The first half was slow to start, with Clemson holding a 27-26 edge at the under-4 timeout. White paced the Tar Heels with 17 first-half points on five 3-pointers and a long-range jumper. The closing minutes saw both teams pick up the pace.
Sterling Manley checked in for the first time since Dec. 29 against Davidson and notched a free throw and Cameron Johnson notched his third three of the half to cap a final minute that saw UNC build a 39-35 lead.
With less than a minute to play, the crowd was silenced as UNC head coach Roy Williams fell on the sideline and was helped off the court by head athletic trainer Doug Halverson. It was confirmed by UNC athletics at the break that Williams had a spell of vertigo, something that he has dealt with throughout his career.
Williams remained in the locker room at the break, with assistant coach Steve Robinson taking over his duties on the bench.
The Tar Heels got off to a blazing start to the second half. After a near-turnover by Kenny Williams, Luke Maye corralled the ball and whipped it to Johnson in the corner. Johnson splashed home a three to give UNC a 46-37 lead, its biggest of the game.
But Clemson had a response, ripping off a 17-2 run. Meanwhile UNC’s offense ground to a halt, unable to net a field goal for 8:08.
Garrison Brooks broke the drought with a mid-range jumper. Despite the poor stretch, the basket cut the Clemson lead to 54-50 with 10:33 to go. Maye’s 100th career three cut it to 54-53 over a minute later, and his three-point play gave UNC the 56-54 edge with 8:32 to go.
When a made Marcquise Reed three cut UNC’s lead to 65-63 with 5:43 to play, White found another way to help UNC’s offense. Two passes led to two buckets, one a May layup and the other a Johnson three. White’s pair of assists resulted in North Carolina’s lead climbing to 70-63.
Leading 78-72 with 1:02 to go, the last minute was frenetic. A made three and a pair of free throws by Clemson’s Clyde Trapp cut the lead to one with 19 seconds to play. Kenny Williams and Shelton Mitchell traded pairs of free throws, and Kenny Williams was back at the line with 10 seconds to go when he missed the second, giving Clemson the ball down by one.
However, Mitchell turned the ball over after bumping into White in the final few seconds and UNC hung on for the two-point win.
Who stood out?
White continued to strengthen his reputation as one of UNC’s best scorers. Against the Tigers, his 3-point shot was on like it has been in previous wins against Miami and Syracuse, and the first-year also was able to drive to the basket.
Johnson was a steadying presence for the Tar Heels, as he connected on six of his eight 3-point attempts. And despite struggling for much of the game, both Kenny Williams and Maye contributed key plays down the stretch. Williams scored five points in the final 1:09 of play to help UNC get the win.
When was it decided?
Not until the very end, when Clemson’s Mitchell barreled toward the basket in the final seconds with the Tigers trailing by two and turned the ball over after colliding with White.
Why does it matter?
The win keeps UNC neck-and-neck with Virginia for first place in the ACC. The Tar Heels are 14-2 in conference with just two games remaining — a road test at Boston College and the home finale against No. 3 Duke.
When do they play next?
UNC plays its final road game of the regular season at Boston College on Tuesday at 8 p.m. The Tar Heels defeated the Eagles 96-66 in the lone meeting between the two teams last season.
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