At the under-12 timeout, UNC’s answer to every question was a Coby White three. The first-year poured in 14 of North Carolina’s 19 points in the first 7:46, keeping the Tar Heels within one at 20-19.
Neither team was able to get its offense going early in the half. Clemson’s stingy defense held UNC to just two more points before the under-8, with those points coming on a Seventh Woods to Garrison Brooks emphatic alley-oop. At the time-out, Clemson led 25-21 as UNC subbed back in its starting five.
A Cameron Johnson three and a Luke Maye short jumper on an offensive rebound gave UNC the lead, but Clemson quickly took it back with an Elijah Thomas layup on the other side. Other than that, the offenses remained silent for another four minutes. With 3:35 to play, Clemson led 27-26. White’s early 14 and a pair of Johnson threes were led the offense as Garrison Brooks and Luke Maye were the only other scorers for a combined six points.
At 2:07 to go, Thomas hit a layup to put Clemson up 33-29. It was the first field goal by either team since his last layup 2:42 prior. It snapped the Tar Heels out of their sluggish stretch, as a Nassir Little and-one and another White three put UNC up 35-33.
With 54 seconds to play, UNC fans saw the welcome sight of Sterling Manley checking into the game for the first time since Dec. 29 against Davidson.
But before he could officially check in, the crowd was hushed as UNC head coach Roy Williams fell down on the side of the court. The entire crowd stood up and clapped as he got back up with the help of head athletic trainer Doug Halverson and exited the court.
Manley got on the board with a free throw, and another Johnson three helped the Tar Heels to the locker room with a 39-35 lead. With 17 and 10 points respectively, White and Johnson were the spark that allowed UNC to survive a slow start that included eight turnovers. Thomas was the only double-digit scorer for the Tigers with 10 points and nine rebounds.
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