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UNC 89 - Clemson 86: Tar Heels escape overtime in Joel Berry’s career game

It took extra time for UNC to get their first ACC win after another lackluster first half.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Where to begin?

UNC got their first win in ACC play after knocking off Clemson in overtime. The Tar Heels looked like they might pull away at the end of regulation until they fell into another scoring drought that allowed the Tigers to catch up. Then UNC nearly lost the game in regulation by fouling with just a few ticks left on the clock. They lived to see overtime only because of a missed free throw.

Joel Berry had the game of his career with 31 points. He hit seven three-pointers and handed out three assists. Berry really caught fire in the second half, scoring 23 of his points, which helped UNC look more like UNC instead of the version that showed up on New Year’s Eve against Georgia Tech. That team was present for a majority of the first half against Clemson as well, and the Tar Heels trailed by five heading into the locker room at halftime.

While Berry helped the Tar Heels make it through the second half, it was Kennedy Meeks who dragged them to victory in overtime. He finished the game with another double-double, scoring 14 points and pulling down 16 rebounds. He was also a crucial 4-5 from the free throw line. Justin Jackson and Kenny Williams were both in double figures as well, leaving the continuously foul-plagued Isaiah Hicks as the only starter to really turn in a disappointing performance. The bench was virtually non-existent as far as scoring goes.

The Tar Heels kept their heads above water by out-rebounding the Tigers and consistently getting second chance points. Unfortunately, a lot of those second chance points came because the team couldn’t buy a basket at times. It was frustrating and concerning. The team looked better and less erratic in the second half as Berry took charge, but the end of regulation brought up similar shooting concerns. UNC won’t be able to get away with that against better ACC competition.

Coach Brownell was fired up in the hand shake line, apparently stemming from Meeks yelling at players on the Clemson bench. Roy Williams apologized and said he’d take care of it, which is probably bad news for Kennedy. On one hand, sportsmanship is important and I understand that Brownell feels like his kids were getting disrespected. On the other hand, this seems like a small thing to pitch such a fit over. Acting like a child doesn’t make the childish behavior you’re upset about go away. There are almost certainly more professional ways to voice displeasure with someone’s actions than wagging your finger around and refusing to shake hands.

UNC will return home for their first ACC action at the Smith Center on Saturday for an 8:00 pm ET date with NC State.