CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP)—Apparently, Wayne Ellington loves to play against Clemson almost as much as North Carolina enjoys having the Tigers come to Chapel Hill.
Ellington had 25 points to help the No. 5 Tar Heels beat the 10th-ranked Tigers 94-70 on Wednesday night, keeping North Carolina perfect in 54 home games against Clemson.
Tyler Hansbrough added 20 points for the Tar Heels (17-2, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), whose 54-0 run against the Tigers here is an NCAA record for the longest home winning streak against one opponent. North Carolina took control late in the first half and used a 24-4 run spanning the break to build an 18-point lead early in the second half.
Clemson (16-2, 2-2) never got closer than 13 the rest of the way and trailed by as many as 27 points, falling by double figures here for the 22nd time in 24 meetings.
Ellington was coming off a 23-point performance last weekend against Miami in which he hit eight straight shots in the second half, seven from behind the arc, after a slow start to the season. He followed that by picking up where he left off in last year’s season-long torture of the Tigers.
Ellington averaged 29 points in three meetings against Clemson last season, including a career-high 36 and the last-second 3-pointer on the road for the win in the first matchup. This time, he finished 9-for-15 from the field to go with a career-high seven assists and six rebounds.
“I’ve been working all season long,” Ellington said. “I just continued to have faith in getting shots up and not letting missing shots do anything to my confidence. I think it’s worked for me. I figured sooner or later I’ll be able to break through it, so I didn’t let it affect me in any way.”
It marked the first time in his career that he’s had consecutive 20-point games. Before the past two games, he had not scored more than 17 in a game this season.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams credited Ellington’s work on his shot in practice, including on a day off following the loss at Wake Forest earlier this month.
“The more you shoot, the more you see it go in, the more it’s going to go in,” Williams said. “I think he’s worked his way through it. I don’t think it was a complete lack of confidence, but he wasn’t as comfortable as he needs to be and should be. … Instead of pouting and worrying about his shot, he’s continued to play basketball.”
With Ellington rediscovering his shot, North Carolina’s offense looked about as sharp as it has in weeks despite Hansbrough being relatively quiet against Clemson’s physical frontline until the game was in hand. North Carolina shot 53 percent, while Deon Thompson—after failing to reach double figures in the first four conference games—had 15 points.
As for the streak?
“I don’t know what it is,” said Ty Lawson, who had 16 points and seven assists. “But I hope we keep winning.”
The Tigers weren’t all that interested in talking about the streak, either.
“I’m 0-4—all the sophomores are 0-4,” said Terrence Oglesby, who had 22 points for Clemson. “And I don’t care about 1967 or whatever.”
It was the Tigers’ second consecutive defeat after a 16-0 start, following Saturday’s home loss to Wake Forest that propelled the Demon Deacons to the No. 1 ranking this week.
Oglesby scored 17 in the first half for Clemson, and his third 3-pointer of the half gave the Tigers a 38-36 lead with 3:31 left. But North Carolina’s offense got going behind Ellington, who hit a 3 off a feed from Lawson in the final seconds to cap a 9-2 spurt that gave the Tar Heels a 45-40 halftime lead.
The Tar Heels dominated from there, starting the second half with a 15-2 run that ended with consecutive scores from Hansbrough to make it 60-42 with 14:31 left.
The Tigers, meanwhile, got nothing going in the second half, missing 16 of their first 20 shots before finishing the half at 10-for-35 (29 percent).
“Any time that a team runs into the half on you playing with a lot of momentum … and then comes out and has a run like that, you’re probably going to lose,” Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. “Many a game have been lost right there. We did talk at halftime that we really needed to be ready, that the first 4 minutes were going to be critical. And they were.”
North Carolina’s 94 points and 53 percent shooting were the most allowed by the Tigers in any game this season.
Hansbrough had to leave the game briefly in the first half after being hit in the mouth during a scramble under the basket. The school said he had a loosened front tooth and had to play the rest of the way with a mouthpiece. He was unavailable for comment afterward.