship squad.
Jawad Williams, on his 22nd birthday, led all scorers with 17 points. And in doing so, he also recorded his 1,500th career point at UNC.
“Congratulations to him for hitting that milestone,” Marvin Williams said.
Sean May, who finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds, registered his fourth-straight double-double. The last Tar Heel to accomplish that feat was Jason Capel in 2001-02.
Nursing a sore left toe, Marvin Williams played 16 minutes – scoring 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
“It hurts the most jumping, landing and when I come out of the game, but when I am out there I don’t really think about it,” he said. “I just try to do what I can to help the team win.”
Raymond Felton added to his league-leading total with nine assists, to go with 11 points. The Tar Heels have now had at least four players reach double figures in 19 consecutive games – 22 in all. In a statistic that speaks to Carolina’s depth and balance, no one is averaging more than 30 minutes per game.
Rashad McCants missed the start of the second half with an intestinal problem, according to Roy Williams. McCants would see just 19 minutes of action, scoring nine points.
“He told me before the game that he didn’t feel very well,” Williams said. “I told him I would try to give him more frequent rest and we tried to do that. We came back at halftime, he felt worse, so I started Melvin [Scott].”
UNC forced the Tigers into 27 turnovers, and as a team, blocked 11 shots. Still, Roy Williams was not pleased his team lost the ball 19 times. And despite shooting 50.8 percent for the game, there were times when the Tar Heels looked sloppy – especially in transition.
“I was very happy with what we did on defense, but we still had too many turnovers,” Williams said. “We’ve got to do a better job of getting shots and taking advantage when we have a three-on-two or four-on-two on the break.”
Exactly one month ago at Clemson, the Tar Heels turned the ball over 16 times in the first half, allowing the Tigers to rally from an early deficit and tie the score, 27-27, at intermission. Carolina would score the first 11 points of the second half en route to a 77-58 victory.
“We didn’t want them to stick around at all and think that they could play with us,” David Noel said describing the team’s focus this time around. “No slight to them, but we just wanted to go out, jump on them, hit them, and just keep hitting them, and make the game a big game.”