The Clemson Tigers pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the college basketball season on Tuesday night, defeating the No. 3-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels 80-76 at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It was only the second time in history that Clemson had won in Chapel Hill, snapping a 59-game losing streak that dated back to 1926.
Clemson dominates from the start
The Tigers came out firing from the opening tip, hitting three consecutive three-pointers to take a 15-2 lead. They never trailed in the game, and led by as many as 16 points in the first half. Clemson shot 35% from beyond the arc, well above its season average of 28%. PJ Hall and Joseph Girard III were the stars of the show, combining for 46 points and nine three-pointers. Hall, a sophomore center, had a career-high 25 points and nine rebounds, while Girard, a junior guard, added 21 points and five assists.
North Carolina rallies in the second half
The Tar Heels, who had won nine straight games and were atop the ACC standings, did not give up easily. They chipped away at the deficit in the second half, using their size and athleticism to attack the basket and draw fouls. RJ Davis, the nation’s leading scorer, scored 22 of his 26 points in the second half, and also passed Michael Jordan for 15th place on the UNC all-time scoring list. Davis hit a free throw with 7:33 left to tie the game at 70-70, the first time the game was even since 0-0.
Clemson holds on for the win
The game was a back-and-forth affair in the final minutes, with both teams trading baskets and free throws. Clemson regained the lead for good with 3:12 left, when Girard hit his fifth and final three-pointer of the night. The Tigers made eight of their last 10 free throws to seal the deal, while the Tar Heels missed some crucial shots and committed some costly turnovers. Clemson celebrated its historic win, while North Carolina suffered its second ACC loss in a week.
What it means for both teams
The win was a huge boost for Clemson, which improved to 15-9 overall and 7-6 in the ACC. The Tigers had lost six of their previous nine games, and were projected as a No. 9 seed in the latest NCAA Tournament bracket predictions. The win over North Carolina, their first top-five win since 2018, should enhance their resume and confidence. Clemson will look to build on its momentum when it hosts Wake Forest on Saturday.
The loss was a major setback for North Carolina, which fell to 19-3 overall and 10-2 in the ACC. The Tar Heels had just beaten their archrival Duke on Saturday, and were ranked No. 3 in the nation for the first time since 2017. The loss to Clemson, their second home loss to the Tigers ever, should drop them in the rankings and the standings. North Carolina will try to bounce back when it visits Virginia Tech on Sunday.
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