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Monday April 12th

Preview: Three keys to the game for UNC basketball against the Pittsburgh Panthers

UNC junior guard Andrew Platek (3) runs the ball upcourt during a game against Pitt in the Dean Smith Center on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. The Tar Heels lost to the Panthers 65-73.
Buy Photos UNC junior guard Andrew Platek (3) runs the ball upcourt during a game against Pitt in the Dean Smith Center on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. The Tar Heels lost to the Panthers 65-73.

On Tuesday, the North Carolina Tar Heels men's basketball team (10-5, 5-3 ACC) will take on the Pittsburgh Panthers (8-3, 4-2 ACC) on the road at the Petersen Events Center. 

While the Tar Heels are a solid 6-0 for home games this season, they are only 1-4 in away games. UNC has won six of its last 10 matchups against Pitt, although the most recent one was a tough 66-52 loss for the Tar Heels last January. 

The Tar Heels' last game was Saturday afternoon against N.C. State, when the team came away victorious, 86-76. Here's what they'll have to do to see the same results on the road this week.

Fouls

After the win on Saturday against the Wolfpack, there are a few things the team needs to do in order to try to guarantee a win on Tuesday. First, the Tar Heels need to work on their fouls. 

Though the game on Saturday did not end up being a nail-biter, the Tar Heels had put the Wolfpack into the bonus just midway through the second half. Senior forward Garrison Brooks received his fifth and final foul down the stretch, resigning him to a seat on the bench. 

All those fouls gave shooters an opportunity to hang around, like N.C. State's D.J. Funderburk's nine free-throw attempts, of which he made six. Overall, the Tar Heels gave up 13 free throw attempts last game. Though Pitt is just shooting about 65 percent from the foul line, that's still six points UNC doesn't want to give up — especially after so many close games already.

Overall, the team ended its last game with 15 fouls. If the Tar Heels can keep that number down, they have a better chance of maximizing their defense and minimizing Pitt’s scoring options.

Offensive possessions

While the Tar Heels have shown that their shooting skills can win them games this season, their offensive possessions still need better execution. 

During the game against the Wolfpack, it often felt like the Tar Heels were getting the ball in the air as fast as they could, just getting any sort of shot off. This resulted in shorter possessions and missed shots, with the Tar Heels shooting 54.4 percent and making 37 of their 68 attempts. UNC should use the upcoming game as an opportunity to slow the ball movement down during a few possessions and find the best open shot possible.

Throughout the season, the team has had several sloppy turnovers after trying to move the ball too fast. Last game was no exception, with the Tar Heels giving up 13 turnovers to N.C. State's 11. Slowing down their offensive possessions will allow each player to work on precise passing and finding the open man.

Unity and consistency

While the Tar Heels had several players on the board during their game against the Wolfpack, there were several bad decisions that made head coach Roy Williams shake his head or give a sign of frustration.

Sophomore big man Armando Bacot ended the game as the team’s top scorer, finishing with 17 points and eight rebounds. He highlighted an improving team performance, including double-digit scoring from first-year big Day'Ron Sharpe and first-year guards Caleb Love and R.J. Davis.

In order to continue to win their next few games, it is practically a must that the team puts in an effort to play as a well-oiled machine and play well consistently. 

Throughout the year, players like Love and Davis have shown glimpses of their true potential. As the Tar Heels delve further into their season, fanning those sparks will push them toward winning more games. 

The Tar Heels will play the Pittsburgh Panthers on Tuesday, Jan. 26, at 7 p.m.

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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