North Carolina was far from its best on Tuesday fresh off an emotional win over 7th-ranked rival Duke.
It cost the Tar Heels in a sluggish 80-76 loss at home to unranked Clemson. The win was just the second ever for Clemson in 62 road games against North Carolina. The program's previous win in Chapel Hill took place in January 2020.
Tigers start hot, fend off UNC rally
The Tigers punched the Tar Heels in the mouth while jumping out to a 15-2 lead. North Carolina then trailed most of the game before clawing back to tie it at 70-70 with 4:18 remaining. But Clemson reeled off seven straight points from there to fend off the Carolina rally and secure a wire-to-wire win in Chapel Hill.
The win marked a bounce-back for a Clemson team that got off to a 9-0 start to the season and was ranked as high as No. 16 in the country. The Tigers have since gone 5-7 and entered Tuesday having lost six out of nine games.
Senior center PJ Hall thrived in a battle with preseason All-American Armando Bacot, tallying a game-high 25 points alongside nine rebounds and three assists. Senior guard Joseph Girard III posted 21 points, six rebounds and three assists while shooting 5 of 10 from 3-point distance. Junior forward Ian Schieffelin added 14 points and 11 rebounds on a 5-of-7 shooting night.
Bacot held his own on offense while posting 24 points alongside a game-high 13 rebounds. All-America candidate RJ Davis added 22 points, five assists and four rebounds, but struggled overall from the field on a 7-of-22 shooting night. He did most of his damage from deep while hitting 5 of 12 shots from 3-point distance.
Davis' shooting woes were indicative of Carolina's night as a whole as Clemson limited UNC to 36.9% shooting from the floor. The Tar Heels couldn't make up the gap from long distance on a 9 of 27 (33.3%) shooting effort. Senior guard Cormac Ryan particularly struggled, shooting 1 for 10 while missing all six of his 3-point attempts in a two-point, four-assist effort.
The loss is North Carolina's second in three games, with an upset loss to Georgia Tech last week bookending Saturday's win over Duke. The Tar Heels drop to 10-2 in the ACC and maintain a one-game lead for first place over 9-3 Virginia.
For Clemson, the win could spark a turnaround after a disappointing start to conference play that now sees them at 5-6 in the ACC. It's a big boost for the Tigers' NCAA tournament résumé.