Cold start seemed to be the theme Wednesday night inside the Dean Dome as North Carolina suffered a season sweep by the Pittsburgh Panthers in one of the toughest conference matchups in recent memory, falling 65-64. After the loss, ACC Player of the Year favorite Armando Bacot who took just the fourth most shots of all Tar Heel players (10), didn’t make any excuses post game – stating he needed to be more assertive and work harder to get open during those phases. Nevertheless, Bacot continued his double-double streak with 15 points and 11 rebounds. North Carolina’s bench contributed just four points in the loss.
The physicality was notable Wednesday night in Chapel Hill along with frequent chippy-ness on both sides. The environment and demeanor from both programs reminded you of the early 2000’s Pittsburgh/Villanova matchups that featured rugged play, trash talk and constant chest patting. Technical fouls were accessed to R.J. Davis and Nelly Cummings late in the second half which turned the tide a bit. UNC head coach Hubert Davis said Cummings’ three consecutive three-point baskets in the second half were the difference makers. North Carolina responded, evening the game at 61 late, but late free throw put the Tar Heels away.
Charlotte native Jamarius Burton’s aggressiveness on the floor was unmatched. The ‘not back down” mentality was very transparent as the Panthers not only gutted out a close win…but they expected to win inside the Dean Dome. On the night the Heels shot just 34.8% from the field, including 18.5% from deep. The 34.8% was their lowest shooting percentage since the ACC/Big Ten challenge when they suffered a 77-65 loss at then #10 ranked Indiana. North Carolina doubled up the Panthers at the charity stripe (a topic of discussion in recent weeks) 22-11, but made just 59.1% of their free throws.
After the game the Heels said there’s not time to their first home loss, they’re ready to refocus and regroup heading into Saturdays matchup against Duke.