CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson stood toe to toe with No. 14 North Carolina for 45 minutes, but in the end the Tar Heels’ superior size and lopsided rebound margin propelled the visitors to an 89-86 victory in front of a raucous Littlejohn Coliseum crowd on Tuesday. The win pushed UNC to 13-3 on the season, 1-1 in league play. Clemson fell to 11-3 overall, also 1-1 in the ACC. The Tigers saw their nine-game winning streak come to an end in heartbreaking fashion.
Marcquise Reed hit a game-tying three-point goal with 22 seconds left in regulation, but Avry Holmes missed a free throw in the final five seconds with a chance to put the Tigers on top. Clemson had battled back from a late 75-67 deficit, only to see the Tar Heels impose their will in the extra period.
Jaron Blossomgame led two 20-point scorers for the Tigers with a team-high 24. He added seven rebounds and a pair of blocks. Holmes also scored 20, his highest output since the second game of the season. Reed poured in 17 off the bench, continuing his hot play of late. But UNC’s Joel Berry had the answer in the second half, scoring 21 of his game-high 31 in the final 20 minutes. Berry’s 31 were a career high.
The Tigers posted 43 points in an exciting opening half, with Clemson taking a five-point lead into the locker room. Blossomgame was outstanding, with 14 points, but he was far from alone. Reed came in and heated up with nine off the bench. He hit a step-back three-point shot late in the half to put the Tigers up by five. Clemson held UNC in check somewhat offensively, but a 12-0 advantage in second chance points was critical to the Tar Heels’ opening half. The Heels ended the game 23-3 in second chance opportunities.
Carolina took hold in the second half behind the ridiculously hot shooting of Berry. He made eight consecutive field goals at one point, including five three-pointers, as he gave UNC a 75-67 lead. But Holmes answered with a three of his own, followed by a driving bucket that cut into the Heels’ edge. Clemson had a chance after Reed’s tying three, when Sidy Djitte knocked the ball loose from Berry. Holmes was fouled in transition, but unable to come up with the point the Tigers needed to move ahead. Berry then missed a layup as the final buzzer of regulation sounded.
The Tigers head off on the road for a pair of ACC tilts, starting Saturday at 3 p.m. against No. 21 Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.