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The Daily Tar Heel

Pittman, Texas too much for Tar Heels

Center grabs 12 offensive rebounds in 103-90 win

ARLINGTON, Texas – The matchup was huge. The venue was massive. But Dexter Pittman’s performance was biggest of them all.

The Longhorns’ 290-pound center waged total war under the basket and came away with 12 offensive rebounds to help No. 2 Texas hold off No. 10 North Carolina. The game was competitive throughout, but a searing 23-7 Texas run to close out the first half put the Longhorns (10-0) in control the rest of the way. The final tally was 103-90.

Texas more than matched the Tar Heels’ much-heralded frontcourt in the first basketball game at Cowboys Stadium.

Pittman, the only Longhorn to shoot better than 50 percent from the field, finished with 23 points while teammate Damion James added 25. Both players had 15 total rebounds.

Their steller performances helped Texas dominate UNC on the boards by a 60-41 margin.

“My teams have always been really good rebounding teams, but Texas killed us on the boards,” coach Roy Williams said. “Dexter Pittman kicked our tail by himself.”

After the opening 15 minutes were neck-and-neck, the crowd of 38,052 roared while Texas went on its big run before halftime that ultimately gave the Longhorns the advantage they needed. The lead hovered around ten points for the most of the second half.

“You just put yourself in a hole that you have to get out of and that was pretty evident tonight,” said Deon Thompson, who shot just 3-for-12 from the floor. “We got in that hole and it really hurt us.”

It wasn’t until the Tar Heels (8-3) started making defensive stands that they started cutting back into the deficit.  The surge started around the nine minute mark in the second half with a pair of blocks: first Ed Davis swatted a layup, then Thompson stuffed Alexis Wangmene from behind.

When Marcus Ginyard took a charge and made a bank shot at the other end, the Longhorns’ lead was down to just four points.

But James answered with a three-point play, and the Tar Heels couldn’t keep the ball out of Pittman’s hands forever. He caught a missed 3-pointer under the basket and dodged Davis and Tyler Zeller for a one-handed dunk to push Texas' lead to 87-78.

A pair of untimely turnovers by Ginyard and Will Graves followed the slam, and soon the Tar Heels were pushed back out of reach.

Texas overcame a number of strong showings by Tar Heels with smaller roles in Williams' rotation. Zeller’s hook shot was remarkably accurate as he went 7-for-8 from the floor, and reserve point guard Dexter Strickland showed some flash off the dribble on his way to 12 points. David Wear went 2-for-3 from 3-point range, and John Henson had three blocks in the span of two minutes.

But despite shooting 58.8 percent in the second half, North Carolina couldn’t match its highest-ranked opponent of the season.

“I think there’s no doubt in my mind that this is the best team we’ve played so far this year,” Ginyard said.

The Tar Heels are now done with a brutal opening schedule against some of the top teams in college hoops, and they are 2-3 versus ranked opponents. The three losses were all against teams currently ranked in the top 5 (No. 3 Kentucky and No. 5 Syracuse were the others).

“Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way certain nights,” said Thompson. “We’ve just got to continue to work and continue to improve.”

Meanwhile, Texas solidified its standing as a national power with its first win against a ranked opponent. But UNC knew Pittman was solid already.

“We wanted to get him in foul trouble and run him so he wasn’t in there as much – and he played 34 minutes,” Williams said.

Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.

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