Clemson University

Heartbreak city

Clemson's James Mays has a shot blocked by North Carolina's Deon Thompson during the second half. North Carolina won 103-93 in double overtime, keeping the Tigers winless in Chapel Hill. North Carolina set an NCAA record with its 53rd straight home win over Clemson.
Clemson's James Mays has a shot blocked by North Carolina's Deon Thompson during the second half. North Carolina won 103-93 in double overtime, keeping the Tigers winless in Chapel Hill. North Carolina set an NCAA record with its 53rd straight home win over Clemson.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- K.C. Rivers stomped his heel in frustration after Clemson's last gasp.

Moments later, chants of "You can't win here" resonated through the Dean Smith Center.

The streak had gone on a defibrillator, only to be resuscitated before last rites.

Given new life by a momentous swing at the end of regulation, No. 3 North Carolina prolonged the Tigers' historical hurdle with a 103-93 triumph Sunday night.

Clemson has now lost all 53 games in Chapel Hill, breaking the NCAA record for consecutive defeats on an opponent's home floor.

"I don't know if it's ever going to get done," senior forward James Mays said. "We had all the ingredients but couldn't pull out."

There have been close calls before, namely back-to-back nail-biters lost by a combined three points in 1974-75, but arguably none more disheartening for a program searching for its signature victory.

Up by 11 with 4:43 remaining, the Tigers (17-6, 5-4 ACC) were on the verge of capping an impressive three-game stretch by climbing into a three-way tie for second in the conference.

It would be hard to argue the immensity of what they were about to accomplish did not catch up to Clemson. And the Tar Heels (22-2, 7-2) soon followed.

Triggered by a pair of Danny Green 3-pointers against the Tigers' press, UNC scored on its final seven regulation possessions.

After Clemson point guard Demontez Stitt missed the front end of a one-and-one that could have made it a two-possession game, fill-in UNC point guard Quentin Thomas' driving layup with 25 seconds left registered the first tie since the game was scoreless.

Tigers guard K.C. Rivers missed a running scoop around the basket with under 0:02 to go to force overtime.

"Our defense failed us down the stretch," coach Oliver Purnell said. "All of a sudden we were trying to outscore them to hold on down the stretch."

Senior guard Cliff Hammonds continued his torrid spell with a career-high 31 points.

Keeping pace in overtime proved doubly difficult because of the disparity in the team's free-throw shooting abilities.

Led by junior center Tyler Hansbrough, UNC made 13 of 14 free throws in the extra periods to finish 31 for 36 (86.1 percent). By comparison, Clemson went 1-for-7 for the contest and did not net its first until overtime.

Hansbrough finished with 39 points, one shy of his career high, to go with 13 rebounds. More importantly, he hit 17 of 19 free throws, fouling out Clemson center Trevor Booker in the first overtime with Mays saddled with four fouls, as well.

"You could see once we started coming back, once we started playing defense and trapping them a little more, you could see they felt the pressure a little bit," Green said. "It got the crowd into it, got a little more energy going in the game. Everybody just started lifting themselves up and playing better."

The Tar Heels led 94-93 before sandwiching four three throws around a David Potter turnover.

After a Hammonds miss, guard Wayne Ellington sealed the deal with a driving banker.

Clemson has four days to recover before Thursday's 9 p.m. home game against Georgia Tech. Several players admitted the Tigers will probably need every bit of it, especially considering the lingering affect dramatic defeats have had in recent years.

"How we react to this is going to be the tale of our season," Hammonds said.

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