UNC Basketball: Takeaways from Pitt


The No. 12 North Carolina Tar Heels got roughed up on the road by the red-hot Pittsburgh Panthers, losing 89-76 on Saturday afternoon. Great shooting by Pitt combined with UNC’s lackluster defense had the game all but out of reach for the Tar Heels early in the second half.

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The final score does not do this game justice as the Tar Heels (18-7 overall, 8-4 ACC) saw little-to-no success on offense until the last few minutes of the game when Pitt (17-9, 6-6 ACC) had completely pulled away. From the very start, Pitt’s defense shut down Marcus Paige, who could not find his rhythm from start to finish. Paige shot 3-for-11 from the floor for a measly eight points for the game. While starting Nate Britt in the backcourt with Paige would usually open up more opportunities for the Tar Heels on offense, Pitt’s defense was very quick to closeout on the perimeter players.

What gave Pitt this great advantage on defense possession after possession? Their offense was as hot as they come.

Feb 14, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers forward Sheldon Jeter (21) shoots against North Carolina Tar Heels forward J.P. Tokoto (13) during the second half at the Petersen Events Center. Pittsburgh won 89-76. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt’s Sheldon Jeter scored a career-high 22 points as every starter for the Panthers garnered double-digit point totals. Pitt’s guard play was outstanding as well, and saw the team get 30 assists on their 37 made field goals. Cameron Wright put up 15 points and 10 assists, and James Robinson added 12 points and eight assists.

UNC’s recent struggles (now lost three of their last four games) have all been a result of generally similar issues.

  • Woeful shooting
  • Tired defense
  • Passive play

Saturday’s game was especially difficult in all three of theses areas. When a team like Pitt is knocking down every shot (65 percent from the floor), it takes away a team like UNC’s primary strength: rebounding (UNC ranked second in the country in rebounding). The Tar Heels have to rebound, and get out in transition to find the success they want. However, as was on display against Pitt, the halfcourt offensive sets for UNC are not nearly as effective (49 percent shooting from the floor, 4-for-15 from three-point range). UNC already struggles to shoot the ball as they are, and Pitt simply made them uncomfortable throughout the game.

While it has been a rough week for the UNC community, Roy Williams made it a point to say it had nothing to do with how his team played today:

"“Pittsburgh played fantastic. (Pitt) was so much better prepared than we were.”- Roy Williams via ESPN"

Williams was hopeful a major lineup change would refresh his team, and help them get out of this rut they have dug themselves into. UNC came out with regular starters, J.P. Tokoto and Kennedy Meeks on the bench in favor of Isaiah Hicks and Nate Britt. It is easy to say that this change also may have contributed to the lack of rhythm as a team for UNC in a hostile environment like Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh will have a tough road game against No. 2 Virginia on Monday, and UNC will have a tough game to bounce back in as they will travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on No. 4 Duke on Wednesday.