CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Clemson put up a valiant fight against the nation’s seventh-ranked team and ACC preseason favorite North Carolina in both teams’ conference opener, but ultimately fell by a score of 80-69 in front of 17,168 fans at the Dean E. Smith Center on Wednesday. The win improved the Tar Heels to 12-2, while dropping the Tigers to 7-6.
Jaron Blossomgame shrugged off a nagging injury that limited him at Georgia eight days ago, posting team highs of 15 points and six rebounds. Jordan Roper was solid with 13 points, rebounding from a scoreless effort against the Bulldogs. Overall, four players reached double figures, including Avry Holmes (11) and Gabe DeVoe (10). The Tigers shot 40 percent for the game and an impressive 77 percent (20-26) at the charity stripe.
The Tigers hung tough in the first half. Clemson scored the game’s first six points, before UNC answered with six of its own. The Tigers were even on the boards in the first 20 minutes, despite eight combined fouls for Blossomgame and centers Sidy Djitte and Landry Nnoko.
After Clemson pulled within five at 39-34 early in the second half, the Heels put together an 11-2 run that pushed their advantage to 14. Turnovers continued to plague Clemson, as an inbounds pass was converted into an easy three for Marcus Paige. He led UNC with 18, despite a good effort defensively. He got several buckets off of Clemson’s 13 turnovers, which were converted into 19 points. The Tiger defense also held Carolina’s leading scorer, Brice Johnson, to just three points on 1-8 shooting.
The Tigers cut the deficit to six points late after two of Djitte’s career-high seven made free throws, but UNC always found an answer offensively. One of the nation’s highest scoring teams, the Tar Heels shot 50 percent for the game (32-64).
The Tigers return to Greenville for its home ACC opener on Saturday against Florida State. The Seminoles come to Bon Secours Wellness Arena for a 12 p.m. tipoff. Tickets are available at ClemsonTigers.com.
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