“This is what conference play is about at this time of year,” Robinson, who relieved Williams as head coach for the remainder of the game, said. “Where everybody is just scratching and clawing for every win that you can get. Our guys showed a lot of poise, our senior leaders were what they should be, leading our basketball team and helping us make plays.”
Johnson was the sharpshooter, nailing six of his eight 3-pointers. Senior Luke Maye fulfilled his duty with another double-double, his 12th of the season. Senior Kenny Williams sealed the win in the final 14 seconds, making three of four free throws and floating a lob into the empty backcourt that drained away the remaining time and forced Trapp’s desperation three.
“This is just satisfying because it was hard fought. It wasn't easy,” Kenny Williams said. “It was a battle. You see everyone's got battle wounds.”
He gestured to his own cuts and pointed out the ice pack on Maye’s arm. To his left was first-year Coby White, who had a ribbon of red in the crook of his elbow from a heavy-bleeding scratch that had been bandaged mid-game.
“The hard-fought ones like that are definitely the best,” Kenny Williams said.
With 1:04 to go, it seemed like the game was in hand for UNC. Maye had forced the ball up to White, who found Kenny Williams all alone behind the defense for an easy fast-break layup. UNC led, 77-70.
Four Clemson free throws and a Trapp 3-pointer later, only answered by a single made free throw from UNC's White and Clemson trailed, 78-77.
With UNC trying to get the ball up court with 14 seconds to play, Clemson fouled Kenny Williams, who was 0-5 from three and had only six points in the game at that point.
He sank both.
But Clemson’s Shelton Mitchell answered and made a pair on the other end to cut it back to one.
Maye, feeling pressure on the inbound, hurled a football pass all the way to the other baseline. Kenny Williams got the reception and was fouled again with under 10 seconds remaining.
He made the first to put UNC up, 81-79, but missed the second.
Clemson frantically pushed toward the basket, but Mitchell plowed into White, and the ball deflected off the first-year's hands into a fray of players. Sophomore Garrison Brooks gathered it and passed it to Kenny Williams, who tossed it over the heads of everybody into the backcourt.
When asked if it was a savvy senior move, Johnson gave the affirmative.
“If that full-court heave would’ve fallen though,” Johnson added, “we would’ve, uhhh...”
The Tar Heels didn’t have to answer that question. The seniors, along with a troop that included a 28-point, six-rebound, five-assist and six made threes performance from White — the first time in UNC history two Tar Heels sank six threes in the same game — pulled through to remain unbeaten on the road in ACC play.
Without their Hall of Fame coach on the sideline, the seniors kept marching, pulling the team to victory.
“You know, that’s our job. We got some big time contributions from other guys like this one right here,” Johnson said, pointing to White on his right. “But that's our job.”
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