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January 13, 2010

Tar Heels drop second straight road game

CLEMSON, S.C. - For the second time in as many road games, North Carolina's players had to fight their way through a jubilant mob to get off the court.

But this was worse than the Tar Heels' other road losses of the season. In fact, it was the worst loss of the Roy Williams era.

The 12th-ranked Tar Heels fell behind by double figures early and were never able to dig themselves out of the hole in an 83-64 loss to No. 24 Clemson.

Carolina (12-5, 1-1 in the ACC), which had won 10 straight games against Clemson (14-3, 2-1) is still without a true road win, and this loss looked like the worst of the bunch away from the Smith Center.

"I've never felt like this before," senior guard Marcus Ginyard said.

Three Carolina starters - Ginyard, Deon Thompson and Larry Drew II - had five turnovers each as the Tar Heels tied a season high with 26 overall.

Three Carolina starters - Ginyard, Thompson and Ed Davis - scored just four points apiece.

And a pair of Tar Heels, Davis and Will Graves, each shot 2 for 11.

Clemson, which got 21 points from Trevor Booker and 20 from Demontez Stitt, jumped out to a 19-6 lead in the game's opening minutes and eventually pushed their advantage to 23 points.

The Tar Heels tried to rally in the second half, but never got closer than 68-57 with six minutes to go.

They had a chance to cut the lead to 10 points a minute later but missed four shots right underneath the basket.

Clemson began the game with a full-court trapping defense that clearly rattled the Heels.

The Tar Heels' first three possessions of the game resulted in turnovers, and that was just the start.

"We went down 7-0, and I almost called a timeout, and I have never done that in my life," Williams said. "I just coached a poor game tonight."

Ginyard had three turnovers in the first 4 minutes, the last of which was a pass attempt that came down five rows behind the Clemson bench.

The Tigers took advantage of UNC's miscues to shoot 57.6 percent in the first half and jump out to a 35-12 lead on a Tanner Smith 3-pointer midway through the first half.

By the break, Carolina found itself trailing 50-32.

"It was tough," said freshman Dexter Strickland, who led UNC with 17 points. "The crowd was definitely into it, and (Clemson) got a lot of shots off our turnovers. We just made mental mistakes."

Williams was visibly frustrated with his team's first-half calamities, at one point sighing and rolling his eyes at a Drew turnover and before that putting his hand over his mouth to mask the smirk on his face after Drew made a steal but blew the fast-break lay-up.

It was that kind of game for the Tar Heels, who were beaten with a dose of their own style of play.

"I felt like we were the faster, quicker team, so the faster the game went the better," Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. "If you don't make us pay when we press, we're going to tighten the screws even more."

Carolina was without forward Tyler Zeller up front.

The sophomore was held out for precautionary reasons after feeling pain in his right foot and was the fifth Tar Heel to miss a game this season due to injury. He was scheduled to be examined when the team returned to Chapel Hill.

But the way this game started, missing one player wasn't going to matter.

"It's tough to win when you turn the ball over almost 30 times," Ginyard said. "We never really gave ourselves a chance to win."


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