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Pitt seeks sweep in rematch with North Carolina

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

Pitt is set for a rematch with North Carolina this weekend. The Tar Heels, of course, are one of only two ACC teams the Panthers have beaten thus far and the two teams will square off at noon on Saturday on ESPN.

The Panthers recently defeated the Tar Heels 73-65 in a road game and will look for a regular season sweep. This time, Pitt will be at home and unlike the last game, the Panthers are probably the favorite in the minds of some.

North Carolina is expected to still be without star Cole Anthony, whose return date from injury is still up in the air. A recent Instagram post by Anthony was kind of cryptic but seems to indicate his college career, if nothing else, is not over. For this game, though, it appears like the Tar Heels will still be without him.

Looking back to that earlier game, Pitt got zero offense from its bench as no reserve scored a single point. Heck, Gerald Drumgoole’s two attempts were the only shots those guys even registered despite Terrell Brown eating up 18 minutes of playing time and not taking a single shot or grabbing even one rebound. And in fact, the bench only grabbed a single rebound. I mean, you just don’t see stuff like that everyday.

Pitt was able to get past all of that because the trio of Trey McGowens, Justin Champagnie, and Xavier Johnson all stepped up big time with a combined 63 points. All of those guys have been good at various times this year but catching lightning in a bottle where all three are clicking is a rare occurrence. My guess is that the Panthers will need to get more contributions elsewhere this time around to win another one — even against a down Carolina team. It’s not that those guys can’t all play that well at the same time. I just wouldn’t necessarily bet that they would.

Lots of things went Pitt’s way in that first game, despite Pitt really looking out of it in the first half. The Panthers shot the ball better (44% to 41%), connected on nine three-pointers, and made 18 of their 22 free throws. They also kept their turnovers to a reasonable 13 while forcing 17.

Without Anthony, I have little doubt that Pitt can successfully keep the Tar Heels’ offense mostly in check. And I don’t doubt that, after the frustrating losses against Miami and Louisville, that they will be motivated. The question is going to be if their own offense can be as effective it was the last time out. That’s been the far bigger issue for Pitt this year.

Oh, and I expect the Tar Heels have plenty of motivation themselves since they’re on a three-game slide.

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