It wasn’t pretty, not at all, but UNC went to Pittsburgh and came away with a victory on Tuesday night, which is a feat they haven’t been able to claim very often as of late. It was the first true road game for the Tar Heels this year, and they responded by managing to win one of the ugliest games imaginable.
Both teams came into tonight averaging games in the 80s, which is an obvious departure from the 70-57 final score. Offense was a great struggle on both sides of the ball, highlighted by Pitt’s 5-29 mark from long distance. Carolina edged them out in the end by shooting 37% from the field to the Panthers’ 31%, and the Heels won the rebounding battle after falling short in that metric in several of their early games.
The first half of the game was a pretty abysmal display of basketball all around. The Tar Heels didn’t score for the first six minutes and 20 seconds of game action, but Pitt was shooting so badly that it didn’t matter. Neither team shot the ball well, and three-point shooting was particularly brutal. The biggest difference was UNC’s ability to generate 11 second chance points and limit their turnovers to two. Carolina held a 31-28 lead at halftime.
Sometimes you find yourself in an absolute rock fight and you have to work through it without style points. That was certainly the case in this one. Pitt shot the ball even worse in the second half than the first, but the fouls were flowing abundantly throughout the second 20 minutes. UNC managed to wrestle a 10-point lead late in the second half after Pitt stayed within shouting distance for the majority of the game, and that was enough to put this one away.
Armando Bacot led the way for the Tar Heels with 16 points and 10 rebounds. RJ Davis was just behind him with 15 points, but saw his 20-point streak come to an end. Seth Trimble and Cormac Ryan also finished the game in double figures. Although he scored just seven points, Harrison Ingram was a force on the boards with a team-high 15 rebounds.
With the win, UNC avoided the obvious holiday hangover game in a place that has given them fits. Pittsburgh had won the last three contests. This is the kind of game that might have been too frustrating for another Tar Heel team to fight through, particularly with battling Ted Valentine antics on top of trying to beat the Panthers. This is a different team, though, as has been evident throughout the early part of the season. Opening the main part of ACC play with three straight road games is a big ask, but they passed the first test.
UNC is back in action on Saturday against #16 Clemson.