The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Clemson Shocks Tar Heels

In last place in the ACC, the Tigers handed No. 1 UNC a 75-65 upset and its first defeat in the conference.

But this situation was anything but normal.

Shyatt's Clemson Tigers, 1-10 in the ACC, were about to hand top-ranked North Carolina its first conference loss of the season.

With his team ahead 74-65 with 5 seconds remaining, Shyatt called a timeout. He wanted to let his young team, abused by fans and media alike for its eight straight losses this season, get some extra enjoyment out of a job well done.

Players laughed and hugged before Will Solomon scored the games final point from the foul line to give Clemson a 75-65 victory at Littlejohn Coliseum.

"That (timeout) would never be a slap in anybody's face, but to be perfectly honest, the only people at that point besides my family who I cared about was our guys," Shyatt said. "They haven't had a whole lot of pleasurable moments -- even when I've told them how well they've played -- so why not enjoy it?"

That decision by Shyatt was just one of many his players responded well to against UNC.

Clemson's coach used a triangle-and-two defense to help his team slow down North Carolina's versatile offense. The move allowed the Tigers to keep a close eye on Joseph Forte and UNC's other shooters, but it also gave them the flexibility to collapse in the post.

The Tar Heels (21-3, 11-1 in the ACC) were uncomfortable all afternoon, shooting 38.5 percent from the field. Forte was 6-for-19 for 16 points and failed to reach the 20-point plateau for the first time in eight games.

"It kept you off-balance a little bit, and I don't think we did a good job of recognizing the changes at certain times and where the shots were supposed to come from," UNC coach Matt Doherty said. "It's frustrating sometimes to play against that."

Shyatt knew that his team was overmatched inside in terms of size, so he wanted the Tar Heels to shoot at least 25 3-pointers. UNC tried 26 treys, making eight of them. The Tar Heels were 1-for-14 on 3-pointers in the second half.

But Clemson had no such trouble. The Tigers might have surprised UNC with their junk defense, but their offense was the same as it has been for two years: lots of Solomon.

Solomon scored 13 of Clemson's first 17 points in the second half to help his team turn a 35-30 halftime deficit into a 47-43 lead with 14:30 remaining. He scored 26 points on 9-of-21 shooting.

"He's two steps behind the 3-point line jab stepping at people and then he pulls up," UNC center Brendan Haywood said. "There's no defense for that."

The momentum Solomon built carried over even after he had to leave the game with his fourth foul at the 12:56 mark. The Tigers (11-14, 2-10) scored the game's next seven points after his exit to go up 54-45.

It was time for Forte to get going if UNC had any hope of extending its NCAA-best 18-game winning streak. And he did. Forte, held to one point in the first half, scored eight in four minutes to help get the Tar Heels within three at 61-58.

Haywood dunked in his own miss with 3:48 to go to cut Clemson's lead to 61-60, but he was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim. Solomon knocked in the free throw, the first point of an 8-2 run Clemson would use to seal the game.

Freshman guard Tony Stockman stole the ball from UNC's Brian Morrison and converted with a layup at the other end to push the lead to four.

He later delivered the death blow when he secured a defensive rebound, raced downcourt and drilled a wild 3-pointer in transition.

"I knew they wanted me to pull it out," said Stockman, who finished with 16 points. "But they backed up, and I felt I was in rhythm. I knew I would make it."

The shot gave the Tigers a 69-62 lead with 45 seconds remaining. It wasn't the best fundamental play, but it robbed UNC of a chance to pull out a win on a poor fundamental day.

The Tar Heels were 7-for-15 from the foul line, including three misses on the front ends of one-and-ones. And even though they were bigger than the Tigers at every position, they lost the rebounding battle 44-41.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

Maybe it was a product of UNC's eight-day layoff in between games; maybe it wasn't.

In the end, the Tigers simply got to more loose balls and made more plays. It was their chance to earn a small bit of redemption.

"You could just tell," Doherty said, "that today was their day."

The Sports Editor can be reached at