The #8 North Carolina Tar Heels will take on Pitt today at noon. The Panthers will be celebrating senior day and the Heels are on the front end of two road games in three days. Tipoff is scheduled for 12:00 PM and can be seen on the ACC Network and heard on your local Tar Heel Sports Network affiliate.
On Wednesday, it was great to see the Tar Heels pull off a win against a tough opponent in different manner than the other important victories during the season. Rather than outpacing their opponent with offense, the Heels got to the dirty places and took advantage of their opportunities from the free throw line. Louisville shot much better from the floor, 44.3 field goal percentage versus 37.1 percent for UNC.
However, Carolina had two more three-pointers and double the amount of offensive rebounds of Louisville. The most telling stat-line was the difference at the charity stripe. Louisville shot 4-13 (30.8 percent) from the free throw line, while the Heels were 21-29, making 72.4 percent of their attempts.
Even though Carolina was outscored in the paint for just the third time in conference play (the other two times being losses), UNC was not afraid to get to the basket and the defensive glass in the second half. A big win against a great team in an atypical manner is a good sign at this juncture in the season.
Now, how does Carolina respond after an important home victory on the road against an opponent that is better than their record proves. UNC barely beat Pitt at home in January and a week ago knocked off Florida State. The Heels need to (again) tighten up on their perimeter defense and go back to the offensive recipes that have worked this season.
An important piece is getting Isaiah Hicks back to where he was in January. Some of those old fouling habits have come back recently, and was held scoreless against Louisville. The Heels will need Hicks to be that big-time player if a big-time run is to occur in March and April.
Pitt’s two leading scorers, Michael Young and Jamel Artis, will be celebrating senior day today and it is sure to be a packed house at the Petersen Events Center. Both young and Artis had pretty good nights against the Heels in January, with Young registering a double-double.
However, the leading scorer from that game was sophomore guard Cameron Johnson, who led all scorers with 24 points, including a game-high six three-pointers. The deep threat will be the Panthers’ path to victory today. Both Johnson and Artis shoot better than 40 percent from deep, with Young not too far behind at 36 percent.
If UNC does not have the effort on the defensive end, especially on ball screens that seek to isolate one of the aforementioned shooters, things will get a lot more interesting for the regular season ACC title.
UNC will win if
- A first half run gets the crowd out of the game
- Maintain their offensive game plan, even with early setbacks
- Close the gap on shooters
Pitt will win if
- Johnson, Artis, or Young have a day from beyond the arc
- Win the turnover battle
- UNC is forced to settle for mid-range jump shots on the dribble