Pittsburgh wins physical battle as UNC can’t make plays at the end

By R.L. Bynum

CHAPEL HILL — Carolina was in a fight with Pittsburgh, and at times it seemed like an actual fight, with physical play, words exchanged and apparent vitriol between the teams.

The Tar Heels just didn’t have enough fight at the end, with failures at the free throw line and from 3-point range as well as empty possessions in the final minutes too much to overcome.

Pittsburgh (17–7, 9–3 ACC) finished off a season sweep of UNC with a 65–64 win on Tuesday for the Panthers’ third consecutive victory in the Smith Center and third win in a row over Carolina.

“It’s a physical game every time we play them,” said Caleb Love, who scored a game-high 22 points, after the Heels’ four-game win streak ended. “That’s who we are; that’s who they are. It got chippy a little bit, but that’s part of the game. We’ve been in plenty of games like that. That’s not our first one.”

Love said there was plenty of talk back and forth the entire game. But the Tar Heels (15–7, 7–4) could have easily won if they didn’t shoot 13 of 22 from the free-throw line, including some key misses down the stretch. Love was made 4 of 11 3-point attempts and the rest of the team was 1 of 16.

“We weren’t disciplined enough to win the game,” said Carolina coach Hubert Davis, adding that his team wasn’t tough enough, didn’t shoot well enough or play defense well enough to win the game. “We had a one-point lead and the ball and two straight possessions. We turned the ball over and didn’t get a shot, and put them on the free throw line.”

Jamarius Burton, who scored 31 points in the Panthers’ 76–74 victory in Pittsburgh on Dec. 30, hit two free throws with 3.4 seconds left to finish with 19 points. Carolina tried to replicate the sequence that led to Pete Nance forcing overtime against Ohio State, but couldn’t execute this time.

“It was supposed to be similar to what we ran against Ohio State, and they kind of took it away,” Love said. “The second option was for me to come off a screen from Mondo [Armando Bacot].”

Love, who had his best scoring game since also scoring 22 against the Buckeyes on Dec. 16, couldn’t get off a shot at the buzzer as Nike Sibande appeared to foul him on the arm.

“I feel like I kind of got fouled, but that’s basketball, and they didn’t call it,” said Love, who confirmed that Sibande hit him in the arm. 

Love’s 3-pointer with 3:49 left capped a 9–2 run to tie it at 61. Two Bacot free throws put UNC up 64–63 with 1:07 remaining. But Bacot walked when Pitt trapped him along the baseline with 27 seconds left. Burton’s game-winning free throws came on the ensuing possession.

Pittsburgh’s packed-in defense, led by Federiko Federiko, held Bacot in check for much of the game and made it difficult for him to get in position inside. To make matters worse, Bacot had to deal with foul trouble.

“They did a really good job of being physical with him early,” Coach Davis said.

The Panthers’ double-teams collapsed on Bacot all night, including on that key empty possession when UNC led by a point in the final minute.

“They did a good job of trapping the box,” said Bacot, who had 15 points and 11 rebounds. “They just kept throwing bodies at me and also just putting me in a lot of movements, too. I guess you could say they kind of wore me down. But I think the real story is I just didn’t play good.”

With a finger on his shooting hand taped, RJ Davis went through his worst shooting games of the season, going 3 of 15 from the floor and missing all six 3-point attempts with eight points and three assists. His previous worst was 4 of 13 against Gardner-Webb.

Coach Davis was asked if the issue with his finger affected the shooting of RJ Davis, who wasn’t available to the media after the game.


“That’s a great question,” Coach Davis said. “I felt like a number of his looks were wide open. Those are shots that, over the last two and a half months — really throughout his career — he’s making. He missed two free throws and, statistically, he’s the best free-throw shooter in the conference.”

Love scored nine of Carolina’s first 17 points, giving UNC a 17–11 lead on a 3-point play with 12:30 left in the first half after making his first two 3-point attempts. Pitt responded with an 8–2 run to go up 23–19 on a Burton free throw with 6:23 left.

Bacot didn’t score until his free throw with 5:06 left in the first half, but scored Carolina’s next six points to give UNC a 28–26 lead 83 seconds later. Pitt took a 34–33 halftime lead on a Sibande inside bucket with 20 seconds left.

In the first half, Love (13 points) and Nance (9 of his 13 points) carried UNC, combining to go 8 of 19 from the floor while the rest of the team went 3 of 17.

