Against Pitt, North Carolina never trailed. They shot 50% from the field. They won the rebound battle, getting 15 on the offensive end alone. Those all seem like good indicators of a relatively easy UNC win. In reality, the win was not easy.
North Carolina played pretty well on the offensive end, but the defensive end was another story. The Tar Heels allowed Pitt to shoot 57% from the field, as the Panthers knocked in 13 three-pointers. North Carolina did hold on for an 80-78 win, but getting there was an adventure.
The Tar Heels opened a five-point lead in the first three minutes, but that was immediately answered by a Cameron Johnson three. That would end up being the story for most of the game. Carolina would take the lead out to seven, Pitt would cut it back to two. Carolina would go up nine, Pitt would come back and tie it.
With just over eight minutes left Isaiah Hicks hit a free throw to complete a three-point play to put UNC up nine. It looked like the Tar Heels were finally putting the game away. However, the Panthers once again went on a run, and got the lead down to one point three times in the last four minutes. After Hicks went 1-2 from the free throw line with five seconds left, Jamel Artis put up what would be a game-winning three pointer. However, it was off and the Tar Heels survived.
After struggling against Miami, Joel Berry bounced back, going for 19 points, hitting five threes. Justin Jackson put up another 20 point game, grabbing six rebounds as well.
However with Pitt shooting the way they did, the Tar Heels needed a third option to step up on the offensive end. Hicks did just that, going for 18 points and eight rebounds. He also played 33 minutes, picking up just two fouls, allowing him to stay on the floor.
Johnson was UNC’s main tormentor for the Panthers. The Pitt guard went for 24 points, hitting six three-pointers. Artis had 17, while Chris Jones went for 19 and 10 rebounds.
After losing to Miami, the hope was that the Tar Heels would easily handle Pitt at home. There were definitely times where they were on the verge of doing that. However, Pitt’s shooting performance and the defensive struggles that helped them to it meant that the Tar Heels had to play right down to the end. It wasn’t a totally impressive win, but it was a win.