The first rule of “The Streak” is always talk about “The Streak.”
Clemson has never won a basketball game in Chapel Hill and Roy Williams wanted to make sure his players knew that and understood it.
So Williams told his North Carolina team that Clemson had requested extra tickets for Tuesday’s game. Maybe for the chance to witness history?
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Nah, Cam Johnson and Joel Berry made sure the longest home winning streak in NCAA history turned 59 on Tuesday with an 87-79 decision at the Smith Center.
“They thought that they were going to come in and beat us,” Berry said. “That kind of ticked us off a little bit.”
Not even an unbelievable shooting performance by the Tigers (15-3, 4-2 ACC) could put an end to “The Streak,” which started in 1926.
Johnson scored a season-high 21 points and Berry added 17 as UNC (15-4, 4-2) went 15 of 31 from the 3-point line and kept pace with a torrid Clemson shooting performance in the second half.
The Tigers made 15 straight field goals over nearly 12 minutes span in the second half to whittle what was an 18-point deficit down to two points three different times.
Five different players made at least one shot during the stretch with guard Marcquise Reed scoring 15 of his 21 points.
For the second straight game, UNC won but wasn’t pleased with how it won the game.
“Honestly, excuse my language, it kind of pissed me off,” Kenny Williams said of Clemson’s second-half shooting clinic.
“That’s the thing, they weren’t attacking with just one guy. It was a total team effort and we have to get better as a team defensively.”
But just like the Notre Dame win, or the win in the ACC opener over Wake Forest on Dec. 30, UNC made the plays it had to close out the game for the win.
Each time Clemson made it a two-point game, UNC had the answer.
Berry made a 3-pointer at 9:35 after Clemson pulled within 61-59.
Junior forward Luke Maye (11 points), who had to get five stitches after taking an accidental elbow to the nose from Williams near the end of the first half, made a baseline hook shot at 7:41 after Clemson made it 64-62.
Johnson’s 3, one of a season-high six, provided the late push UNC needed at 6:04 after Clemson made it 66-64.
Maye hit another key 3 late and UNC actually shot a better percentage in the second half (65) than Clemson did (61.3).
Berry was shocked when he looked at the box score after the game and noticed UNC had finished with a better shooting percentage in the second half.
“By looking at the game, it didn’t look like that at all,” Berry said.
The senior guard was also slightly embarrassed by UNC’s second-half defense, which allowed the Tigers to put up 56 points.
“But I think we did a good towards the end, which for some reason, we always do,” Berry said.
Theo Pinson (12 points, six assists) made all six of his late free throws to salt the game away and keep “The Streak” in tact.
Williams told the players before the game “The Streak” will eventually end but he did ask one favor.
“Why not hold it off for another year?” Berry said was Williams’ message.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio