By R.L. Bynum
For some Saturday stretches, Carolina seemed to forget that they have Preseason All-American post player, which cost the Tar Heels.
There were far too many second-half possessions when an outside shot went up without the ball going inside to Armando Bacot, who got two shots in the last 10 minutes of Pittsburgh’s 76–74 home victory over UNC at the Petersen Events Center.
Whether it was Pittsburgh altering its defensive approach or uneven offensive flow for UNC, Bacot wasn’t much of a factor down the stretch.
“It’s all about executing on both ends of the floor, not for the majority of the game but for the entire game,” UNC coach Hubert Davis said. “You have to congratulate Pittsburgh. They made the plays that they needed to make on both ends of the floor.”
Poor guard play in the final minutes, sloppy mistakes and poor execution led to the Panthers (10–4, 3–0 ACC) snapping the Tar Heels’ (9–5, 1–2) four-game win streak. UNC became the first preseason No. 1 team to lose five of its first 15 games since Arizona in 2000–01.
Jamarius Burton was the most impressive guard, scoring a career-high 31 points with six rebounds. He kept it close when it looked like UNC would pull away and scored seven in the last 4:01.
“We just didn’t have an answer for Burton,” Coach Davis said. “Nobody on our team could guard him. Nobody. He was able to consistently get to the basket. It’s hard to beat any team when you allow them to get 42 points in the paint, and that’s been an emphasis for us.”
Pittsburgh did a good job of spacing out its offense, which contributed to Bacot moving from around the basket to open driving lanes.
UNC went from shooting 51.6% in the first half with six 3-pointers to shooting 33.3% and going 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half. Carolina was outrebounded 38–33, rebounding only 23.5% of its misses.
Carolina went nearly six minutes without a field goal in the second half.
“Well, I thought we had good shots. We didn’t make them. At the end of the day. It’s a make-or-miss game,” Coach Davis said.
Bacot, looking quicker than earlier this season, continues to be at the top of his game with 22 points and 13 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. His eighth double-double this season was his 57th in 113 career games. He’s three away from Billy Cunningham’s program-record total of 60 in 69 games over three seasons.
But his opportunities inside were few down the stretch, as Caleb Love scored a season-low seven points off of a season-low nine shots and made a crucial turnover with 68 seconds left and Pittsburgh went up by three points. RJ Davis contributed 16 points and three assists but didn’t have a field goal in the last 14 minutes.
D’Marco Dunn returned from a hand injury with some productive minutes, scoring five points while being a force on defense. Puff Johnson didn’t play in the second half after getting three points and three fouls in two first-half minutes
Pete Nance scored five points as UNC jumped to an 11–3 lead in the first four minutes.
Carolina got sloppy for a stretch in the first half with six turnovers in 10 possessions, as Pittsburgh tied it at 30 with 3:37 left with a 16–6 run. UNC finished the half with a 10–4 run, the last five from Black, to take a 40–34 halftime lead.
After a Bacot dunk with 11:55 left pushed UNC’s lead to nine, Pitt tied it with a 12–5 run on a Nelly Cummings jumper with 6:37 left in the game.
Five consecutive Burton points gave Pitt a 65–62 lead with 3:21 left. Five UNC free throws, the last two from Black, tied it at 67 with 1:58 remaining. Blake Hinson’s 3-pointer gave the lead back to Pitt 30 seconds later, then Caleb Love turned it over by stepping on the out-of-bounds line.
“They had a ball out of bounds 13 seconds to go, and they give it to Hinson, and he hits a fade-away three,” Coach Davis said. “We had wide-open threes out on the perimeter and we didn’t make them or we drove to the basket and didn’t drive hard enough or tough enough to be able to get contact, get a foul and finish. We knew that there were going to be physical on our drives. When we drove, and they put their chest on us, it just knocked us off our path, and it just disrupted us.”
Hinson’s two free throws with 36 seconds left pushed the lead to 72–67. RJ Davis hit two free throws with 30 seconds left to cut it to three, but the Panthers seemed to put it away on Nike Sibande’s layup with 10 seconds left to extend the lead to seven.
