Tar Heels Go on a Second-Half Run to Outpace the Tigers 74-55
March 6, 2009
The largest crowd in the 32-year history of the ACC Tournament watched the North Carolina Tar Heels end Clemson's impressive run at a game and a half today.
The fourth-seeded Tar Heels scored on nine of their first 11 possessions in the second half and pulled away for a 74-55 quarterfinal victory over the Tigers before 13,599 fans at the Greensboro Coliseum. The crowd was heavy on local school students but had a cross-section of demographics.
Clemson created the first matchup of fourth and 12th seeds with Thursday's thorough win over No. 5 Georgia Tech, a victory that stands as the biggest on-paper upset in the tournament. And the Tigers kept it going by forcing 15 first-half turnovers today before the Heels (26-5) regrouped at the break and went on a 16-2 run that turned a 31-29 game distinctly in their favor.
In the game's telling stretch, four of the Heels' hoops were of the second-chance variety, and that made sense in the game's larger context. UNC's rebound total of 59 was the highest in any ACC Tournament game since Clemson set the record with 68 in a quarterfinal in 1981, the event's fourth year.
"We came out and did everything we had to go to rebound it," said freshman Chay Shegog, who collected seven boards in 18 minutes off the bench. "We knew the first four minutes would determine the rest of the second half."
The tournament is celebrating its 10th season in the coliseum, which turns 50 later this year. Today's attendance breaks the single-session mark of 12,969, established in the first quarterfinal last year.
Jessica Breland delivered 22 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots to lead the Heels, who will face the winner of today's Maryland-Wake Forest game in Saturday's semifinals. Rashanda McCants finished with 19 points and Italee Lucas (10 points, 11 boards) joined Breland in double-double territory.
Bryelle Smith had 13 points to pace the Tigers (14-17).
The Tigers were dangerous animals after surprising the Yellow Jackets and giving Carolina a test for 20 minutes, but it didn't last long enough for their liking.
"This whole tournament, they had nothing to lose," said UNC point guard Cetera DeGraffenreid, who committed only one turnover in 32 minutes. "They played their hearts out. They did that last year when beat NC State. So we knew they were a good team.
"It had a lot to do with our defensive pressure."
Carolina again proved that statistics aren't always meaningful. The Heels have committed more turnovers than 89 percent of the nation's Division I teams, but that's the cost associated with a fast-paced offense that will run at any time - even after the opponent has scored. In the first half, the Heels attempted shots within six seconds of Tiger points on three occasions.