Well, that was about as frustrating of a loss as they come.
UNC put up quite a fight in Littlejohn Coliseum against a Clemson team seeking revenge. The problem, however, is that they didn’t start fighting until the second half. UNC was embarrassed in the first half by Clemson’s dominance shooting the three-ball, only making a couple two-pointers and yet ended the half winning 28-44. Perhaps even more frustrating is that UNC tightened up on defense and managed to outscore Clemson 50-38 in the second half in what was yet another “If only one or two three-pointers didn’t go in” loss against a team that they had beaten weeks ago.
There’s no excuses as to why this keeps happening, and Roy Williams especially will tell you the same despite Theo Pinson only playing for two minutes, Jalek Felton being suspended, and Seventh Woods still not being healthy enough to play. Bottom line: UNC needs to play defense for 40 minutes. It solves the issue of teams dropping 10,000 threes per game on them and it creates offense in transition. UNC is simply better when everything is clicking on the defensive side of the ball, and it showed in the second half.
The one thing that was working for UNC, aside from Joel Berry II showing Final Four MOP-type clutch play, was the Pitt transfer that owned the Tigers for the second time this year. Tonight’s player of the game is none other than Cameron Johnson.
As some of you may know, I mentioned a couple days ago that either Cameron Johnson or Kenny Williams needed to dig their way out or their shooting slumps in order for UNC to have a chance to win this game. Johnson seemingly had the best chance to re-gain confidence, and he did just that. Johnson finished the game with 32 points, and shot 60% from three in a game where the only other player that could heat up from deep was Joel Berry. Johnson also had 4 rebounds, an assist, and a steal to add onto his career night. Johnson and Berry combined for 59 points, which is well over half of the team’s total scoring.
What’s bound to be frustrating for the Heels is the fact that this is the second game in a row that a player has had a career night, and yet one of the best players of the team didn’t show up to the game. Against NC State, Theo Pinson had a career night with an assist from Luke Maye, yet Joel Berry was unable to get anything going against the Pack. This game, Cameron Johnson had a tremendous night alongside a really good performance from Joel Berry, but Luke Maye was nowhere to be found. It’s definitely one of those things that doesn’t seem as prominent if the Heels were able to lock down on defense for an entire game, but nevertheless, one has to wonder if they will ever be able to put it all together on both sides of the ball this year.
Thankfully, UNC plays in the Smith Center Saturday night against a struggling Pitt team. Things can only get better Saturday....right?