Instant Analysis: UNC Slugs Past Pitt in First True Road Game


PITTSBURGH — North Carolina had enough punch to slug its way through a struggle and past Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.

The eighth-ranked Tar Heels defeated the Panthers 70-57 at Petersen Events Center, and picked up a quality victory in their first true road game of the season, while resuming ACC league play in full.

A thing of beauty, it certainly was not, but UNC was able to stop its three-game losing slide against Pitt.

Carolina arrived having lost five of the last six matchups in this series, as UNC coach Hubert Davis was winless in three tries against the Panthers.

RJ Davis scored 15 points, Armando Bacot collected 16 points, 10 rebounds with three blocks, and Seth Trimble supplied an important impact off the bench with 10 points and six rebounds.

The Tar Heels won and secured their third Quad 1 victory of the season, despite shooting just 36.5 percent from the field, a cold clip bogged down by the 10 straight misses that opened the night. UNC went scoreless for nearly the first 6½ minutes of game time.

The Tar Heels (10-3 overall, 2-0 ACC) pieced together a nine-point lead in the second half at 47-38, perhaps ominous in some ways considering they coughed up a nine-point lead in the second half last season here in this building, two days before New Year’s.

Later, UNC’s ball movement made the trapping Panthers pay, as Harrison Ingram knocked down a 3-pointer for a 60-51 lead. Ingram missed his first 11 shots from the field, but grabbed 15 rebounds.

Bacot’s dunk, off a bit of a disjointed give-and-go with Trimble, pushed the Tar Heels ahead 62-51 with 3:41 left.

Carlton Carrington’s 20 points topped Pitt (9-5, 0-3), which remained winless early on in the ACC portion of this season.

Pitt standout Blake Hinson, who entered third-highest among ACC players in scoring at 19.5 points per game, struggled mightily. He finished with 11 points on 4-for-16 shooting from the field.

Bacot became the seventh player in Carolina program history to surpass 2,000 career points. RJ Davis’ streak of eight consecutive 20-point games came to an end.

The first half ended with Davis burying a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer, and nodding to the Pitt crowd for effect before the Tar Heels exited the court.

Bacot screened for Davis there, and Elliot Cadeau fed Davis with the pass, as UNC led 31-28 at halftime.

NBA scouts from the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers were expected here for Tuesday night’s game, and getting an in-person look at Seth Trimble surely wasn’t at the top of their to-do lists.

But the sophomore guard Trimble was excellent off the UNC bench during the first half, particularly with the Tar Heels struggling mightily at times to find a rhythm.

Trimble had contributed nine points and five rebounds by halftime, as Carolina led 31-28. And back-to-back moments late in the first half illustrated the energy he provided.

On a set play out of a side inbounds, Trimble skied and caught a lob from RJ Davis for a dunk that prompted oohs and ahhs from the crowd.

The next time down, Trimble launched a deep 3-pointer over Pitt’s Jaland Lowe as the shot clock expired. That bomb connected with 2:49 remaining in the first half, and put UNC ahead 24-20.

After missing 10 straight shots from the field to start the game and not scoring until the 13:37 mark of the first half, UNC was able to catch Pitt and take its first lead at 15-14 on Cormac Ryan’s corner jumper off an inbounds underneath.

That’s because the Panthers were stuck in the midst of 12 straight misses from the field — dueling cold spells here on the second night of January.

Carolina moves on to the middle game in its three-game road stretch on Saturday afternoon at No. 16 Clemson (noon, ESPN2), a matchup of AP Top 25 teams viewed as early contenders in the ACC race. Clemson plays at Miami on Wednesday night.

It’s the first of two regular-season meetings between the Tar Heels and Tigers, who have faced each other one time during each of the last five seasons.

UNC leads the all-time series 135-23 against Clemson, including 41-18 in overall road games and 30-15 at Littlejohn Coliseum. The Tar Heels are 6-2 in their last eight road assignments at Clemson.