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Tigers Fall to No. 9 North Carolina

January 2, 1999


CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) – Forty-five and counting.

No. 9 North Carolina remained undefeated at home against No. 14 Clemson, winning here Saturday 69-53 for the 45th straight time as the Tar Heels used a late 13-0 run to seal it and left the Tigers shaking their heads yet again.

“I’ve only been around for the last four, but four seems like an eternity to me,” Clemson senior center Tom Wideman said. “We come in every year feeling pretty good about the game and for one reason or another we weren’t able to get over the hump.”

This time it was 15 turnovers and 3-for-19 3-point shooting that did in the Tigers and first-year coach Larry Shyatt.

“We had quite a few turnovers there and North Carolina teams always have a great killer instinct,” said Wideman, one of five seniors who won’t get another shot at the Tar Heels here. “When they get you down at the end of the game they do a great job of not letting you back into it.”

Ademola Okulaja led North Carolina (13-3, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) with 19 points, while Ed Cota added 13, including three key 3-pointers in the second half.

Harold Jamison led the Tigers (11-3, 0-1) with 17 points and 12 rebounds as Clemson held a 38-26 advantage on the boards, but still found a way to lose its 14th straight at the Smith Center.

“For me, it is really painful, but we still have 15 games left in the ACC,” Jamison said. “It puts a little dent in my senior season but it can’t stick too long.”

The pressure of extending the streak seems to be wearing on the Tar Heels a bit, too.

“It’s amazing, it’s a nice feeling,” Okulaja said of the remarkable streak. “Now, it’s up to Ed (Cota) and Jason (Capel) and everybody else to carry on this tradition. It’s off my shoulders. They are a great team so maybe it’s in their minds.”

The Tar Heels shot 36 percent in the first half and were outrebounded by 14, but only trailed 28-27 at halftime. At that point, Clemson likely knew it was in trouble.

But the Tigers, coming off their worst shooting game of the season in a 17-point loss to Illinois, hung tough after North Carolina used an 18-4 run at the tail end of the first half and beginning of the second to lead by four.

Clemson countered and led 46-42 with 9:11 left, only to see the Tar Heels pull out another clutch win at home.

A five-point play to close the 13-0 run sealed it for North Carolina, Cota making a 3-pointer while Johnny Miller was being called for a foul underneath against Okulaja, who made both free throws for a 55-46 lead with 6:25 left.

The Tar Heels ended up closing the game on a 27-7 run over the final nine minutes, holding the Tigers scoreless for the final 4:09.

Clemson’s futility is the second longest road streak in NCAA history. Brown has lost 48 in a row at Princeton. Clemson’s all-time mark against North Carolina also fell to a miserable 105-15.

“It’s going to end sometime, we know,” North Carolina coach Bill Guthridge said of the streak that started in January 1926. “Clemson has had a lot of good teams. It’s not something we talk about.”

The Tigers led by as many as 10 points in the first half, but went cold from the field to allow the Tar Heels back into the game, going without a field goal over the final 7:59 of the half.

Clemson built its first-half cushion with a box-in-one defense on Cota, Terrell McIntyre hawking his every move and turning the Tar Heels into a jump-shooting team.

But North Carolina closed the half with a 9-0 run with Okulaja keying the surge with a 3-pointer and two free throws as the Tigers turned the ball over on six of their last eight possessions.