Thursday, January 22, 2009

54-0, LIKE DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN…

No. 6 NORTH CAROLINA 94, No. 9 CLEMSON 70 – On Saturday night, Miami took advantage of North Carolina’s soft perimeter defense to lead for most of the first half. The Heels tightened down their now exposed weakness, and went on a 13-0 run. In the second half, UNC, behind a regenerated Wayne Ellington, pulled away from the Canes. Does this sound familiar?

Last night, the No. 6 Tar Heels did the exact same thing once again. They allowed Clemson, who had not won a game in Chapel Hill ever (since 1926, but who’s counting?), to sink jump shot after jump shot and hold the lead until the last 90 seconds of the first half. The Heels then went on a 24 to 4 run to start the second half, and as we like to say at T.A.H. – game over.

Wayne Ellington had 25 points and Tyler Hansbrough added 20 for the Tar Heels (17-2, 3-2 ACC) whose 54-0 run against the Tigers (16-2, 2-2) in Chapel Hill is an NCAA record for the longest home winning streak against one opponent.

Ellington was coming off a 23-point performance last weekend against Miami, and he is clearly partial to Clemson’s purple and orange. Last year, Ellington averaged 29 points per game in three Tar Heel wins against the Tigers. He won the first game in overtime with a buzzer beater, and made big contributions to UNC’s double overtime win at home (number 53 in the streak, but who’s counting?) and the ACC Championship Game.

North Carolina shot 53 percent, while Deon Thompson -- after failing to reach double figures in the first four conference games -- had 15 points.

The Tigers weren’t terribly lucky in the schedule draw, pulling Wake and UNC in back-to-back games after opening 16-0.

Terrence Oglesby scored 17 in the first half for Clemson, and his third 3-pointer of the half gave the Tigers a 38-36 lead with 3:31 left. But North Carolina's offense got going behind Ellington, and a 9-2 run gave the Tar Heels a 45-40 halftime lead.

The Tigers, meanwhile, got nothing going in the second half, missing 16 of their first 20 shots before finishing the half at 10-for-35 (29 percent).

While we hate to agree with Dick “Dookie V” Vitale, he made a valid point when he noted in the first half that it was imperative for UNC to dramatically improve their perimeter defense if they are looking to play deep into March or April. This is especially true when they face arch-rival Duke who has long made a living on dribble penetration and open jump shots.

ACC fans who have been screaming all year that the officials are quick to call fouls on players endeavoring to stop Tyler Hansbrough must have enjoyed last night’s game. Clemson’s front line beat and banged on Hansbrough and whistles rarely blew. Hansbrough shot just nine free throws, well below his game average.

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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