As the game wore on, Pittsburgh continued to pound the ball inside. The team's forwards were able to outmuscle the Tar Heels’ inexperienced post players down low for easy baskets. In the first half the Panthers outscored UNC 26-12 in the paint.
Despite shooting 50 percent from the floor in the first half, North Carolina found itself with a four-point halftime deficit.
UNC opened the second half on a 10-0 run, combining suffocating defense with an offensive surge to retake the lead. Pitt was unable to find the bottom of the net until the 6:04 mark of the third quarter.
Cherry added 11 more points in the period as the Tar Heels built a 10-point advantage heading into the final quarter of play.
The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth affair for the most part. Though the Panthers were able to chip North Carolina’s lead down to as little as eight, UNC was able to hit its free throws and hang on for the 72-60 victory.
Who stood out?
Cherry led the way for North Carolina, scoring a career-high 32 points on 9-of-18 shooting. Her 14-point first quarter set the tone for the game for UNC while her 11-point third quarter helped push the Tar Heels ahead for good.
First-year Taylor Koenen also stood out for North Carolina, as she notched a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
When was it decided?
Coming out of halftime the Tar Heels faced a 41-37 deficit. Successive threes in the third quarter’s opening minute from Koenen and Cherry immediately erased that deficit and keyed a 10-0 UNC run that swung momentum away from the Panthers. North Carolina wouldn’t trail after this run.
Why does it matter?
Wednesday’s victory did more than just avenge last year’s overtime first round ACC Tournament defeat to the Panthers — it guaranteed North Carolina another opportunity to hit the court this season. With their record alone unlikely to earn them a bid to any postseason tournament, the only way for the Tar Heels to keep playing is to keep winning.
Where do they play next?
UNC will take on sixth-seeded Syracuse Thursday at 8 p.m. in the second round of the ACC Tournament.