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UNC 85, Pitt 60: The Heels disrespect the Panthers on the road to open ACC play

Wow, even when that was close it wasn’t even close.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Going into today’s game, there were a lot of questions left to answer about this year’s Tar Heel squad. The game against Pitt was hopefully going to answer some of those questions, which it did, but also it’s hard to rely on those answers given the performance of the opposition.

To put it more bluntly, Pitt was bad. Pitt was really bad.

Before we dive into just how bad the Panthers were, let’s talk about the game as a whole. The Heels opened the game on a 6-0 run on two made threes by Cameron Johnson and Coby White. Thanks to Xavier Johnson’s efforts, the Panthers were able to tie up the game at the 15:56 mark in the first half. Things stayed nice and interesting for the first ten minutes of the game, and then all of a sudden the door blew wide open.

Despite running into some serious foul trouble, Carolina did a really good job of staying all over Pitt for most of the game. In fact, they did such a good job that the Panthers finished the half shooting 21% from the floor and 10% from three. While it’s really easy to pin the struggles on Capel’s squad, UNC was also just very active on the defensive side of the ball. Nassir Little particularly looked like he is starting to figure things out, and even managed to get a demonstrative block in the first half. If he continues to make progress, we may be in for some fun come March.

In the second half, the foul trouble kept piling up for the Heels. Garrison Brooks, Kenny Williams, and Luke Maye all finished the game with four fouls, with Andrew Platek and Nassir Little finishing with three. Some of this can be contributed to UNC’s own mistakes, though one could make the argument that Jeff Capel should be sent an Academy Award for best director of a drama film. Between all of the flopping that Pitt was doing and all of the players slipping on the court, the game could easily become a Youtube parody video with Drowning Pool’s “Bodies” playing in the background. I digress.

Pitt finally found a way to get something going in the second half, though it was too little too late. After finishing the first half with zero assists, they ended up finishing the game with seven after having some luck penetrating UNC’s defense. Trey McGowens was their highest scorer of the game with 17 points, with 10 of his points coming from free throws. That’s right, McGowens managed to earn 16 free throw attempts for the game. For the entire game, Pitt attempted 32 free throws and made 62% of their attempts. That was really all they had going for them, and even if they made every single one of them, it wouldn’t have been enough.

Overall, the Tar Heels did what they had to do at the Oakland Zoo in order to get a win, but it’s still hard to figure out where this team is at. It’s safe to say that their defense is looking better, but they still look a bit disjointed at times on offense. Coby White has done a much better job facilitating, Luke Maye still has had weird hiccups, Seventh Woods didn’t have a great game, and Kenny Williams didn’t play enough to have any impact at all. For what it’s worth, Cameron Johnson is still the Heels’ most reliable offensive weapon, as he shot 50% from the field and from three for the day and finished with 15 points. I’m sure Pitt fans didn’t love that, but at least this is probably the last time they ever have to deal with him barraging their team unless they meet again in the ACC Tournament.

To sum things up: UNC was pretty good, and Pitt was really bad. The Heels will come back to North Carolina to take on NC State in Raleigh in what should be a heated matchup. There are a lot of questions left to be answered about the Wolfpack, as their competition has been questionable, but the Heels are going to have to figure out the truth on the fly and hope they can leave PNC Arena with a 2-0 start to ACC play.