Can Clemson finally break the losing streak in Chapel Hill?
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — One of the most cherished streaks in college basketball will be on the line Tuesday night when No. 20 Clemson visits No. 15 North Carolina for an Atlantic Coast Conference matchup.
The Tigers never have won in Chapel Hill, yet this would appear to be a time when they have a reasonable shot at ending the drought.
“Clemson is coming in having beaten some good teams,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said Monday. “Probably the best team Brad (Brownell) has had in a few years.”
North Carolina holds a 58-0 record, including 27-0 since the opening of the Smith Center, in home games against Clemson.
The 58 home victories without a loss in the series mark the longest home winning streak against an opponent in NCAA history. Princeton’s 52-game home hex on Brown ended in 2003.
The Tar Heels (14-4, 3-2) have won consecutive games, including Saturday night’s one-point escape at Notre Dame.
Clemson (15-2, 4-1) is coming off a 72-63 home victory Saturday against nationally ranked Miami after stumbling last Thursday at North Carolina State.
Yet Clemson no longer has an annual opportunity to interrupt the streak. Because of the expanded ACC, there isn’t a full round-robin scheduling format.
The Tigers have visited Chapel Hill in only two of the past five seasons. North Carolina won the lone meeting last season in overtime at Clemson.
Brownell said the Tar Heels look well-tested again. He’s especially impressed with the league-leading 12.2 rebounding margin held by the Tar Heels.
“It’s just remarkable how Roy gets them to be one of the best rebounding teams if not the best rebounding team in the country every year,” Brownell said. “They’re not as big this year, but they’re still plus-12 on the boards. So, rebounding is huge every time you play them.”
The teams have met 17 previous times when both teams are ranked, with North Carolina 15-2 in those games (with both Clemson victories at home). The last time they were both in the polls for a matchup in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels rolled to a 94-70 decision Jan. 21, 2009.
Williams-coached teams are 19-2 against Clemson. That includes North Carolina’s nine-game winning streak in the series.
On Monday, North Carolina junior forward Luke Maye was named ACC Player of the Week for the third time this season.
“A lot of work and sweat and he deserves all the nice things people are saying about him,” Williams said.
Clemson reserve forward/center Mark Donnal, a graduate transfer from Michigan, will make his first appearance at the Smith Center. He’s coming off his only games in double-figure scoring with 13 and 12 points in games last week.
“He has been a wonderful addition to our team,” Brownell said. “He has been in a lot of big games. I think he’s a guy who’s very comfortable playing at this level.”
The Tigers are led in scoring by Marcquise Reed (18.4 points per game), who ranks sixth in the ACC. North Carolina’s Joel Berry II (17.8) and Maye (17.4) are eighth and ninth, respectively, on the league’s scoring chart.
This will be Clemson’s third game in a six-day span.
The Tigers are beginning a three-game stretch against teams (also Notre Dame and Virginia) with a combined 43-10 record.
Williams has 830 career coaching victories, putting him in a seventh-place tie all-time for Division I wins with former Mount St. Mary’s coach Jim Phelan.