UNC vs Pittsburgh: Preview, broadcast information and prediction

BLACKSBURG, VA - JANUARY 22: Cameron Johnson
BLACKSBURG, VA - JANUARY 22: Cameron Johnson /

North Carolina looks to end three-game losing streak against Pittsburgh

Few at the beginning of the season would have called a February 3rd matchup against the worst team in the ACC a must-win game. However, this game is huge for the Tar Heels and their efforts to get back on track this season.

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North Carolina is in the midst of its first three-game losing streak since 2014 and desperately searching for answers.

Hosting the Pittsburgh Panthers, who are winless in conference play, may be the perfect opportunity for a shot of confidence. However, the Panthers are on a 10-game losing streak of their own and looking to take advantage of an unusually vulnerable UNC team.

The Tar Heels will need to win this one before falling below .500 in conference play. Getting Theo Pinson back will certainly help, but UNC must find answers defending on the perimeter.

One Pittsburgh player to watch…

Marcus Carr, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound freshman has been a bright spot in a dreary season for the Panthers.

The sharpshooter from Toronto is averaging a shade over 10 points and four assists per game. As one of the better three-point shooters for Pittsburgh, the Tar Heels need to make sure he doesn’t get going from behind the arc.

Carr’s last two games have been some of his best this season, notching a combined 30 points and 19 assists.

He’s finding his stride and assuming a leadership role on a team that’s in desperate need of a playmaker.

With Joel Berry expected to be in his back pocket, there should be some great guard play in the Dean Dome on Saturday.

One North Carolina player to watch…

This is the matchup that North Carolina fans have been waiting to see, regarding junior transfer Cameron Johnson and his former team.

After unfair treatment from Pittsburgh during his transfer request, Johnson may look to release some pent-up frustration against his old squad.

In the Tar Heels’ matchup against Clemson, Johnson single-handedly kept the Tar Heels in the game, particularly during the second half. The Pennsylvania native scored a career-high 32 points on 6-of-10 shooting from three-point range.

The Cameron Johnson that showed up against Clemson is the one that the Tar Heels will need if they look to turn their ACC season around.

Though he can be inconsistent, Johnson is UNC’s purest shooter. With their struggles from behind the arc during ACC play, the Tar Heels really need Johnson to knock down his shots at a high clip.

Expect a big day from Johnson as he looks to ride his hot hand and lead North Carolina to its first win in four games.

Key to the game…

UNC’s perimeter defense has been its undoing over the last three games and much of the season.

The good thing is that Pittsburgh isn’t exactly known for its sharpshooting, but UNC has made average shooters look great this season.

Pittsburgh ranks 294th in the country in three-point percentage at 32.5 and 106th in the country in shots attempted from behind the arc. Though these numbers aren’t great, UNC’s efforts on the defensive side have been even worse.

UNC ranks 318th in perimeter defense, allowing teams to shoot 38.5% from three-point land. These numbers are abysmal and the biggest reason for UNC’s recent struggles.

This is one of the key matchups to watch for and could very well decide the game for either team.

Next: The latest on 2019 basketball target Josh Nickelberry

What you need to know…

What? North Carolina (16-7, 5-5 in ACC) vs. Pittsburgh (8-15, 0-10 in ACC)
When? Saturday, February 3rd at 8:00 PM ET
Where? Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
TV? ACCNetwork, WatchESPN
Radio? Tar Heel Sports Network 
Prediction? UNC 86, Pittsburgh 70