Pittsburgh-North Carolina Preview
Pittsburgh was just seconds away from its biggest win of the season before a 35-foot heave at the buzzer ended the upset bid.
Now the No. 25 Panthers will look to bounce back from that major disappointment when they travel to Chapel Hill for an ACC matchup against North Carolina.
Pitt (20-5, 8-4) held a one-point lead over top-ranked Syracuse in the final seconds Wednesday, but freshman point guard Tyler Ennis drove down the floor and drained a long 3-pointer at the horn to keep the Orange undefeated with a crushing 58-56 victory.
Talib Zanna scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for the Panthers, who went 8 of 22 from the field in the second half after holding a three-point lead at the break.
"(Ennis) hit a tough shot, there were hands in his face and it was a basket," Zanna said. "We just have to move on and get ready (for North Carolina)."
The loss was the latest in a string of close ones for Pittsburgh. Each of its last four games – a 2-2 stretch – has been decided by five points or less with two going to overtime. The Panthers’ struggles from behind the 3-point line have been a major culprit. Over the last four games, they’ve hit 30.8 percent from long range after shooting 40.4 percent during their first eight ACC contests.
Turning that around may prove difficult against the Tar Heels (16-7, 6-4), who are one of the better defensive teams in the league. In 10 ACC games, opponents are shooting 30.5 percent from 3-point range against UNC – the lowest in the conference.
North Carolina enters this contest riding a five-game win streak, but the team hasn’t played since beating Notre Dame 73-62 on Feb. 8 due to a snowstorm that postponed a meeting with archrival Duke on Wednesday.
Because of the postponement, this matchup with the Panthers begins a stretch of four contests in eight days for UNC after the Duke game was rescheduled for Feb. 20.
The Tar Heels will again look to Marcus Paige, who has been the catalyst during the season-best winning streak. The sophomore guard is averaging 17.0 points, with a lot of his production coming down the stretch. He is scoring 10.6 points per second half on 47.8 percent from the field compared to 36.4 percent in the opening 20 minutes.
"I have been a little bit more aggressive (after halftime)," Paige said. "But it’s not like I’m not trying to produce or be aggressive in the first half. … When you look at the numbers, it is kind of crazy."
North Carolina has fared well versus ranked opponents this season, going 3-1 with its only loss coming to then-No. 2 Syracuse on Jan. 11.
The Tar Heels lead the all-time series against the Panthers 7-1, with Pitt’s lone victory coming March 21, 1941. The teams haven’t met since North Carolina’s 82-61 win in Chapel Hill on Nov. 29, 1996.