Pitt earns gutsy road win in final minute over North Carolina

Noah Hiles, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Basketball

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — While the letters A-C-C could be read crystal clear in white font atop the Carolina Blue in the paint on Roy Williams Court, the play between Pitt and North Carolina in Wednesday night’s conference showdown emulated more of an old-school Big East showdown.

There were hard fouls, smack talk and bodies flying onto the floor from start to finish. And in the end, it was the former Big East program that came out on top, as the Panthers managed to grind out a 65-64 victory over the Tar Heels.

“Both teams really, really battled, fought and competed tonight,” Jeff Capel said after the win. “I think our guys really made some big-time plays on both sides. I’m really, really proud of my team. This was a gritty, gritty win for us.”

After battling back and forth all evening long against the Tar Heels (15-7, 7-4), the Panthers (16-7, 9-3) found themselves with the ball, down one, with a chance to win. Trailing with 23.3 seconds left, Capel put the ball into the hands of Pitt’s leading scorer Jamarius Burton. The end result? A foul by RJ Davis that allowed Burton to sink a pair of game-winning free throws.

“These guys don’t blink,” Capel said. “That’s the main thing: we don’t blink. The crowd started going crazy, [North Carolina] made a big shot to tie it, but we just didn’t blink. We just kept playing.”

Nelly Cummings led the way for Pitt, with 21 points. The veteran guard was red-hot from the floor, ending the night shooting a smoldering 8 for 11. Burton tallied 19 points, while Nike Sibande chipped in 10 off the bench for Pitt in the victory.


North Carolina was led by Love in the loss, who finished with a game-high 22 points. Armando Bacot also had a solid night for the Tar Heels, contributing 15 points and 11 rebounds in the losing effort, which marks his 13th double-double of the season.

Key stat

Last week Greg Elliott mentioned during his media availability that he felt plus/minus was the most important stat in basketball. If that’s the case then the numbers show that a pair of his teammates had a big night against North Carolina. Fede Federiko and Sibande both ended the game +10.

“We were really focused on trying to cause deflections,” Sibande said when asked about his team’s efficient play while he was on the floor. “Just get our hands on the basketball, rebound the basketball and let the offense come to us.”


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