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Pitt defeated by North Carolina, 96-65

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Pitt men’s basketball team faced a strong challenge in No. 19 North Carolina on Saturday night and were soundly defeated on the road, 96-65.

The Tar Heels’ offense was difficult to stop as they scored 45 points in the first half and then 51 in the second. The irony here is that Pitt’s offense scored a modest 65 total and that was still their third-highest output in ACC play. Obviously, it wasn’t nearly enough.

Pitt was facing ex-Panther Cam Johnson and it was clear he wanted to be a focal point in the game. He took 14 shots, his second highest total of the season but was mostly off, finishing with 14 points on 5-14 shooting (that included 1-7 from three-point range).

During the offseason, Johnson transferred out of Pitt and despite the Panthers’ unwillingness to let him transfer inside of the conference, finally relented. Cam talked about his remaining connection to Pitt afterwards.

“I tried not to look at this game any different, you know what I mean?” Johnson said. “Obviously you’re going to feel some things when you play against your former team. I spent three years there, I grew up in Pittsburgh, my dad played at Pitt, my mom went to nursing school there, and my brother is still doing research for the university, so obviously I have a pretty strong connection there.”

As you would imagine, head coach Kevin Stallings was asked about Johnson after the game but mostly took a pass on answering.

“I don’t like to comment on other people’s players,” he said. “Ask Roy about how he played. I couldn’t tell you. I was worried about my guys.”

Three-point shooting was a problem for Pitt as it often has been in these blowout losses. They took a lot (30) and made only 13 of them (10).

Freshman Marcus Carr played probably the best game of his young career. He finished with 22 points on 8-11 shooting, added five assists and four rebounds, and had only two turnovers. It’s the type of performance he’d shown he was capable of before and we’d hoped to see more of in ACC play.

Carr has improved, though, lately. This was the fourth out of five games where he’s finished in double figures in scoring and in the fifth contest, he nearly did with nine. He’s also drastically cut back on his turnovers, averaging only two per game over that stretch.

The Panthers also got 15 points from Jared Wilson-Frame and a career-best 14 from big man Terrell Brown. Brown has a lot of development to still undergo and as I’ve said at other times this year, he’s the ideal player that you probably want taking a redshirt. With Pitt being so shorthanded, though, that wasn’t really much of an option after the Panthers lost Ryan Luther to injury. He’s still pretty spotty out there and needs to bulk up a little, too. But the glimpses he’s shown, like tonight, are somewhat promising.

Khameron Davis has slowed down considerably. He looked like a potential breakout player early in the year but has gone scoreless in the last two games. He’s not shot a lot, which probably isn’t helping, as he’s had only six shots in those contests. He remains one of the team’s best shooters, making nearly 50% of all of his shots, including nearly 50% of his three-pointers. They just have to find a way to get him more involved in the offense, even if he is only mostly a spot-up shooter.

Next up is a date with Clemson on the road on Thursday.

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