Taking on The Tar Heels

North Carolina cruised through its non-conference schedule, but the start of ACC play brings tougher tests.

The top-ranked and undefeated Tar Heels face their first ranked opponent of the season when they begin their conference schedule at No. 19 Clemson on Sunday hoping to extend a six-game winning streak against the Tigers.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made North Carolina -5 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 71% of bets for this game have been placed on North Carolina -5 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

North Carolina (14-0) is off to its best start since it began the 1997-98 season 17-0, and the Tar Heels have won 14 straight for the first time since 2004-05, when they went on to win their last national championship.

Wins likely won't come as easily in ACC play. Last season's team suffered five of its seven losses within the conference, including four defeats on the road. Clemson (12-1) is the only ACC team other than North Carolina and No. 9 Duke that is ranked, and the Tigers have won 11 in a row at home.

"Now we get into the family stuff," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "I've been working my tail off to make sure they're focused for the last four or five games, because we've played some pretty solid basketball teams, and if they need me to get (them) focused now, we're really in bad shape."

The Tar Heels have won their last five games - all at home - by an average margin of 28.4 points. In Wednesday's 90-61 win over Kent State, preseason All-American Tyler Hansbrough had 25 points, his seventh straight game with at least 20. Hansbrough leads the ACC in both scoring (22.4 ppg) and rebounding (9.6 rpg).

Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington each added 17 points against Kent State, combining with Hansbrough to shoot 22-for-32 (68.8 percent) from the floor. North Carolina shot 52.3 percent as a team - its fourth straight game above 50 percent.

"We keep on improving - that's our mind-set," Hansbrough said. "It's basically our mental approach to every game. Is our intensity going to be there? Is our defense going to be there? I think if we play (how) we're capable of, we'll be fine."

North Carolina has beaten Clemson six straight times dating back to the 2003-04 season, including a pair of road wins. Their most recent meeting, last January at Littlejohn Coliseum, was a 77-55 Tar Heels win.

The Tigers went on to finish 7-9 in the ACC, their 10th straight losing season in league play.

This season, Clemson has won two straight since suffering its lone loss to Mississippi. The Tigers won 87-61 at Alabama on New Year's Day, when Trevor Booker and James Mays each had 18 points while freshman Terrence Oglesby added 17 off the bench.

K.C. Rivers, who leads the Tigers with 16.0 points per game, chipped in 15 points.

Clemson used a high-pressure defense to outscore Alabama 47-26 in the second half.

"I thought we wore them down," Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. "Our pressure was a big part of the reason we blew the game open. I don't think it happened right there in the second half. I think it was a cumulative effect."

The Tigers will again hope to dictate the pace against the Tar Heels, who have a shortened bench after losing reserve Bobby Frasor (torn ACL) for the season late last month. Forward Alex Stepheson will miss his second straight game due to an illness in the family, but North Carolina expects senior guard Quentin Thomas to return after missing two straight games with a sprained ankle.

Clemson's last victory over the No. 1 team in the nation was 75-65 home win over North Carolina on Feb, 18, 2001.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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