December 29, 2015

One end of the floor has North Carolina coach Roy Williams concerned entering ACC play, but the other has made a habit of easing those anxieties through the nonconference slate.

The seventh-ranked Tar Heels hope the offense keeps churning along while the defense catches up Wednesday night when they host Clemson, which is still seeking its first win in Chapel Hill.

North Carolina (11-2) looks to improve to 58-0 at home against the Tigers with an eighth straight win in the series. After finishing up their nonconference schedule with Monday's 96-63 win over UNC-Greensboro, the Tar Heels open conference play at home against Clemson and Georgia Tech on Saturday.

Williams' team dropped from the nation's preseason No. 1 spot after blowing a 16-point lead at Northern Iowa and falling on a last-second shot against Texas in its two true road games this month, and he was unsettled by his team's defense in its fourth straight win on Monday.

Visiting UNCG shot 52 percent in the second half en route to 35 points after the intermission.

"I'm frustrated because guys shoot 52 percent against us," Williams said. "I keep saying to them: 'Guys, nobody's ever been the best team unless they guarded people.'"

Opponents are shooting 45.8 percent against the Tar Heels in their last five games.

Another hindrance to the Tar Heels is their health. Kennedy Meeks has missed four straight games with a bone bruise on his left knee and hasn't done anything team related in two weeks. Williams says it is unlikely the 6-foot-10, 260-pound big man plays this week.

Meeks is averaging 12.3 points and 7.4 rebounds and has more blocked shots than any North Carolina player the last two seasons with 58.

After missing the opening six games with a hand injury, oft-injured star guard Marcus Paige jammed his ankle during a 94-70 win over Appalachian State on Dec. 21. Paige finished with nine points in just 17 minutes and had 14 in 21 minutes against UNCG.

Even while missing two huge contributors for a combined 10 games, North Carolina's offense is still one of the best in the country through the nonconference slate.

The Tar Heels shoot 50 percent for 87.1 points per game. Their assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.89 was second to only Saint Mary's 2.02 entering Tuesday.

''Obviously we can score. We have so many weapons,'' junior guard Nate Britt said.

North Carolina will face a Clemson team allowing just 58.8 points per game on 39.4 percent shooting. The Tigers (7-5), however, have averaged just 56.5 points on 35.7 percent shooting while losing three of their last four games.

While North Carolina plays its second game in three nights, Clemson hasn't taken the court since a 71-48 loss at Georgia on Dec. 22. The Tigers shot a season-low 27.1 percent and made one of their final 21 shots to close the first half.

''We're just struggling right now because we don't have a great perimeter driver to break teams down,'' coach Brad Brownell said. ''It makes it hard for us.''

Clemson's last two wins over top-10 teams came against Duke in 2008 and 2009, but the Tigers have lost their other 40 chances since Jan. 20, 2002.

While North Carolina lost three of its final four conference home games last season, Clemson lost its last four on the road.

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