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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC men's basketball wins overtime thriller against Clemson, 89-86

UNC-CH forward Justin Jackson (44) drives to the basket against Clemson on Tuesday night.
UNC-CH forward Justin Jackson (44) drives to the basket against Clemson on Tuesday night.

CLEMSON, S.C. — The North Carolina men's basketball team defeated Clemson, 89-86, in overtime inside Littlejohn Coliseum on Tuesday night.

What happened?

North Carolina came out of the gates as sluggish as it played against Georgia Tech in its ACC opener on New Year's Eve. 

The Tar Heels shot just 41.7 percent from the field over the first 20 minutes, and went into the break trailing the Tigers, 43-38. 

UNC struggled at the beginning of the second half, too, missing its first two shots and turned the ball over to get things started.

But from there, the Tar Heels were able to find their rhythm thanks to the play of Joel Berry. Berry scored 23 of his 31 points in the second half and overtime, putting his team in the driver's seat and keeping it there when Clemson threatened to take the game back. 

The Tigers tied the game on a 3-pointer by Marcquise Reed with 22 seconds left. On UNC's ensuing possession, Berry turned the ball over and fouled Clemson's Avry Holmes. Holmes missed the front end of a 1-and-1, UNC grabbed the rebound and called a timeout. 

Berry had a shot at the buzzer beater, but he missed a runner as time expired, sending the game to overtime.

Clemson led in the opening minutes of overtime, but grabbed control of the game after a Kennedy Meeks' offensive rebound and bucket gave the team an 83-82 lead. The Tar Heels were able to lock down defensively from there, forcing a turnover and icing the game.

Who stood out?

Berry was absolutely on fire in the second half. He shot 9-for-13 from the field in the game's final 25 minutes while earning career highs for both points (31) and made 3-pointers (7) in a game. 

This was a welcome change of pace for UNC after the way its junior point guard started conference play. Berry hit just three of the 13 shots he attempted against Georgia Tech, including a horrid two of his nine 3-point attempts.

In the overtime period, Kennedy Meeks came up with perhaps the biggest play of the game. After Nate Britt missed a layup with 1:13 left, Meeks grabbed the offensive rebound and scored the putback while getting fouled. He missed the free throw, but the basket gave UNC a 83-82 lead, one it wouldn't relinquish. 

Meeks, while shooting an abysmal percentage from the floor, starred on the glass for the Tar Heels. He pulled down 16 rebounds on the night, including 10 on the offensive end. The Tar Heels as a team hauled in 23 offensive rebounds and converted them into 23 second-chance points.

When was it decided?

The game wasn't truly over until Kenny Williams hit a pair of free throws to give UNC a four-point lead with 17 seconds remaining. Clemson turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, clinching the game for the Tar Heels.

Why does it matter?

After the way Berry and the Tar Heels played against Georgia Tech, a tough win against a good team on the road it just what they needed to get back on track. 

Couple that with the fact that UNC takes on intrastate rival N.C. State on Saturday, and the win holds even more significance.

Where do they play next?

The Tar Heels will take on N.C. State at home on Saturday. The tip is scheduled for 8 p.m.

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