If a Pitt team from the Big East days held an opponent to one offensive rebound, the end result would be a Panther’s blowout win.
But in the ACC, crashing the glass won’t help you against a high-scoring team like #9 North Carolina (21-4). The Panthers (17-7) were dominated start to finish by the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill 85-64. That is three straight losses for the Panthers, who have dropped six of their last nine ACC games.
To the surprise of everyone, junior forward Michael Young came off the bench for the first time in his career. Young had previously started 93 straight games for the Panthers. In place of Young, head coach Jamie Dixon started Brown transfer Rafael Maia to match up with Tar Heel forward Kennedy Meeks. Maia was held to one point in nine minutes of action. Young led the bench in minutes with 24 and tied for the Panther lead in scoring with James Robinson. Both finished with 15.
Other than Young and Robinson, the Panthers could find no offensive rhythm. As a team, they shot a dreadful 37% from the field. To make matters worse, Pitt only went 5-13 from the charity strike, a season-low.
However, don’t blame this abysmal performance solely on the offense. The Tar Heels defense virtually suffocated Pitt’s attack from the onslaught. Pitt committed a season-high 19 turnovers in the loss which led to 24 points for the opposition.
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Despite holding North Carolina to the fewest offensive rebounds under Roy Williams, the Panthers still allowed a season-high 59.3 field goal percentage. Four of the five starters were in double figures for the Tar Heels with Brice Johnson leading the way with 19. Isaiah Hicks scored 10 points off the bench.
The loss firmly puts the Panthers on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. Pitt is now 0-5 versus the AP Top 25 this season and has a resume that lacks any real signature wins. But with six games remaining, the Panthers still have a chance to get that big win they so desperately need. They will get that chance when Louisville and Duke come to the Peterson Event Center February 24 and 28.
Before they can worry about Louisville and Duke, the Panthers will host the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Tuesday night at 7 pm. Wake Forest comes into the contest with only 1 conference win, a 77-74 win over NC State January 10 in Winston-Salem.
This game may be a cake walk on paper, but Pitt cannot afford to lose another game at home to an ACC bottom feeder. NC State picked up their first ACC win earlier this season at The Pete, a 78-61 drumming.