Love’s 3-pointer with six seconds left and Tyler Nickel’s inside bucket with two seconds left cut it to two with two seconds left. Pittsburgh appeared to turn it over on a terrific defensive play by RJ Davis, but the call was reversed after a review. The Panthers got the ball in and ran off the last 1.8 seconds.
NOTES — UNC plays its first home game in 22 days on Wednesday at 9 p.m. (ACC Network) against Wake Forest (9–4, 1–1). The Deacons play host to Virginia Tech at noon Saturday (regional sports networks). Wake Forest won at home against Duke 81–70 on Dec. 20 and lost 77–57 at Clemson on Dec. 2. … Pittsburgh became the fourth consecutive team to beat Carolina scoring last least 40 points in the lane (40 by Alabama, 50 by Indiana, 42 by Virginia Tech and 42 by Pittsburgh). … UNC leads the series with Pittsburgh 15–7, including 8–6 since the Panthers joined the ACC. Four of Pitt’s seven wins in the series have come in the last five meetings. … Carolina fell to 1–5 in Quad 1 games. … UNC is 7–2 when leading at halftime (also losing to Iowa State after leading by two after the first half). … Carolina’s nine-point lead matched the Iowa State game as the largest this season in a defeat … UNC led for 34 minutes, 13 seconds, the most in a loss this season (previous high was 25:19 against Iowa State). … Burton is the first to score 14 field goals against UNC since Syracuse’s Cole Swider was 14 of 21 in Chapel Hill last season. … RJ Davis needs five points to become the 81st Tar Heel to score 1,000 career points. … UNC finished the calendar year 29–12.
Pitt 76, No. 25 UNC 74
UNC lineup combinations
|28||Friday||W, 101–40||Johnson C. Smith||Home||Exhibition|
|11||Friday||W, 102–86||College of Charleston||Home||2–0|
|20||Sunday||W, 80–64||James Madison||Home||4–0|
|Phil Knight Invitational|
|24||Thursday||W, 89–81||First round: Portland||Portland||5–0|
|27||Sunday||L, 103–101, |
No. 3 Alabama
|ACC/Big Ten Challenge|
|30||Wednesday||L, 77–65||No. 18 Indiana||Bloomington, Ind.||5–3|
|4||Sunday||L, 80–72||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||5–4, |
|10||Saturday||W, 75–59||Georgia Tech||Home||6–4, |
|13||Tuesday||W, 100–67||The Citadel||Home||7–4|
|CBS Sports Classic|
|17||Saturday||W, 89–84, OT||Ohio State||New York||8–4|
|30||Friday||L, 76–74||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||9–5, |
|4||Wednesday||W, 88–79||Wake Forest||Home||10–5, |
|7||Saturday||W, 81–64||Notre Dame||Home||11–5, |
|10||Tuesday||L, 65–58||No. 8 Virginia||Charlottesville||11–6, |
|14||Saturday||W, 80–59||Louisville||Louisville, Ky.||12–6, |
|17||Tuesday||W, 72–64||Boston College||Home||13–6, |
|21||Saturday||W, 80–69||No. 22 N.C. State||Home||14–6, |
|24||Tuesday||W, 72–68||Syracuse||Syracuse, N.Y.||15–6, |
|1||Wednesday||L, 65–64||Pittsburgh||Home||15–7, |
|4||Saturday||L, 63–57||Duke||Durham||15–8, |
|7||Tuesday||7 p.m.||Wake Forest||Winston-Salem||ESPN|
|13||Monday||7 p.m.||No. 19 Miami||Home||ESPN|
|19||Sunday||1 p.m.||No. 22 N.C. State||Raleigh||ESPN|
|22||Wednesday||9 p.m.||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||ESPN or ESPN2|
|25||Saturday||6 or 8||No. 8 Virginia||Home||ESPN|
|27||Monday||7 p.m.||Florida State||Tallahassee, Fla.||ESPN|
ACCN means the game airs on ACC Network.
Photo via @UNC_Basketball