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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC men's basketball cruises past Pittsburgh, 85-67

The North Carolina men's basketball team defeated Pittsburgh, 85-67, on Saturday in the Petersen Events Center in the Panthers' final home game of the season.

What happened?

Pittsburgh forward Sheldon Jeter picked up two early fouls and took a seat before three minutes had elapsed in the first half.  Jeter has a team-high 211 rebounds for his team this season and is averaging 7.5 per game. 

While Jeter on the bench, North Carolina (25-5, 13-3 ACC) dominated on the boards. It's an advantage the Tar Heels would exploit for needed extra possessions. UNC got off to a slow shooting start, though, and let Pittsburgh (15-14, 4-12 ACC) hang around in the game throughout the opening minutes of the first quarter. 

After two free throws from Chris Jones, the Panthers cut the Tar Heels' lead to one point, 26-25, with 4:28 left in the first half. That was as close as it would get the rest of the game, thanks to hot shooting from the usual suspects. 

There was a stretch early in the second half where it looked like the foundation of North Carolina's lead was cracking. A jump shot by Jones made it 44-36, and the Oakland Zoo, Pittsburgh's student section, came alive. Earlier in this season, maybe UNC's fumblings would have compounded, allowing the Panthers to climb back into the game. 

That didn't happen today. Isaiah Hicks battled for a basket and converted the 3-point play. Throughout the rest of the second half, Berry attacked the basket whenever it felt like Pittsburgh was coming close.

This current North Carolina team has taken its scars of earlier battles on the road in ACC play and learned how not to repeat them. 

Who stood out?

At the half, Jackson had 13 points and had made 3-of-5 from deep, and the junior finished with 23 points. Each game, it seems as if he's comfortable from one more step beyond the 3-point line. North Carolina will be tough to beat in March if Jackson keeps shooting this well.

Coming into Saturday's slate of ACC games, Jackson was second in the conference with 2.69 3-point field goals per game. He was also second in UNC single-season history, behind only Shammond Williams' 1996-97 campaign in which he made 2.71 per game.

His personal favorite play of the day might have been dunking on fan favorite Rozelle Nix with 5:55 left in the second half. It was an exclamation point on another strong game from the ACC Player of the Year candidate.

When was it over?

With 6:10 left in the game, senior Sheldon Jeter committed his fifth foul of the game, ending his night and his career at the Petersen Events Center. He was met with a warm standing ovation from Pitt fans. 

UNC was up 72-56 at that point, and the Tar Heels hit their free throws to hold onto the comfortable margin throughout the rest of the game.

Jeter scored seven points in 17 minutes of play. The Panthers needed a gargantuan effort from him to pull off the upset. Instead, he never really got a shot to put his imprint on the game due to foul trouble.

Why does it matter?

The win on Saturday moves North Carolina one step closer to clinching a regular-season ACC conference championship. Coming into Saturday's slate of ACC games, the Tar Heels were ahead of everyone in the standings with a 12-3 conference record. 

Duke, Florida State, Louisville and Notre Dame all have 10-5 conference records and share the honor of being second place in the ACC. 

The win also improved UNC to 5-3 on the road this season in conference play. After struggles against Georgia Tech, Clemson, Wake Forest and Miami on the road earlier on in conference play this season, North Carolina took care of business against a conference foe.

Where do they play next?

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UNC takes the court next against Virginia on Monday night in Charlottesville. North Carolina beat Virginia in the Smith Center 65-41 on Feb 18.