We had chances to end our winless streak in Chapel Hill, but flat out failed to close out the game down the stretch. After Demontez Stitt’s layup cut UNC’s lead to 1 with 4:28 left in the game, Clemson’s offense went into hibernation and failed to score the rest of the way. It’s very frustrating for us fans to lose at UNC because we want to get rid of the much-talked about losing streak. I think it also weighs heavily on the players minds. A lot of the sloppiness, throughout the game but especially down the stretch, can be attributed to over-anxiousness and nerves. The players are well aware of the streak and the importance of this game. Guys start to press too hard and everything seems to fall apart. The streak will eventually end one day, but not by playing the way we did tonight.
It’s tough to win when your two best players, Stitt and Jerai Grant, struggle the way they did tonight. The two combined to go 4-27 from the field and 4-8 from the foul line. Throw in Andre Young’s 4-14 shooting and Tanner Smith’s injury early, and it’s a wonder that we even had a chance to win the game in the final minutes.
Grant’s struggles can be directly attributed to Henson’s presence inside. Henson guarded Grant for most of the night and blocked or altered more than a handful of Grant’s 11 misses. Henson ended the game with 5 blocks, but that doesn’t nearly tell how much he impacted Clemson’s offense.
Clemson was able to stay in the game thanks to seldom-used reserves Brian Narcisse and Cory Stanton. Narcisse came in, immediately turned the ball over which led to an easy 2 points for UNC, and had me shaking my head. But before I could stop shaking it, he had turned around and scored a deuce on the other end. After that, I thought he played an excellent game. He knocked down a couple big 3’s to get Clemson back into the game.
Stanton also came in and provided a spark. He played very calm and with confidence. He scored 7 points in his 16 minutes of action. I’m still blown away that Coach Brownell decided to go with Zavier Anderson down the stretch. Brownell chose the veteran over the freshman and I think it ended up costing him. Anderson committed 4 turnovers in just 11 minutes of action, a couple of them being extremely costly in the final minutes. He also constantly over played his man on defense and put himself and his teammate in tough spots.
Clemson now needs to regroup and get ready for another very tough road contest against Maryland. If we play as sloppy in College Park as we did tonight, Maryland will run away with the game. We need to slow the pace, attack inside, and get better production from our big 3. Hopefully Tanner Smith will be good to go because the lack of depth on this team really showed tonight. We can’t afford to lose any starters in ACC play.