The top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels finally encountered a team that could frustrate Tyler Hansbrough, and contain the All-America.  All year long, North Carolina could lean on their power forward to provide the bulk of the scoring, and much of the rebounding.  But with their backs against the wall against upset minded Clemson, the Tar Heels looked to a new man, who is quickly emerging into one of the nation’s breakout prospects.

Wayne Ellington scored a career-high 36 points, including the game-winning three pointer with 0.4 s
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econds to help North Carolina stave off an upset from 19th ranked Clemson.  The 90-88 win showed that the Tar Heels have many more weapons than just Hansbrough, but also revealed the recipe toward limiting his production.

The Tigers threw several different big men at Hansbrough, and made him work extremely hard for everything.  Entry passes to Hansbrough in the post were contested all night long, and led to several fast break opportunities. As a result, Hansbrough only managed seven shots, many of which came in awkward positions on the court, with several Tigers in his face.  In the paint, Clemson looked to be the stronger team, but when confronted with a challenge, North Carolina responded and unleashed their up and coming sophomore to take over.

Recruited as a five-star prospect, big things were expected to come from Ellington, but playing behind Hansbrough, the team’s go-to guy, the kid from Pennsylvania had to bide his time.  Although Ellington had a successful freshman year, both he and Roy Williams expected him to take a big step forward as a sophomore, and start becoming Carolina’s force in the perimeter.

Ellington responded to every spurt of Clemson’s, going 5-8 from downtown, and a perfect 9-9 from the line, a category that ultimately killed Clemson.  Oliver Purnell’s team displayed that they are a talented bunch, matching the Tar Heels basket for basket for 45 minutes, but the Tigers failed to capitalize on the freebies.  Clemson shot 14-27 (.519) from the free throw line, continuing an ugly trend for the Tigers.  The Tigers only shoot 66% from the line as a team, which puts them last in the ACC.  The missed opportunities allowed the Tar Heels, specifically Ellington to capitalize and walk out of Littlejohn Coliseum with a crucial road victory in conference.

The 6-4 shooting guard has worked on his shooting stroke, and his work is really starting to pay off.  He has improved his overall field goal percentage, as well as his shooting from downtown and at the free throw line.  Even with the offense flowing through Hansbrough, Ellington has stepped up his game to average a very solid 17.2 points per game as Psycho T’s sidekick.  With speedy point guard Ty Lawson now having two frontline scorers to look for, the nation’s top team is beginning to become a lot harder to beat.

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