Originally created 03/10/01

Capel leads Tar Heals past Tigers



ATLANTA - Clemson was so busy trying to stop North Carolina guard Joseph Forte that it forgot about Jason Capel.

Capel was 6-of-6 from 3-point range, including three straight late in the first half, to propel the Tar Heels to a 99-81 victory over No. 9 seeded Clemson on Friday in the ACC Tournament at the Georgia Dome.

North Carolina (24-5) avenged its 75-65 loss to the Tigers on Feb. 18, shooting a blistering 55 percent (35-of-64) from the floor and forcing 14 Clemson turnovers.

The Tar Heels (24-5) advance to the tournament semifinals, where they'll meet fifth-seeded Georgia Tech, which beat No. 4 seeded Virginia 74-69, today at 1:30 p.m.

Capel not only burned Clemson from 3-point range, but the junior also shot 8-of-9 overall from the floor, grabbed nine rebounds and dished out four assists.

"I usually don't shoot before the game," Capel said. "But I made an effort to shoot before the game today. Every shot felt good and went in. Hopefully, that will carry over (today)."

North Carolina coach Matt Doherty showed his team clips of the Tigers storming the court at Clemson after an upset of the then-No. 1 ranked Tar Heels.

"If they couldn't get up for this game, maybe somebody needed to check for a pulse," Doherty said. "Clemson is not an easy team to play. I thought they shot the ball extremely well in the first half, and then our defense tightened up a bit and held them in the second half to 38 percent.

"And at the same time, we shot the ball pretty well and did a good job of executing our offense."

The Tigers trailed 50-45 at halftime, but North Carolina turned on the defensive pressure in the second half and turned a close game into a rout.

Clemson junior Will Solomon led the Tigers with 23 points, including nine in the second half. Tiger fans have to wonder whether they watched Solomon's final game in a Clemson uniform.

The ACC's leading scorer, Solomon is expected to forgo his senior season and make himself eligible for the NBA draft.

"Right now I have no idea what I'm going to do next year," Solomon said. "At this point, I'm still a Tiger. I can't really comment on that question right now."

Clemson stood with the Heels until center Ray Henderson picked up his fifth foul with 15:40 left then was whistled for a technical foul after a verbal exchange with game officials.

Forte sank the first two free throws, then Ronald Curry added two more to give the Heels a 58-54 lead with 15:40 left.

Tomas Nagys sank a jump shot to make it 58-56, but North Carolina used an 8-0 run over the next 2:40 to build a 66-56 lead.

Solomon drilled a 3-pointer to trim the Tar Heel lead to 76-70 with 9:01 left, but the Tigers never drew closer.

"I thought we were in position with eight-and-a-half minutes to play in the game," said Clemson coach Larry Shyatt. " ... I thought (North Carolina) continued to shoot well and overwhelmed us with some talent."

Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216 or timmorse@augustachronicle.com.