Is This the Year Clemson Ends the Chapel Hill Streak?

Brad Senkiw

“So, you’re saying there’s a chance?”

Yes, that’s the famous line uttered by Jim Carrey’s character Lloyd Christmas in the movie “Dumb and Dumber,” but it could also apply to one of college basketball’s most staggering streaks.

The Clemson men’s basketball team is 0-59 against North Carolina in Chapel Hill. That’s zero wins and 59 losses.

Could it come to an end Saturday at 4:30 p.m.?

There may be some signs pointing to just that.

Clemson has taken more talented and accomplished teams to UNC.

This Tiger squad just earned their first ACC victory last Saturday at home against N.C. State, but Clemson gained some much needed confidence and hopes to build off of it after struggling with chemistry, injuries and offense the first half of this season.

Clemson’s chances to end the O-for, though, have more to do with its opponent’s play right now.

The Tigers might actually be playing better.

North Carolina isn’t what many are used to. These Tar Heels are also sitting at 1-3 in the ACC, joining the Tigers in a six-way tie for last place in the conference.

At 8-7 overall, it’s been a struggle for Roy Williams’ squad without injured star freshman Cole Anthony. Seven total Tar Heels have been out a combined 43 games with injuries.

On the court, UNC has lost their last two games to Georgia Tech and Pitt. The latter ended a 22-game road losing streak in ACC play for the Panthers, who picked up their first win ever in Chapel Hill on Wednesday.

Williams said after the Georgia Tech loss that this was one of his “least gifted” teams. He didn’t back off that comment one bit after the Pitt loss.

"I didn't make that (statement) for any reason other than the fact I was telling the truth,” Williams said.

Maybe, just maybe, it is Clemson’s time.

But then there’s this: UNC is desperate to end this losing skid and right the ship in ACC play, and Williams is one victory away from passing legendary coach Dean Smith on UNC’s all-time wins list.

The game might come down to isn't the worst from outside. Clemson is making 31.8 percent from the 3-point line, which ranks 248th nationally. UNC is even worse, hitting 30.1 percent from behind the arc. That ranks 306th in college basketball. 

Clemson shot a healthy 47 percent from the field to end a two-game losing streak last Saturday, and despite blowing opportunities to beat Yale and Miami recently, the Tigers haven’t hung their heads.

“We have a great group of kids, unbelievable students, most go to church every Sunday. They work hard, they want to be good players,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “They don’t always understand all that it takes when It comes to how much film they should watch and some haven’t played enough to know that if you’re not right on top of things, if you’re not doing exactly what you ought to do, unless you’re an elite player, you’re not going to experience success.”

Brownell acknowledges his team has experienced failure. With youth and transfers mixed together, the Tigers have had to learn as the season has gone along. It hurts to have big man Jonathan Baehre and freshman guards Chase Hunter and Alex Hemenway sitting on the bench hurt. Guard Clyde Trapp is just a couple games back from a torn ACL.

“This group has been very coachable, they work hard, they want to get better,” Brownell said. “We are all a little frustrated because we have lost a couple of games where we played well. We’ve let a couple of games get away, but I think we are realizing that our margin was slim, and it is. We have to play at a high level to beat the teams in this league. It’s just the players are too good.”

North Carolina might be actually be an exception this time around. If Clemson plays like it did against the Wolfpack and the Tar Heels’ struggles continue, there really is a chance. 

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