The Pitt Panthers used some lock-down defense and a 31-point effort from Jamarius Burton to upset North Carolina 76-74 at the Petersen Events Center on Friday afternoon. The win propels the Panthers record to 10-4 on the season, and they remain perfect in the ACC at 3-0.
Pitt trailed 55-46 points with 11:55 remaining in the second half, but continually chipped away on offense, and nearly held North Carolina scoreless in the final six minutes of play. Caleb Love of the Tar Heels banked in a three-pointer with six seconds left and they made things even more interesting with a Pitt turnover and another near turnover, but following a lengthy review, the Panthers got the ball to Burton with 1.8 seconds remaining and he dribbled out the clock to preserve the win.
The Tar Heels asserted control early in this game racing out to an 11-3 lead thanks to some dominant inside play from senior center Armando Bacot. Pitt never had much of an answer for the Tar Heels post player, as he finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds for the game, though he was held without a field goal for the final six minutes.
RJ Davis added 16 for North Carolina, while forward Pete Nance contributed 10 for the 25th ranked Tar Heels. Love, the ACC’s leading scorer, was held to a season-low 7 points.
The Tar Heels fended off pushes from Pitt throughout the game, but remained in control. Pitt started to get the crowd into the game, and that proved to be a difference down the stretch. Senior point guard Nelly Cummings finished with 9 points and 7 assists to only one turnover. The Western Pennsylvania native connected on a big three-pointer in the second half that pulled Pitt within one point with 7:22 left.
Jamarius Burton then used a three-point play with 3:59 remaining to give Pitt a 63-62 advantage. The Panthers never trailed after that moment.
Blake Hinson came into this game as Pitt’s leading scorer, but was held to five first half points on 2-of-8 shooting, but he came to life after halftime and totaled 16 points and six rebounds. Hinson was important on the defensive end in double teaming Bacot, and his three-pointer with 1:28 remaining broke a 67-all tie and got the Petersen Events Center to its feet.
The Panthers came into this game with 118 made three-pointers, which was good for second in the ACC, but they struggled on Friday. Pitt shot 5-of-25 from deep, but some of the biggest makes came late in the game from Cummings and Hinson. Despite the poor outside shooting effort, the Panthers managed to outscore the taller Tar Heels 42-26 in the paint, and also held their own in the rebounding department 38-33.
Pitt is now 10-4 on the season and will return to action on Tuesday as they get set to host No. 13 Virginia at the Petersen Events Center for a 9:00 p.m. tip. Following the win on Friday, Jeff Capel is now 4-2 against North Carolina as Pitt’s head coach.