CHAPEL HILL – Jack Cobb didn’t do it. Neither did George Glamack. John “Hook” Dillon? Nah, he didn’t either. Lenny Rosenbluth, Billy Cunningham, Charlie Scott and Bill Chamberlain? No way. Of course Phil Ford didn’t. James Worthy, Kenny Smith, Jeff Lebo, Dante Calabria, Antawn Jamison and Brendan Haywood also didn’t experience it.
And now, Kris Lang, Jason Capel, Brian Bersticker, Orlando Melendez and Joe Everett can add their names to the list of Tar Heels who never lost at home to Clemson.
Capel scored 28 points and Jackie Manuel added 16 as North Carolina improved to 48-0 all-time at home against Clemson after defeating the Tigers, 96-78, before 16,125 jubilant fans at the Dean E. Smith Center.
While this may have been Clemson’s best chance to beat the Tar Heels (8-18, 4-11 Atlantic Coast Conference) in Chapel Hill due to UNC’s terrible season, it looked more like most of the Tigers’ visits as Larry Shyatt’s team had few answers for the determined Heels.
“The streak really didn’t mean a lot to us,” said Adam Boone. “It means a lot to the fans, I can understand that, because a lot of people have been mentioning the streak, pointing out to us how important it was to keep it going. I know myself I didn’t consider the streak once during the whole game. But it is important for the fans and is nice to keep it going for them.”
Although Tony Stockman (30 points) kept Clemson in the game in the first half with an amazing 28 points, UNC was pretty much in control most of the contest.
Ahead 48-40 at halftime, UNC opened the final period on a 14-2 run keyed by increased defensive pressure – especially on Stockman - as three forced turnovers helped lead to easy baskets.
UNC’s Jawad Williams also pitched in by scoring four consecutive field goals - twice following missed shots.
After a Clemson score Boone (13 points, a career high eight assists and just one turnover) knocked down a 3-pointer and Bersticker nailed a jumper from the baseline on a feed from Boone to equal UNC’s largest lead of the night at 67-44 with 12:42 left to play.
“I was fortunate enough to knock down a few shots today,” Bersticker said. “But Adam got the ball to me and I just knocked it down.”
But this was all about keeping alive something that was nothing more than a casual joke to most Carolina fans prior to the 2001-02 season. After all, UNC has deemed big victories that get them ACC championships or slots in the Final Four. Yet this win may keep the Heels from the dreaded play-in game in next week’s ACC Tournament in Charlotte and, of course, keeping that streak alive.
“I don’t know, I heard the fans chanting something,” Capel said with a smile referring to what UNC’s record is at home against Clemson. “Yeah, we kept one alive. So, we can’t hold our heads down because of that.”
“I know. Jason and I were kidding around that at least we kept one streak alive,” Lang said. “That’s one positive thing you can look at. And that’s all within reason.”
The win was also about pride.
“Very much so,” Lang said. “Coach said that and he also said that he wanted the seniors to go out on a good note in the Smith Center and I believe the younger guys really helped us do that tonight.”
With all of the other records being blown away in shocking fashion, preserving this record is a positive.
“No doubt, it matters,” said UNC freshman Melvin Scott. “We haven’t been winning a lot of games but we have pride. And the fans have been so that it was very important to keep that streak alive.”
Carolina’s picked up defense, especially Boone and Manuel, held Stockman to just one basket – a driving layup midway through the second half – in the final 20 minutes.
Freshman Chey Christie was the only other Tiger in double figures with 11 points.
Williams had 14 points for the Tar Heels while Bersticker had 10. Lang scored just six points before fouling out in just 19 minutes of action in his last ever game in the Dean Dome.
The Tar Heels exploded out of the gate.
Capel nailed a trio of 3s as UNC opened up a quick 10-0 lead. Although the Tigers battled back to 15-7, UNC went on a 14-5 run to open up a 29-12 advantage with 10:14 left in the half.
A surprising offensive eruption from Manuel led the run. The freshman from West Palm Beach, Fla., converted a pair of put-backs off Boone missed 3s, hit a pair of free throws and knocked down a couple of 3s.
But Stockman simply wouldn’t let his team get blown out. He nailed 8 of 10 3-pointers in the first half and went 4 for 4 from the free throw line, which was good for his amazing first-half tally.
“That’s one of the best performances I’ve ever seen,” Capel said. “He hit some tough shots – with hands in his face. When he gets going he gets going.”
But the Heels remained sharp on offense, getting a catch-and-shoot baseline jumper from Bersticker as the shot clock expired and with just four seconds left before intermissions giving UNC a 48-40 halftime lead.
So from Harlan Sanborn’s UNC White Phantoms – just two years removed from a Helms Foundation national championship – to Matt Doherty’s Tar Heels – just two years removed from a sixth Final Four in 10 years, the losingest Carolina club ever can feel like every other that came before them. Even if it is for just a few days.
Andrew Jones is in his sixth year covering football and basketball for Inside Carolina. He is also in his fourth year as a copy editor and staff writer for the Wilmington Star-News and hosts a nightly radio show on WAAV-AM980 in Wilmington. He has also written for ACCNews and once published The College Game and the former Total Sports. He can be reached via e-mail at: AJWAAV@aol.com.