Pitt took a five-point lead early in the second half but Carolina went on a 13–2 run to go up by six on a Nance layup with 12:50 left. Three Nelly Cummings 3-pointers fueled a 15–2 Pitt run to give the Panthers a 55–48 advantage.

Cummings led Pitt with 21 points before fouling out with 1:47 left.

NOTES — Duke (16–6, 7–4) takes a two-game win streak into Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. game in Durham (ESPN) after edging Wake Forest 75–73 on Tuesday night. Junior guard Jeremy Roach is the only Blue Devil who played against UNC last season. … Puff Johnson missed his third consecutive game with a sore right knee. … During a first-half timeout, UNC honored the reigning national champion women’s lacrosse team, which went undefeated last season and is the preseason No. 1 team. … Carolina has a 15–8 series edge against Pittsburgh, a 7–3 advantage in Chapel Hill and 6–3 edge in the Smith Center.

Pitt 65, UNC 64

UNC lineup combinations


ACC standings

No. 16 Miami15–524–6
No. 13 Virginia15–523–6
No. 25 Pittsburgh14–621–10
N.C. State12–822–9
North Carolina11–919–12
Wake Forest10–1018–13
Boston College9–1115–16
Virginia Tech8–1218–13
Florida State7–139–22
Georgia Tech6–1414–17
Notre Dame3–1711–20

Saturday’s games
Duke 62, North Carolina 57
No. 13 Virginia 75, Louisville 60
Georgia Tech 73, Boston College 65
Virginia Tech 82, Florida State 60
Syracuse 72, Wake Forest 63
No. 26 Miami 78, No. 25 Pittsburgh 76
Clemson 87, Notre Dame 64
End of regular season

UNC statistics

(current ranking)
28FridayW, 101–40Johnson C. Smith HomeExhibition
7MondayW, 69–56UNCWHome1–0
11FridayW, 102–86College of CharlestonHome2–0
15TuesdayW, 72–66Gardner-WebbHome3–0
20SundayW, 80–64James MadisonHome4–0
Phil Knight Invitational
24ThursdayW, 89–81First round: PortlandPortland5–0
25FridayL, 70–65Semifinals:
Iowa State
27SundayL, 103–101,
4 OTs
No. 1 Alabama
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
30WednesdayL, 77–65 No. 21 IndianaBloomington, Ind.5–3
4SundayL, 80–72 Virginia TechBlacksburg, Va.5–4,
0–1 ACC
10SaturdayW, 75–59Georgia TechHome6–4,
1–1 ACC
13TuesdayW, 100–67The CitadelHome7–4
CBS Sports Classic
17SaturdayW, 89–84, OTOhio StateNew York8–4
Jumpman Invitational
21WednesdayW, 80–76MichiganCharlotte9–4
30 Friday L, 76–74PittsburghPittsburgh9–5,
1–2 ACC
4WednesdayW, 88–79Wake ForestHome10–5,
2–2 ACC
7SaturdayW, 81–64Notre DameHome11–5,
3–2 ACC
10TuesdayL, 65–58No. 14 VirginiaCharlottesville11–6,
3–3 ACC
14SaturdayW, 80–59LouisvilleLouisville, Ky.12–6,
4–3 ACC
17TuesdayW, 72–64Boston CollegeHome13–6,
5–3 ACC
21SaturdayW, 80–69N.C. StateHome14–6,
6–3 ACC
24TuesdayW, 72–68SyracuseSyracuse, N.Y.15–6,
7–3 ACC
1WednesdayL, 65–64PittsburghHome15–7,
7–4 ACC
4SaturdayL, 63–57No. 12 DukeDurham15–8,
7–5 ACC
7TuesdayL, 92–85Wake ForestWinston-Salem15–9,
7–6 ACC
11SaturdayW, 91–71ClemsonHome 16–9,
8–6 ACC
13MondayL, 80–72No. 16 MiamiHome16–10,
8–7 ACC
19SundayL, 77–69N.C. StateRaleigh16–11,
8–8 ACC
22WednesdayW, 63–59Notre DameSouth Bend, Ind.17–11,
9–8 ACC
25SaturdayW, 71–63No. 14 VirginiaHome18–11,
10–8 ACC
27MondayW, 77–66Florida StateTallahassee, Fla.19–11,
11–8 ACC
4SaturdayL, 62–57No. 12 DukeHome19–12,
11–9 ACC
ACC tournament
8WednesdayW, 85–61Boston CollegeGreensboro20–12
9ThursdayL, 68–59No. 14 Virginia Greensboro20–13

Photo via @UNC_Basketball


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s