North Carolina trailed for most of the first quarter, but did stay within striking distance behind the play of Cherry — who totaled 12 points and four rebounds in the game's opening half. Watts and Walker combined for just seven points in the first frame.
The Tar Heels opened the second quarter with a sense of urgency akin to a team playing for its postseason life. North Carolina shot out to a 31-24 lead with 5:20 remaining in the half. But as the team had at times the season, UNC allowed the Panthers to close the half on a big run.
Pittsburgh finished the second quarter on an 17-2 run, taking a 41-33 at halftime. Neither Walker nor Watts scored in the second quarter, and the former tallied no points in the game's first 20 minutes.
After starting the game 0-for-9 from the floor, Walker began to find her mark in the second half. Over a 8:07 span between the third and fourth quarters, the guard made all five of the shots she attempted as UNC raced back to force overtime.
But in the game's final five minutes, it seemed like no Tar Heel could find the bottom of the bucket, including Watts and Walker.
The first-year guards shot a combined 1-for-7 in the overtime period, and North Carolina amassed just five points in what could have been the team's last five minutes of the season.
"You think right now, 'Coach Hatchell, hey let's get this over and move on.' But no, that's not the way I feel at all. I'm excited about these kids and how they battled today, because they have worked their behinds off and gotten better and better." — Coach Sylvia Hatchell on her team's performance over the course of the 2015-16 season.
With 20 points against the Panthers, Watts — who was named the ACC Freshman of the Year on Tuesday — picked up her sixth 20-point game on the season. Watts led the Tar Heels with 14.7 points per game this season.
Three numbers that matter
45: Cherry, Walker and Watts played all 45 minutes of the Tar Heels' loss Wednesday. All three are among the top players in the country in minutes played.
76: With four 3-pointers on Wednesday, Watts pushed her mark to 76 made 3-pointers on the season, a record for a North Carolina first-year player. Former UNC guard Allisha Gray held the previous record, having made 64 3-pointers during the 2013-14 season.
5: Five Tar Heels finished with four or more fouls on the day. Depth has been an issue for UNC this season, and as the fouls racked up, the team couldn't play as aggressively on the defensive end down the stretch.
The NCAA Tournament field will be announced on March 13. North Carolina is currently projected to miss the tournament for the first time since the 2011-12 season.