The UNC men’s basketball team (11-5, 6-3 ACC) beat the Pitt Panthers (8-4, 4-3 ACC), 75-65, in their Tuesday night showdown in Pittsburgh. The Tar Heels are now 6-3 in ACC play after winning their third straight, tying their conference win record from last season.
Despite a quick 3-pointer from Pitt’s Justin Champagnie just seconds after tipoff, the Tar Heels had one of their better offensive starts of the season. UNC started 8-12 from the floor to quickly notch 17 points with just under 12 to play in the half, while also out-rebounding Pitt, eight to four, and minimizing early turnovers. Of those 17 early points, the big man trio of senior Garrison Brooks, first-year Day’Ron Sharpe and sophomore Armando Bacot accounted for 15, along with seven of the eight rebounds. While UNC showed off its prowess in the frontcourt, Pitt went eight minutes without scoring a field goal.
When Pitt showed sparks of a resurgence, first-year guards Kerwin Walton and RJ Davis sank a pair of 3-pointers to put the Tar Heels up 28-22 — an impressive start for both the first-year guards and the big men up front.
After some sloppy turnovers and Champagnie coming back with a vengeance to snatch eight points in the last four minutes, the Tar Heels went into halftime up 34-27. UNC put together one of its best halves of the season, proving this UNC team is beginning to click.
Pitt continued to figure out its game in the locker room and began the half with urgency, shooting 5-7 to come within four with 15 minutes left. And with just a blink, UNC went on a 7-0 run, increasing the lead to 12 despite Pitt’s best efforts. But every time the Tar Heels looked like they were about to put Pitt away, the Panthers came back with a push. Another skilled dunk from Pitt's Au'Diese Toney showed that the Panthers might've been down, but they certainly were not out.
But UNC was able to make the most of big plays. Junior forward Leaky Black took advantage of a turnover and went coast to coast for a slam. With another good shot from Bacot in the paint, UNC led Pitt, 66-50, after snatching 19 points in just five minutes. But, again, Pitt was not going down easy. With five left to play, the Panthers pushed the deficit to seven when they went on an 11-2 run to make for an interesting final minutes of the game, which eventually ended 75-65 in favor of the Tar Heels.
Who stood out?
Brooks and Bacot again had a dominating game, each grabbing double-digit points (10 for Brooks, 11 for Bacot) in the opening. With just over a minute left in the game, Bacot made a critical defensive rebound to bring him to double-digit rebounds for his 15th double-double of his career and fourth of the season.
Brooks finished the game with 16 points and six rebounds, while Bacot made his own impressive showing with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
When was it decided?
There were certainly flashes of a Pitt comeback — the Panthers pushed the Tar Heels within five with just over three minutes — but with Brooks and Bacot dominating the game, assisted by a huge 3-pointer from Caleb Love with just over two minutes left, the Tar Heels held on to stifle Pitt’s attempted comeback.
Why does it matter?
After two big wins against in-state rivals Wake Forest and N.C. State last week, UNC was looking to build off its momentum and beat Pitt after having lost to the Panthers in the last two meetings between these teams.
This game was a crucial moment for the Tar Heels to prove that their last few games were not flukes and that the team is actually building chemistry and making strides to put together a consistent 40 minutes of play.
When do they play next?
The UNC men’s basketball team will take on the Clemson Tigers on Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. in South Carolina.
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