Reyshawn Terry led four Tar Heels in double figures with 19 points to go with 11 rebounds.
“He’s worked extremely hard to become a better player,” Roy Williams said of Terry, who was 6-of-8 from the floor. “I think he’s going to be a big-time defensive player when he puts the focus in and tries to do it every single day.”
David Noel, who tallied a career-high nine assists, scored 12 points; while Bobby Frasor added 16 and Tyler Hansbrough chipped in 14.
Clearly playing its best basketball of the season, UNC (14-5, 5-3 ACC) shot 50 percent from the field while holding the Tigers to 37 percent in front of a vociferous crowd of 21,352 at the Smith Center. Winners of three straight and four of their last five, the Tar Heels will host second-ranked Duke (21-1, 9-0) on Tuesday at 9 p.m.
“I always watched it growing up, so I know it’s a fairly big rivalry,” Hansbrough said regarding his team’s upcoming match-up with the Blue Devils. “But, at the same time, it’s still an ACC game. So we’re going to prepare for it just like any other game. We’re just going to come out and play our best.”
Carolina’s 52-0 streak over visiting Clemson survived when all other streaks were severed in ’01-’02, and is alive and well today after UNC lost an unprecedented top seven scorers last season.
At one point the UNC students led a chant of “You can’t win here.”
So why is it so hard for Clemson to break through and win in Chapel Hill?
“Because they’ve had great players and coaches here since I’ve been born,” Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. “We came in thinking we had a chance to win. This is not last year’s team… but it’s pretty good and it’s getting better.”
At the ACC Tournament last year in Washington, D.C., a Tigers’ squad of similar makeup put a scare into the then-second-ranked Tar Heels. Carolina trailed 71-58 with 7:53 remaining in the semifinal match-up, before closing with a 30-10 run the end the game and enact its largest comeback victory – an 88-81 thriller at the MCI Center.
This year’s visit to Chapel Hill may have seemed perfect for Clemson (14-8, 3-6) to finally snap the streak, but the Tar Heels would have none of that. They quickly put aside any chance for drama by jumping out to a 10-0 lead, which forced Purnell to burn his first timeout just two mintues into the game.
After trailing by double-figures most of the contest, the Tigers climbed back to within 52-45 with 11:34 left in the game thanks to an 11-1 run. But UNC immediately answered with a 14-4 run of its own, which included an improbable tip-in by Hansbrough, a season’s worth of Noel highlights featuring some of his finest dunks and blocks, and finally a circus shot by Frasor, who was trying to throw an under-armed alley-oop but banked it home instead.
“David’s just a player,” Frasor said. “He can do everything. He can rebound, he can pass, he can handle the ball and he can score.”
While the house video editing equipment was working overtime, UNC had again matched its largest lead of the game, ahead 66-49.