ACC Basketball: UNC 94, Clemson 70: Ellington effective again against Tigers
Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 22, 2009
By Bret Strelow
CHAPEL HILL ó Wayne Ellington torching Clemson is becoming as commonplace as the Tigers losing at North Carolina.
Ellington scored 25 points, dished out a career-high seven assists and grabbed six rebounds to lead the fifth-ranked Tar Heels to a 94-70 rout of 10th-ranked Clemson on Wednesday night at the Smith Center.
Ellington, who averaged 29.3 points in three victories against the Tigers last season, helped UNC (17-2, 3-2 ACC) improve its all-time record against them in Chapel Hill to 54-0.
“I came out with a little more emotion,” Ellington said. “I think it’s that time where we have to come out and wear the emotions on our sleeve and play as hard as we can night in and night out.
“We’re at a point now where we have to take steps in that direction where we have to start playing our best basketball. I think we’re starting to do that.”
The Tar Heels, who dropped their first two ACC contests, picked up their third league win in a week.
Tyler Hansbrough collected the 40th double-double of his career in a 20-point, 10-rebound performance even though an early collision with Clemson’s Jerai Grant loosened one of his front teeth. A visibly upset Hansbrough left the floor with 14 minutes remaining in the first half and returned from the locker room wearing a mouthpiece.
Ellington tied Ty Lawson for the team lead in assists, but Lawson deserved an unofficial one for how he carved up Clemson’s defense.
Lawson’s ability to effortlessly weave his way through fullcourt pressure from the Tigers (16-2, 2-2) created open looks for Ellington.
“That’s part of the reason why I play pretty well against Clemson,” Ellington said. “Tywon’s able to break down the press. I just run the floor and get open looks all night long.”
Ellington made a game-winning 3-pointer and scored a career-high 36 points in an overtime win at Clemson last January.
He followed that up with 28 points in a double-overtime victory against the Tigers in Chapel Hill and 24 points against them in the ACC Tournament final.
“Maybe he doesn’t like the color orange,” UNC coach Roy Williams joked.
“I think some styles of games fit certain players. It’s up and down. We have a point guard and other people who can find Wayne. Wayne’s a shooter.”
Ellington went 9-for-15 from the field four days after he ended a slump by hitting seven 3-pointers in the second half of a home win against Miami. He scored 20 points in consecutive games for the first time in his career.
Lawson fed Ellington for a 3-pointer with five seconds left in the first half, and the shot capped a 9-2 run that gave the Tar Heels a 45-40 lead.
Williams said he stressed the need for UNC to rebound more effectively and defend better against sharpshooter Terrence Oglesby, who scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half.
The Tar Heels put together a 15-2 run to open the second half, when Clemson missed 17 of its first 21 shots.
The Tigers trailed by 27 with six minutes left, and Williams waved off a student chant of “You can’t win here” that started shortly thereafter.
“That’s about as embarrassing a loss as I’ve been a part of,” Oglesby said. “We competed last year. We didn’t compete this year.”
The Tigers had their best chance to end the streak last season, when they led by 11 points with three minutes left in regulation of a 103-93 setback.
Williams engaged freshman Ed Davis in a short conversation Tuesday to deliver a point about Clemson’s futility in Chapel Hill.
“I asked Ed at practice, ‘Ed, how’d you play last year when you played Clemson?’ ” Williams said. “He said, ‘Coach, I didn’t play.’
“It’s a new game, new team, new season. What’s happened in the past, I didn’t mention the streak at all until after the game. I wanted them to be focused on playing the game and not focused on something they have no control over.”
Lawson has had at least partial control over three of the 54 meetings.
“I don’t want to be on the team that loses,” he said. “I want to keep the tradition going as long as we can. Hopefully they never win here.”