Clemson looks to end 0-for-Chapel Hill skid
CLEMSON -- Fall down 55 times, stand up 56.
Clemson travels today (4 p.m., ESPN) to Chapel Hill, N.C., where it has never won a men's basketball game. The Tigers are 0 for 55 at North Carolina.
North Carolina is heavily favored to win for a 56th straight time at home against Clemson (13-12, 5-6 ACC), which would extend what is already an NCAA-worst road losing streak in a head-to-head matchup. The No. 8 Tar Heels (22-4, 9-2) are loaded with future NBA talent, including point guard Kendall Marshall and forward Harrison Barnes (17.7 points per game), a projected lottery pick.
Clemson is loaded, too -- loaded with inexperience. Six freshmen will make their first trip to the Smith Center today, an awe-inspiring place where banners embroidered with names like Jordan and Worthy hang high above the court.
It will be the last chance for seniors like Tanner Smith and Andre Young to end the streak. Smith knows what it's like to be a young player entering the basketball shrine.
"The first time, you look up and they've got, like, 400 jerseys hanging in the rafters," Smith said. "We've got four. It shows the history they have. You walk in that place and you get hit with it immediately. … They're an up-and-down team and the runs can happen quick, the place gets going in a hurry."
Marshall can push the tempo. The sophomore point guard is second in the nation with 9.6 assists per game. Barnes has prototype 6-8 size and an NBA-ready jump shot. The Tar Heels also have size with 6-10 forward John Henson and 7-foot center Tyler Zeller.
North Carolina is averaging 18 more points per game than Clemson.
Clemson oach Brad Brownell is accustomed to being an underdog in taking UNC-Wilmington and Wright State into NCAA tournaments. He takes on the ultimate underdog role today.
"Every time you turn on a Carolina-Clemson game, (the streak) is the first thing they open with," Brownell said. "Spending time in North Carolina, watching games, you can't help but hear about it. It's not anything we talk about with our players. We talk about the strengths and weaknesses of North Carolina, weaknesses and a lot of strengths.
"Our plan is to win the game."
Clemson nearly ended the streak in 2008 when Clemson led by 11 with three minutes to play before losing, 103-93, in double overtime. Clemson's closest loss from a points-margin standpoint was a 24-23 loss in 1936.
"(Brownell) hasn't said anything to us (about the streak)," Smith said. "We know about it. There's not much he needs to say. Every year is a new opportunity to do it. … We'll go up there with the mindset to get a tough victory in a tough atmosphere. I don't think it's coincidence we've played them pretty tough the last couple of years."
Clemson's close calls at North Carolina during its 0-for-55 losing streak:
2008 -- Clemson was on the cusp of ending the streak, holding an 11-point lead with three minutes to play in regulation before losing in double overtime, 103-93. Tyler Hansbrough had 39 points and 14 rebounds.
2003 -- Clemson blew a late lead and missed a 3 in the final seconds, losing 68-66, in Matt Doherty's final season as coach at UNC.
1982 -- Clemson's 2-3 zone kept James Worthy and freshman Michael Jordan in check but Doherty's jumper produced a career-best 21 points in a come-from-behind 77-72 UNC win. Clemson led by one with three minutes to play.