This is getting a little old. UNC came out flat for a second straight game, turning the ball over eight times and getting out-rebounded by Clemson by a two-to-one margin in the first half. They weren't quite as bad as they were early on against Miami – Roy Williams didn't clear the bench this time around – but Clemson was also much better than the Hurricanes. The Tigers shot 50% from both the field and behind the arc, and that number was dragged down by late game exhaustion. Demontez Stitt was penetrating into the lane at will and outrunning a very fast UNC team, while Tanner Smith and Andre Young combined for eight of Clemson's twelve threes. Carolina went into the locker room down ten, and things didn't look good.
The one bright side was Harrison Barnes. He had 16 of UNC's 28 points in the first half. Clemson refocused, however, and with Leslie McDonald on the bench with four fouls and Kendall Marshall stuck with three, Carolina's comeback came in fits and spurts. The defense would get stops, but the offense would turn the ball over, or the offense would click but the defense would turn porous. After getting their first lead at the 10:54 mark, the Heels were on the wrong side of an 11-2 Clemson run that buried them again. At the three minute timeout, UNC was down seven and scoreless for the last two minutes.
And the things changed. UNC rattled off seven straight points – a two from John Henson, a three from Barnes, and a jumper from Tyler Zeller with thirty seconds remaining to tie the game. Carolina got one last defensive stop to force overtime, and then reintroduced most of the country to Harrison Barnes.
Barnes had 26 points in regulation enough to tie his season high, but in the extra period he took it to a new level. Barnes made an opening three, and then pulled down the rebound on the other end. A Kendall Marshall three later and UNC had a six point lead and forced Clemson to call a timeout. It didn't help; the next time down the court Barnes followed a missed and picked up the foul, making it a nine point game. When Clemson cut the lead to six, Barnes responded with another three. Clemson still didn't go away, getting two steals and narrowing the lead to four, but Barnes made his last four free throws, to finish with a total of 40 points – an ACC Tournament freshman record – and eight rebounds. Not a bad days work.
But also not something that will succeed against Duke. These deep holes Carolina puts themselves in early has to stop; the opponents from here on out aren't going to let them muscle their way back. UNC shied away from Clemson's physical play, stumbled when putting the ball on the floor against quicker guards, and just plain missed too many shots. They were bailed out by drawing fouls on the Tigers' big men, and Barnes' phenomenal play down the stretch. But teams are going to come along that can shut Barnes down; without someone else to establish a perimeter game and smarter play, it's going to be a very short postseason.