After defeating Syracuse in the opening round of the ACC Tournament, Pitt's basketball team couldn't find another win, losing to North Carolina on Thursday, 88-71.
If you watched the game or followed along online, you know that the final score wasn't entirely indicative of how things were. The Panthers kept things much closer and faded late.
For Pitt, it was a better showing than the game earlier than this season, even if the score doesn't reflect that. Pitt raced out to an 8-0 start and led for most of the first half. North Carolina held a four-point lead at the break, but the Panthers came right back to tie it up around the 16-minute mark in the second half. The teams traded shots and Pitt trailed by only two with a little more than the midway point.
Trailing 57-55, Pitt simply ran out of gas. They would score only one more point over the next four minutes and the Tar Heels were able to pull away. North Carolina made seven of their final nine shots and was incredible from the free throw line, knocking down 16 of 18 attempts on the game. Add those things together and I'm not sure any team would have been able to hang with them down the stretch.
It was frustrating to see the final score end up the way it did but there's no question that North Carolina just had too much left at the end. For Pitt to win that game, they really needed to play a nearly perfect game. And with the Tar Heels making almost 60% of their shots, I'm not sure many teams would have beaten them today.
Taking care of some late housekeeping items, this game was almost the opposite in terms of production from what Pitt's individual players produced yesterday. The two stars, Michael Young and Jamel Artis, led the way with 19 points each, while the role players largely went back to being just that.
One thing to watch going forward is what head coach Jamie Dixon does at shooting guard. That's been a problem area of sorts this year and as a reward for a strong game against Syracuse on Wednesday, Dixon gave the start to redshirt freshman Cameron Johnson. Johnson not only got the start, but got plenty of time to play with 29 minutes. But unlike the game against the Orange, he couldn't find his shot at all, knocking down only two of ten shots to finish with four points. I'm not sure if he'll get another start - especially since the next game would presumably be in the NCAA Tournament. But I do think rewarding him with a start was the right thing to do after the big game he had. Not so much because of what he did, but also because Pitt has gotten such inconsistent play from Sterling Smith and Chris Jones.
We'll have more on the NCAA Tournament projections a little later, but for now, my opinion remains that the Panthers are likely in despite this loss.