Tar Heels host No. 25 Pitt for first time as ACC opponents
No. 25 Pitt (20-5, 8-4 ACC) will travel to Chapel Hill for the first time as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference to face North Carolina (16-7, 6-4 ACC) in a nationally televised game at the Smith Center today (1 p.m., WRAL).
At 8-4 in Atlantic Coast Conference competition, Pitt enters the game in fourth place in the league standings behind first place Syracuse (11-0), second place Virginia (11-1) and third place Duke (8-3). UNC, which has won five straight ACC games after starting 1-4 in league play, is in fifth place.
The Tar Heels, whose scheduled game against Duke on Wednesday night was postponed to this Thursday (9 p.m., ESPN) because of the weather, will be forced to play four games in eight days beginning today.
The Tar Heels will also play three games in six days — today against Pitt, Monday at Florida State (7 p.m., ESPN) and at home against Duke on Thursday — before Saturday, Feb. 22’s home date against Wake Forest (1 p.m., WRAL).
“I don’t like playing three games in a week again,” Williams said.
Pitt has won 20 or more games for the 13th consecutive season. Pitt’s five losses are by a combined 26 points. Three have come on last second plays including Tuesday’s 58-56 home loss to No. 1 Syracuse which the Panthers lost on a 3-pointer by Orange star Tyler Ennis from 35-feet out at the buzzer.
In four of the five losses, Pitt led deep into the second half.
Offensively, the Panthers are averaging 72.6 points per game, converting 46.4 percent (623-1342) of field goals, 34.5 percent (121-351) of 3-point field goals and a solid 71.9 percent (447-622) of free throw attempts. Pitt is also outrebounding its opponents by a sizable plus-6.7 margin. Defensively, Pitt is holding its opponents to 60.0 points per game and yielding a 40.1 (524-1308) field goal percentage. Twenty-one of Pitt’s 25 opponents have been held to 70 points or less and 15 have been limited to 60 points or less.
Pitt forward Lamar Patterson is averaging 17.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game and Talib Zanna nearly averages a double-double in points (13.5) and rebounds (8.3).
Prior to the Syracuse game, Pitt had claimed back-to-back overtime victories over Virginia Tech (62-57 in double overtime) at home and Miami (59-55 in overtime) on the road.
The Tar Heels are on a five-game win streak after defeating Clemson, Georgia Tech, N.C. State, Maryland and Notre Dame consecutively. UNC is 11-3 at home and is led by Marcus Paige (17.0 ppg., 51-139 3FG), James M. McAdoo (15.0 ppg./6.8 rpg.) and Brice Johnson (10.1 ppg.).
NOTES — Pitt coach Jamie Dixon owns a 35-14 career record vs. teams currently in the ACC (including newcomers Syracuse and Notre Dame). ... Lamar Patterson has emerged as a national player of the year candidate (Oscar Robertson Trophy/Naismith Watch List) and an ACC Player of the Year candidate. ...When comparing ACC basketball programs over the last 13 years, Pitt ranks second among league programs in overall winning percentage (339-101, .770), league winning percentage (149-67, .690), homecourt winning percentage (.885) and NCAA Tournament appearances (11).
— The University of Pittsburgh and UNC sports information departments contributed to this report.