Pitt men’s basketball comes away with another crucial win over North Carolina 65-64

Pitt men’s basketball comes away with another crucial win over North Carolina 65-64

AP Photo/Chris Seward

Pittsburgh center Federiko Federiko (33) dunks against North Carolina in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

After earning perhaps their biggest win of the season against Miami, Pitt (16-7, 9-3 ACC) may have outdone himself on Wednesday night.

Facing North Carolina on the road (15-7, 6-4 ACC), the Panthers got the better of the Tar Heels in a back-and-forth that ended in a 65-64 victory for Pitt.

Graduate guard Nelly Cummings had one of his best performances of the season with 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Graduate guard Jamarius Burton added 19 points, led by an impressive second half.

Junior forward Blake Hinson opened the scoring just over two minutes into the game with a jumper halfway down the backboard. Graduate student forward Pete Nance hit a three-pointer on subsequent possession for the Tar Heels’ first bucket of the game, making it 3-2.

Cummings and UNC junior guard Caleb Love traded three points on back-to-back trips at 4:03 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. respectively, giving UNC a 9-5 lead.

Nance and Love pushed the Tar Heels to 14-7 after the media timeout at 3:31 p.m. Cummings responded with his own pair of clutch buckets, keeping the Panthers under three.

Graduate student goaltender Greg Elliott scored the Panthers’ first field goal in four minutes with a pull-up at 9:33, making it 19-15. He then later hit a corner three in transition two possessions that brought Pitt within one.

The Panthers capitalized on back-to-back Tar Heels trips, earning their first lead of the game on a Burton three with just under seven minutes left in the half.

Pitt then extended his lead to 23-19 on a pair of Burton free throws before a deep Love three made it 23-22.

North Carolina tied the game at 26-26 minutes later, then took a 28-26 lead on ensuing possession after Bacot made both free throws on a single chance.

Redshirt senior guard Nike Sibande quickly tied the game on a transition set-up before Cummings hit a mid-range jumper, giving Pitt a two-point lead.

Love gave North Carolina a 31-30 lead on a free throw with just over a minute remaining, but a Sibande layup gave the Panthers a 34-33 lead before halftime. time.

The Panthers failed to contain the Tar Heels on the glass in the first half as they rebounded 23-16 while providing consistent second-chance opportunities for North Carolina.

Love and Cummings were the only two players to hit double-digit points in the half, leading their teams with 13 and 12 points respectively. Junior guard RJ Davis and Burton, who are among the ACC’s leading scorers, struggled to find momentum as they shot a combined 2-for-14 from the field.

A second-chance layup from Burton opened the scoring in the second half and made it 36-33. Second-year center Federiko Federiko added a layup of his own on a nice flat from Cummings, making it 38-33 at 6:08 p.m.

Things got complicated between the two teams when an inbound pass for the Panthers at 17:24 and the referees each called a technical foul on Davis and Cummings.

A transition layup from Davis gave the Tar Heels a 39-38 lead just over four minutes into the second half. A Bacot free throw made it 44-40 in favor of North Carolina at 13:44. Cummings then went on a blistering 9-0 run with three straight games behind the arc, catapulting the Panthers to a 49-46 lead.,

A Burton jumper pushed it to 57-50 and killed the Tar Heels’ momentum for the moment. North Carolina brought the crowd back into the equation after cutting the Panthers’ lead to 59-55 and played a lot thanks to Bacot, who made it a three-pointer shortly after.

Love then tied the game at 61-61 on a hard-fought threesome that sent the home crowd into a frenzy, boosting the confidence of the Tar Heels.

Cummings fouled with two minutes to go and put Davis, the player he was chewing the whole half with, on the line with a chance to equalize it. The foul also left Pitt without his most reliable offensive weapon in a game that looked set for late drama.

Davis went 63-62 before Bacot, the halftime hero, gave North Carolina a one-point lead with a pair of free throws. He quickly became the scapegoat, as he traveled against a double team and awarded Pitt the ball with a chance to swing the pendulum again.

Burton was fouled on the next possession and put the Panthers in place after a trip to the line. North Carolina trusted Love to win it on the final shot of the game, but a block from Sibande ended any hopes of pandemonium in Chapel Hill and earned Pitt the win.

The Panthers’ ability to stay calm paid off again tonight. Pitt never let the game slip away despite playing in a tough road environment and always matching the physique of the Tar Heels.

Both Cummings and Burton have faced each other time and time again and kept pace with the North Carolina playmakers. Federiko’s defense and rim protection also made the difference, as he held Bacot in check in the first half and clogged the paint all night.

The Panthers’ ACC schedule continues with a home game against Louisville next Tuesday. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. and coverage will air on the ACC network.

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