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Preview and Game Thread: #12 UNC @ #24 Clemson

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When: 9PM, Littlejohn on ESPN

Carolina March - our sister UNC blog, and Tarheel Fan has a game preview up

- Tyler Zeller will miss the game with a foot injury.

Oliver Purnell on facing UNC

“They are the defending national champions until someone dethrones them,” Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. “Their demise is much overrated. They are a team now that has been battle tested.

“They have played one of the toughest schedules in the country and have had to battle some injuries and they have gotten through those with only four losses, none in the conference. Those guys are now back and I am sure they feel like they are poised to get better and make a run.”

"I think that we probably played the smallest team in the ACC in Boston College and the rest of them are bigger and stronger than we are, so we made a commitment to playing the game a certain way. We have played some big, strong teams and we have been good at times and we just need to stay with that. I think our speed and quickness is an advantage if you utilize it."

On pressure getting to UNC more than in years past:

"We have had some success with our pressure, we just haven't finished off the game. We are going to play Clemson basketball and I think that what you will find out when you go against a style like North Carolina's is you will get them some and they will get you some. They are an up-tempo team and they thrive on the quick in and the long pass for the layup. You want to try to minimize those, but you are going to give up some of those if you are going to press them. In fact, you are going to give up some of those if you don't press them because they run that break as well as anybody, after you score on them that ball is in and they are down the court so transition defense becomes really important. Certainly they will see some pressure."

On the speed of North Carolina:

"I think you will find that those two point guards, Drew and Strickland, they motor. It is as important how fast your wings are because they are a ball ahead, but they are pushing it pretty quick."

- Roy Williams believes more fouls should be called, so I guess Roy wants all those gimmes that he gets against Clemson to be called for the rest of his league opponents. Normally that would sound like excuses from a coach who choked against CofC, but he says he shoulders the blame for their rough start this year. He also believes Trevor Booker is one of the best players in the ACC.

-Strelow, fresh from being laid off by The Gamecock Propaganda Rag, has one of his final articles about the Booker brothers.

- Greg Wallace believes we could make a breakthrough this time around. I'm not sure I see it. I rarely do against UNC, but LW says that Stitt really believes we've got this one.

“Of course there’s a difference. It’s Ty Lawson and Larry Drew,” he said. “Ty Lawson is quick, he’s a good player, didn’t hardly have that many turnovers. Larry Drew’s a different type of player, he’s a little bit longer, he’s more of a defender, but I don’t think his offensive game is as potent as Ty Lawson’s was.

“He’s a good player, an ACC player, of course he can play. Sure he’s just like any other point. I come in with the attitude that I don’t think the point guard on the other team can stop me and I don’t feel the point guard on the other team can score on me.”

Tanner Smith talks about our spacing on offense against UNC, which I thought improved marginally against BC.

“When (the Heels) get their two big guys really set up down low and we try and go inside off the first pass or second pass it’s just not going to be there. There’s not enough room,” Smith said. “We need to make sure we spread the court well, give our guys more of a chance to operate down low. Especially if we throw the ball in the post on the first pass it’s easier to play good defense.”

If you want to beat UNC you usually can't even attempt to run the floor with them, but this is Clemson's usual style. The Hokies found out about their transition play when the Tarholes came back to win 78-64 with superior defensive play in the 2nd half. They are putting up good offensive numbers so far with 49.5% shooting and 85ppg, and six players average 8 ppg. I think you need good ball pressure on their guards in the half-court sets, and they have tended to struggle against zone.

Maybe the combo of athleticism and talent is why Purnell is 1-10 against UNC, or maybe its all talent, I don't know. I do know that we've played well and come up short, and sometimes it was because of some officiating. We've won 7 of our last 8

But this year's Heels are 1-4 on the road, and their backcourt play has had issues, and were diminished without Graves in the starting lineup for 2 games. Freshman SF John Henson really looks lost out there, and I'm not so sure Dexter Strickland should be at the Point right now. The Wear brothers are similarly lost. They're not much different from our freshmen at times. Johnson and Jennings show flashes, but their defense disappears at times. Against BC, Johnson really looked almost ready. Now if their defense will come up and their tentativeness with shots go down, they could really become special players.

However, if we can control turnovers and win the rebounding battle, without putting ourselves at the line too often (cuz we're terrible) I think this game is winnable. Given the relative lack of tenacity by Booker and Grant inside, despite beating a good-rebounding BC team the boards, I just dont hold much hope for the latter. Young and Stitt should be able to force some turnovers tonight though, and both should be on the court at the same time if you ask me.

Speaking of Booker, his level of play is really disappointing me. At BC he was able to take over inside late, but then you'll go a whole game without even noticing him. He floats around and doesnt establish a position inside, so big teams just push him around when he tries his entry. He looks ready for the NBA defensively, since he basically stays out of everyone's way. If you wonder why he's not getting fouls, its because he's not trying for long stretches of the game. If he can get a clean block he'll get it, but otherwise he's playing soft inside. His rebounding numbers are down, and with Grant not picking up the slack there, TBook has to do something. Even worse are his FT numbers, which hover around 56%, and he gets the most shots. He's got NO touch whatsoever on FTs.