Tar Heels beat on each other, then beat on Clemson

Originally Published: January 17, 2007
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

CLEMSON, S.C. -- North Carolina coach Roy Williams worked his team so hard in practice Monday that star center Tyler Hansbrough finished the session lying on his back after the sophomore was slammed to the court by a teammate.

Tuesday's practice ended with the Tar Heels bickering among themselves, and with the losing team in an intrasquad scrimmage running wind sprints until Williams got tired.

"I ran the crap out of them," Williams said.

After the Tar Heels were embarrassed at Virginia Tech on Saturday, trailing by as many as 23 points in the second half before losing 94-88, Williams figured he had to do something to get his young team's attention. The loss to the Hokies ended North Carolina's 12-game winning streak and dropped it from No. 1 to No. 4 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.

So what did the Tar Heels get out of their midseason boot camp?

"Fear," Williams said. "I think they thought I was half-crazy. I told them it was just half, and they didn't want to see the other half."

The Tar Heels played much better at No. 16 Clemson on Wednesday night, thumping the Tigers 77-55 in front of a sellout crowd of 10,000 at Littlejohn Coliseum. Clemson lost for the second straight game after winning its first 17; the Tigers were the last unbeaten Division I team in the country before losing at Maryland 92-87 last Saturday.

Brandan Wright
AP Photo/Mary Ann ChastainFreshman Brandan Wright led the Tar Heels with 17 points.
The ACC contest was billed as one of the biggest basketball games played at Clemson in nearly a decade. A ranked Tigers team hadn't faced a ranked opponent at Littlejohn in nine seasons. It was only the 10th time since 1975 that a ranked Clemson team was playing a top-five opponent at home.

Hundreds of Clemson students spent two nights camped outside the arena to secure tickets. School officials counted more than 140 tents outside the arena, breaking the unofficial school record set before the No. 2 Tigers lost to No. 4 Wake Forest and Tim Duncan on Jan. 23, 1997.

"We were really hyped for the game," Williams said. "It was a better scenario for us because we lost Saturday. We were really alert and really attacked them."

The Tigers attacked the Tar Heels at first, as North Carolina turned the ball over six times in its first 17 possessions and had 11 turnovers in the first half. Clemson also had 10 steals and six blocked shots in the first half, but trailed 44-31 at halftime.

The Tigers were behind because they seemingly couldn't score unless it came off a fast break. Clemson struggled running its half-court sets throughout the game and nothing came easily. Clemson shot only 33.8 percent for the game, including 4-for-19 on 3-pointers. Even worse, the Tigers missed 14 of 19 foul shots.

"When you come up dry from the field and from the foul line, you can't catch up," Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said.

It was a much better defensive effort from the Tar Heels. Virginia Tech shot 52.6 percent and was 7-for-13 on 3-pointers in its upset of North Carolina. The Tar Heels hadn't allowed any of their previous 10 opponents to shoot 50 percent before playing the Hokies.

"We needed to play both sides of the ball tonight," Williams said.

But the Tar Heels, who are starting three freshmen, still are far from a finished product.

Freshman point guard Tywon Lawson scored only two points with seven turnovers and three assists in 22 minutes. Lawson has 11 turnovers in the last two games; he had 16 in the previous 11 games combined.

"It's called the ACC," Williams said. "It's a big-time league."

But some of Lawson's turnovers were careless, with the Tigers swiping the basketball from behind after he beat the full-court press.

"There are only five guys out there," Williams said. "You can count them -- one, two, three, four. If the [fifth player] is not at the popcorn stand, he's behind you."

The Tar Heels also have cooled considerably from the perimeter since ACC play began two weeks ago. In four conference games, North Carolina is shooting only 28.1 percent from behind the arc. The Tar Heels were 3-for-8 on 3-pointers against Clemson.

Williams also complained about the Tar Heels' shot selection at times. On one fast break, senior forward Reyshawn Terry pulled up for a jumper instead of driving to the basket, and his shot was blocked by Clemson freshman Trevor Booker.

"I was glad Booker blocked it," Williams said. "Hell, I wanted to jump out there and block it. You take a stupid shot like that on the break, you deserve to get it blocked."

For the most part, though, Williams had little to complain about. The Tar Heels won by 22 points, despite making only three 3s. They shot 51.7 percent and outrebounded the Tigers, 47-38.

Hansbrough, who didn't practice Tuesday, made only five field goals but scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds. He made only one shot in the first half.

"My back was really sore at times," Hansbrough said. "I think I just really had to play through it. Hopefully, with time, it will heal."

Hansbrough is getting more and more help in the post. Freshman Brandan Wright, a 6-foot-9 forward from Nashville, scored 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting and blocked four shots. He has scored 16 points or more in five of the last seven games.

"I really did expect us to bounce back and compete better than we did Saturday," guard Wes Miller said. "I don't know if I thought [Coach Williams] was crazy. I've been around long enough to know that if we play like we did on Saturday, he's going to get after us."

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

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