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UNC vs. Clemson: Three Things We Learned

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Carolina survives overtime in Clemson for its first conference win

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

The #14 North Carolina Tar Heels survived against the Clemson Tigers in an overtime battle, winning 89-86 on the road. Although relieved to earn their first conference win this season, there are still major areas that need improvement for this Tar Heel squad. Here are three things we learned from UNC’s win at Clemson.

Turnovers Remain a Huge Issue

Clemson converted seven first half Carolina turnovers into 11 points. The Tar Heels ended with 18 turnovers in the game. The frustrating part about the turnovers in the past two games have been the manner in which they were committed. These are unforced errors are a combination of sloppy ball handling and lack of execution in the half court. Joel Berry II finally got over his stomach bug in the second half against Clemson, lighting up the boxscore with a career-high 31 points. Nate Britt has also improved since his shooting slump, and certainly fills his role as the primary back up point guard. However, there seems to be something off overall with this Tar Heel offense. A turnover seems to compound itself, and can start a snowball of bad play that rolls for a few possessions or sometimes minutes on end. For example, in the second half after Berry hit a deep three pointer from Walter Davis depth, Clemson was struggling to hit anything and Littlejohn was quiet. It seemed as though UNC could get over the hump and put the game away. Then two Carolina turnovers led to Clemson points and got the Tigers back within a point. These mistakes must be rectified sooner rather than later with a tough stretch of games coming up soon.

Struggling to Finish at the Rim

It just seems like there are a lot of missed opportunities at the rim. Against Clemson, UNC’s points in the paint and second chance opportunities kept the game within reach for the Heels, especially in the first half. However, there is a lack of explosiveness in the paint. ESPN reported during the telecast that the UNC big men were practicing with medicine balls working on finishes near the basket. With Isaiah Hicks spending a lot of time on the bench due to fouls and Kennedy Meeks having known issues playing above (near) the rim, there have not been a lot of consistent finishes at the rim. However, Carolina had the rebounding advantage and Meeks had a dominant performance on the glass with 16 rebounds, with 10 of those coming on the offensive end.

Defensive Lapses and Effort are Costly Concerns

In the games in which Carolina has struggled or lost, there seems to be a great individual performance by the opposition. These performances are endemic of a larger problem with the UNC defense. There is too much space between defenders and opponents seem to find ways to get lost off screens or in traffic. And do not get started with those three pointers with just seconds in the game. Many analysts and fans will point to Theo Pinson’s absence as a major missing piece on the defensive end of the floor. However, Joel Berry, Nate Britt, and Kenny Williams have proved themselves as solid and above average defenders in the past. Individual efforts, especially hitting the deck after loose balls or blocking shots, can be contagious to the team. However, team defense is what Carolina needs. This team needs to recommit itself to playing smart defense that is tight on their opponents.