CHAPEL HILL On Sunday night at the Smith Center, North Carolina had one of its best outings in ACC play, played inspired basketball and beat Clemson.
Indeed, Clemsons dubious winless streak in Chapel Hill continued. But more importantly for UNC, the Tar Heels finally looked like the Tar Heels again.
UNC topped the Tigers 80-61, and it wasnt particularly close past the midway point of the first half. Against a Tigers team whose biggest strength is its defense, the Tar Heels were the most efficient on offense since the season-opening blowout against Oakland (Mich.).
From J.P. Tokoto crashing into the first row of fans to get a rebound to James Michael McAdoo diving to the floor multiple times to retrieve a loose ball, the Tar Heels (12-7, 2-4 ACC) hustled to earn only their second win in 2014.
I think James Michael set the tone with how active he was, said UNC coach Roy Williams, whose team shot 55.4 percent. He was the first one to dive on the floor for the loose ball. And he should play like that.
I almost feel like I shouldnt congratulate him because thats the way you should play the game, but our teams have typically done that, but we havent done that nearly as much this year.
McAdoo paced the Tar Heels with a game-high 22 points while showing off his arsenal of offensive moves from his mid-range jumper to his low-post scoring and even tip-ins.
He went 9-for-13 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds while leading a team Williams said played the hardest it had in a long time. Now, its a matter of keeping that going.
Realizing what our record is and what our team aspirations are, at the end of the day, were not going to go out there and lay down, McAdoo said. So we have to go out there and take it from other teams. I think a lot of guys are starting to buy in.
Clemson (13-6, 4-3) dominated the glass early, getting seven offensive rebounds during the first nine minutes and scoring eight of its first 11 points on second-chance opportunities.
But North Carolina shored up its mistakes around the defensive glass, and the Tigers had just two offensive rebounds for the remainder of the half. From the 11-minute, 57-second mark in the first half until there was 13:09 left a span of nearly 19 minutes Clemson made three field goals.
I was disappointed that we didnt make a few more shots, and I was really disappointed that the competitive spirit defensively was not there, Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. I thought we would rally defensively, and we just never did, and some of thats credit to North Carolina.
Once the Tigers went cold, the Tar Heels began to pull away. With less than six minutes remaining in the first half, Tokoto saved a tapped a loose ball back in bounds and McAdoo collected it. He handled the ball while running up the floor, then split the defense with a deft bounce pass to Leslie McDonald for the easy layup for UNC to take a 26-17 lead.
McAdoos 22 points marked the 12th consecutive game he has scored in double figures and his fifth this season with at least 20 points.
With the loss, Clemson pushed its losing streak to 0-57 in games played in Chapel Hill, the longest mark for any team on the road in NCAA history. Williams said he didnt talk to the players about it last week, though this seasons Tar Heels like most said they discussed among themselves not being the team that allowed the streak to end.
We definitely had more effort and sense of urgency than weve had almost all year, dating back to the times when we were beating the No. 1 team in the country on the road, point guard Marcus Paige said. We just decided that we have to outwork teams. We cant just show up because were North Carolina and expect to win weve seen how that goes for us. So were going to hang out hat on working hard and out-hustling our opponent.
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9
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