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North Carolina pummels Pitt 85-60 in ACC opener

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Pitt entered its ACC opener on Saturday at the Petersen Events center winless in conference games since 2016. The streak continued as the Panthers were no match against no.15 North Carolina. Between inexperience, nerves, and being out-manned at every position on the court, the final score of 85-60 could have been worse.

We knew this was going to be a very tough matchup. When you play against North Carolina, you have to continue to score. They overwhelm you with talent, depth, size, speed, and they just keep coming at you,” Pitt head coach Jeff Capel said. “I thought our guys fought. I thought we were excited, but with starting three freshmen, I thought we were a little overwhelmed. [North Carolina] is one of the best teams in the country.”

 

Pitt (10-3, 0-1) did all it could to stay with North Carolina (11-3, 1-0 ACC) early-on but the Tarheels took a 6-0 lead out of the gate and led from start to finish. Xavier Johnson hit a layup five minutes in, then raced a steal single-handedly down court for a dunk in one of Pitt’s few highlights of the first half. 

 

I thought we played well the first eight minutes of the game. We had incredible energy,” Capel said. “The way North Carolina plays, they try to wear you down. I thought that’s what happened to us today.”

 

The Panthers tied the game at 12-12 when Malik Ellison hit a layup in the lane. He missed the free throw which would have given Pitt its first (and only) lead of the game. From that point on, it was all Tarheels as they tore off an 18-2 run to put the game out of reach before the break. Pitt did not score in over seven minutes during that span.

 

Then we went through a period where we could not score. We got some good looks but missed. Then we started pressing,” Capel said. “That’s where we have to grow. It was where the game got a little out of control for us.”

 

The Panthers trailed 43-23 and held for the last shot of the half, but North Carolina turned the ball over and Coby White hit a running layup in the last second to give the Tarheels a 45-23 lead at the break.

 

Pitt did not have an assist the entire first half and shot 20 percent from the field, making only six shots on 29 attempts. They were also 1-for-10 from three point range. 

 

We have to continue to get better. We talked about that here from day one,” Capel said. “It’s not the same Pittt.”

 

The second half was no better, as Pitt continued to struggle scoring while North Carolina was racing on all cylinders. The Panthers shot 30 percent from the floor for the game including 2-for-19 from three-point-range.  They also had only seven assists on 19 made field goals. They allowed North Carolina to shoot 43 percent for the game and gave up 15 turnovers, which the Tarheels converted into 20 points.

 

I don’t think we were afraid. This was a learning experience for us. We’ll get back to the drawing board and use this [game] to get better,” Capel said. “One of my concerns for this game was us not becoming overwhelmed by the environment. For four guys, this was the first time they ran out of the tunnel to a full house. ”

 

Trey McGowens led Pitt with 17 points. He was joined in double figures with Xavier Johnson, who scored 14, and Malik Ellison, who added 10.

 

I think we hit a scoring drought. North Carolina played really well,” McGowens said. “It was a dream come true [playing in an ACC opener]. I was jittery and over-anxious going into the game.”

 

Former Panther Cam Johnson helped pace the Tarheels with 11 points in the first half, 15 overall, which was no surprise as he entered the game as North Carolina’s leading scorer. Coby White led all scorers with 22 and Luke Maye added 17, much to the happiness of North Carolina head coach Roy Williams.

 

We were happy to get our first ACC win. I was happy for Cam [Johnson],” Williams said. “[Pitt] is going to be fine. They’re very, very young.”

 

Up next

 

The Panthers return to action Wednesday night, when they host Louisville.

 

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