GAME NOTES: The North Carolina Tar Heels look to notch their ninth 20-win season in a row as they visit Littlejohn Coliseum for an Atlantic Coast Conference tilt against the Clemson Tigers.
Roy Williams's Tar Heels are not quite as dominant as they were a season ago, but they have picked up some momentum in recent weeks. UNC coasted to a 76-65 victory over NC State on Saturday to register its third consecutive win and rise to 9-5 in the ACC standings. Reggie Bullock provided 22 points and a career-high 13 rebounds as the Tar Heels collected even more momentum with March Madness rapidly approaching.
Clemson fell to 5-9 in conference action on Saturday as it was dealt a 72-59 setback at Maryland. The loss was the second straight and fifth in six games for Brad Brownell's squad, which is sitting at the .500 mark after its recent slump. Devin Booker scored 16 points to mark the 11th time in 14 ACC games he finished in double digits.
The Tar Heels are 14-2 versus Clemson under Williams and own a 126-20 all-time series edge. This is the only regular-season matchup between these ACC rivals scheduled for the 2012-13 season.
UNC was expected to revolve around star sophomore James Michael McAdoo, who has been inconsistent throughout the campaign. The 6-foot-9 forward enters with averages of 14.7 points and 8.3 boards per game after netting 18 points and nine rebounds per outing over his last two games. Freshman guard Marcus Paige is coming off his best collegiate performance, as he racked up 14 points, eight assists, three steals and committed zero turnovers versus NC State. Bullock (14.1 ppg) and P.J. Hairston (13.3 ppg) are both carrying double-digit scoring averages into Thursday's action and have been key factors to the Tar Heels' recent improvement. UNC is one of the top offensive teams in the nation with averages of 78.1 points and 17.7 assists per game, but it is ninth in the ACC defensively with an allowed average of 69.3 ppg.
The Tigers have been much better at home than on the road. They had their four-game home winning streak snapped on Feb. 10 when they lost on a last second 3-pointer to NC State. Clemson then let a four-point lead slip away in the final two minutes to drop a 47-45 decision to the then undefeated Miami- Hurricanes before its trip to College Park. Booker paces the team in both scoring (12.4) and rebounding (7.8), while K.J. McDaniels chips in 10.7 ppg. The Tigers have the least productive offensive unit in the ACC at 61.8 ppg, but they are trailing only Virginia with 58.6 points allowed per game defensively.
The Tar Heels have been stellar as of late, but their trip to Littlejohn Coliseum will be a telling affair. UNC can make a very strong impression on the NCAA Tournament committee with a convincing win, but the Tigers' strong interior play and defensive abilities will make that difficult to do. However, Hairston and Bullock's play on the perimeter should be enough to lift the visitors to the decision.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Carolina 67, Clemson 58
02/28 10:34:32 ET
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