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UNC men's basketball drops home game to Pitt, 65-64, after clutch free throws by Burton

UNC senior forward Armando Bacot (5) fights for the ball during the men's basketball game against Pitt in the Dean Smith Center on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023.

The North Carolina men’s basketball team (15-7, 7-4 ACC) fell to Pittsburgh (16-7, 9-3 ACC), 65-64, Wednesday night in the Dean E. Smith Center. 

What happened?

Both teams were slow out of the gates, with the game remaining scoreless for the first two minutes. The Panthers were the first to put points on the board with a step-back jumper from the corner of the court. UNC was quick to respond, with a 3-pointer from graduate forward Pete Nance to give the Tar Heels a 1-point advantage. 

From there, North Carolina was able to take control of the game, largely due to the strong shooting performance of junior guard Caleb Love, who was able to sink two three-pointers and gain an and-one within the first few minutes of the half. By the 10-minute mark, UNC was leading 19-13. 

The Panthers made a strong push late in the first half, capitalizing off of Love missing three shots in a row, and a strong shooting performance to get back within one point by the third media time-out. 

The Tar Heels were able to get back into the game after senior forward Armando Bacot scored his first points with five minutes remaining in the period. He then went on to score in the next three consecutive possessions, allowing UNC to regain the lead 28-26. The half ended with a made jumper by the Panthers to put them ahead 34-33. 

Pittsburgh quickly extended its lead at the beginning of the second half, scoring two layups within the opening minutes to gain a 5-point lead — its biggest of the game. North Carolina fought back and retook the lead at the 16-minute mark off of a drive to the basket by junior Guard RJ Davis. 

Three consecutive three-pointers off the hands of Pittsburgh guard Nelly Cummings placed the Panthers ahead once again, however, leading 53-48 with 10 minutes remaining. North Carolina's struggles were exacerbated by an early 4 fouls from graduate forward Leaky Black, which took him out of the game for the majority of the second period. 

Despite this, UNC once again rallied back to tie the game 61-61 with just under four minutes on the clock. The Panthers were able to hang on, however, to ultimately gain a one-point victory. 

Who stood out? 

Love started the game strong, making his first two three-point attempts and getting a quick 12 points to give the Tar Heels an early lead. He continued his strong performance, ending the game with 22 to lead North Carolina in scoring. 

Cummings made a major impact on the game for the Panthers, putting 21 points on the board and shooting 5-6 from beyond the arch before fouling out with just under two minutes on the clock. 

When was it decided?

The game remained close throughout the first period, with neither team gaining more than a 7-point lead, making it impossible to determine who would emerge on top.

In the second period, despite trailing at the half, North Carolina was able to come back and gain an early lead. Pittsburgh fought right back however and looked to be in control of the game at the 30-minute mark. With three minutes remaining, UNC made a strong comeback but was unable to close the game out, falling to the Panthers 65-64. 

Why does it matter?

The loss on Wednesday night places the Tar Heels on the back foot for their highly-anticipated rivalry matchup against Duke on Saturday, which will serve as a true test of their grit. Furthermore, it serves as a fourth tough loss in the ACC, which will set UNC back in its quest to make it back within the top 25 teams in the country. North Carolina will need to turn around this backward momentum in order to gain a win against the Blue Devils on the road. 

When do they play next?

North Carolina next takes the court at Cameron Indoor Stadium to face off against Duke for the first time this season. The game is set to begin at 6:30 p.m.


@dthsports |

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Gwen Peace

Gwen Peace is the 2023-24 assistant sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as a senior writer. Gwen is a sophomore pursuing a double major in media and journalism and peace, war and defense.