The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday February 8th

'It showed a lot of growth in us': UNC escapes hostile environment with win over Clemson

UNC sophomore guard RJ Davis (4) looks for an open pass during a UNC men's basketball game against Duke in the Dean Smith Center on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022. Duke won 87-67.
Buy Photos UNC sophomore guard RJ Davis (4) looks for an open pass during a UNC men's basketball game against Duke in the Dean Smith Center on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022. Duke won 87-67.

In a hostile environment in the form of a packed Littlejohn Coliseum, the North Carolina men’s basketball team looked lost early.

After getting blown out in front of their home crowd in last weekend’s matchup against Duke, the Tar Heels showed similar tendencies on the road against Clemson going down early, but this time, were able to bounce back with a narrow 79-77 victory.

On a night where the crowd was loud and the constant sound of the referee's whistle was arguably even louder, North Carolina was able to turn it around and escape primarily because of the team's toughness.

“The crowd was into it,” sophomore guard RJ Davis said. “Clemson is a great team and road games are never easy. Our main thing was to remain together and I think we showed some grit fighting towards the end, staying together, executing the plays when we needed, and getting stops when we needed. We just persevered tonight and I’m proud of this team.”

Being away from home has not always been friendly to the Tar Heels this season.

Coming into its matchup against Clemson, North Carolina sat at 4-3 on the road and also looked to avenge last season’s road loss to the Tigers. 

Although the Tar Heels got off to a slow start tonight and at one point trailed by 11 points, something clicked in the second half, and they were able to figure it out even with star forward Armando Bacot facing foul trouble late. 

The absence of their star could’ve represented a recipe for disaster for a North Carolina team that has leaned upon their big man heavily to provide baskets down low this year, but the team fought through it to remain over .500 on the road while securing its ninth conference win of the season.  

“It definitely showed a lot of growth in us,” Bacot said. “Me being out and us not having a lot of depth at the center and forward position, for us to fight and stay in it was great. I’m honestly just glad we got out of here with a win.”

Things have not always been perfect for the Tar Heels this season, but their ability to fight and persevere should not be underestimated.

After a deflating 20-point loss to its biggest rival just a couple of days prior, heading back on the road would’ve made it understandable for North Carolina to come in and underperform.

Even with all of the obstacles in their way, the Tar Heels were able to bounce back from the tough loss just like they have after some of their other bad losses this season — and head coach Hubert Davis thinks his team deserves more credit for his team’s consistent resilience.

“A lot of people keep bringing up what happened against Tennessee, Kentucky, Duke, Miami and Wake Forest,” Davis said. “I wish people would talk about how this group continues to bounce back. To come away with a win, I’m just proud of them and I hope people can see and be proud of these kids and how hard they fight and how hard they compete and the consistency of them bouncing back every time that they get knocked down.”

After having a tough week in late January where they lost two conference games in a row against Miami and Wake Forest, North Carolina responded by winning four in a row before last weekend’s loss against the Blue Devils. 

On Tuesday, the Tar Heels were able to spark the beginning of what they hope to be another one of these streaks, and with two in a row at home, they have a chance to redeem themselves once again.

@austinb_unc

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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