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Pitt loses to UNC in ACC Tournament semifinals

It’s like your old college professor used to say: “If you haven’t learned the material by now, there is no point in cramming the night before the exam.”

After a slow start to their 2023/2024 campaign, the Panthers headed into their ACC Tournament semifinal matchup against North Carolina at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. on Friday night winners of 12 of their previous 15 games. One of those wins was an 81-69 triumph over Wake Forest in the quarterfinals the previous afternoon.

Many felt that Pitt, who finished in fourth place in the conference during the regular season and came into Friday night’s game with a 22-10 mark, had a strong enough resume for the NCAA Tournament. Many others–including most bracketologists–thought that a victory over the Tar Heels, the conference’s top seed and the number four team in the country, would be necessary.

The Panthers certainly looked like they would ace their next exam, as they shot out to a 17-8 lead midway through the first half. But North Carolina didn’t go away and went on a 20-9 run to take a 28-26 lead with less than four minutes to go before halftime.

Pitt didn’t wilt and managed to take a 35-33 into the locker room.

The two teams traded baskets and leads over the first five minutes of the second half, but the Tar Heels slowly began to take control and opened up a 56-49 advantage on an R.J. Davis jumper with 9:17 remaining in the game.

The underdog Panthers kept North Carolina in sight and used an 8-2 run to tie the game at 62 on a jump shot by freshman guard Jaland Lowe at the 4:25 mark of the second half.

Unfortunately for Pitt, the Tar Heels pulled away down the stretch and advanced to the conference championship game with a 72-65 victory.

Davis, the senior guard who was just voted ACC Player of the Year, paced the Tar Heels with 25 points on the night. Senior forward Armando Bacot proved to be a physical mismatch on the inside, as he contributed 19 points for a North Carolina squad that outscored the Panthers in the paint, 34-20.

Perhaps Bacot’s dominance stifled senior forward Blake Hinson, who only scored five points on the night. The Panthers certainly needed more than that from Hinson, who was held to six points in Pitt’s previous loss to Clemson on February 27. Guard Ishmael Leggett, the ACC Sixth Man of the Year who scored a season-high 30 points in the win over the Demon Deacons on Thursday, was held to just six points against North Carolina.

Pitt’s duo of freshmen guards–Bub Carrington and Jaland Lowe–carried the load with 24 and 17 points, respectively.

It obviously wasn’t enough for the Panthers, unfortunately. But did they do enough to punch a ticket to the dance?

The oddsmakers give Pitt, who currently sits at 41 in the Net Rankings and Quad Wins category, a 0.2 percent chance of making the field as an at-large team.

For all the cramming the Panthers did down the stretch, it may not be enough in the pass/fail exam that is Selection Sunday.


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