CHAPEL HILL — Over 26 seasons at North Carolina, coach Sylvia Hatchells womens basketball teams have won games in a variety of fashions buzzer-beaters, blowouts and ugly come-from-behind wins.
Hatchells team, trailing by three points late in the second half, needed the latter against Clemson on Thursday night, but were denied as the Tigers held on for a 52-47 victory in what was a bizarre, closer-than-expected contest at Carmichael Arena.
In the end, after the No. 22 Tar Heels (12-4, 2-2 ACC) worked back from an early seven-point deficit to twice tie the game down the stretch, Clemson (5-10, 1-3) made tough shots in the paint and outrebounded their opponents. The Tigers held the Heels to their fewest points at home ever.
I really dont know what to say, Hatchell said. We know what a great team we can be and werent. We were just the opposite.
Clemson claimed its first victory over UNC since 2001 a 75-57 win in the ACC Tournament. The Tigers snapped an 18-game losing streak to UNC and ended a 53-game losing streak against ranked opponents.
The Tigers bruised their opponents inside and remained poised as the game grew tighter.
UNCs Shela White hit a long jump shot to cut Clemsons lead to three points with 37 seconds remaining and the Heels turned up the defensive pressure. Later, after taking a time out, the Heels ran a half-court play to White, who was swarmed by defenders and threw a pass out of bounds near the team bench with 4.5 seconds on the clock.
Hatchell argued that the ball had been tipped on the way out. A referee explained that two officials had seen the ball fly out untouched and awarded Clemson the ball.
After she was fouled, Clemson freshman Chelsea Lindsay, a Durham Hillside High graduate, stepped to the line and made two free throws with three second remaining to close the game for the Tigers.
The Tigers handed UNC its second straight loss and denied Hatchell a historic night. The coach was looking to collect her 600th victory at UNC and become one of three ACC womens coaches to reach that milestone, joining former N.C. State coach Kay Yow and former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan.
Clemson sophomore Quinyotta Pettaway scored a career-high 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, helping her team end the night with a 41-36 rebounding advantage.
Its good to see us growing, said Clemson coach Itoro Coleman, a former player at the school who as a player had never defeated the Heels.
The teams played to a 29-29 tie in the first half.
Poor shooting hurt the Heels on Thursday. They shot 28.8 percent from the field and were 1-for-17 from 3-point range.
I dont know where it began to unravel, but we just didnt have it tonight, UNC junior Krista Gross said. I dont know where it came from, or where the lack of effort really came from. We didnt have the same mentality that we had when we went into the Maryland game.
The Heels fell to Maryland 78-72 in overtime on Sunday, after defeating No. 13 Miami 65-63 the previous week. The Heels appeared to be pulling themselves together after a rash of injuries had depleted the roster.
North Carolinas Chay Shegog, the ACCs leading scorer, had nine points in the first half and finished with 11 points and six rebounds. Junior Tierra Ruffin-Pratt added 11 points and six rebounds in her third game back after shoulder surgery.
"We'll keep working," Hatchell said. "We'll get it together."