Instead of playing their biggest rivals, North Carolina had a few more days to prepare for their game against Pittsburgh, which clearly showed for most of the game as James Michael McAdoo and Marcus Paige led the Tar Heels to a sixth consecutive ACC victory.
North Carolina had to exhale in the end, coming away with the 75-71 win as Lamar Patterson missed a potential game-tying three point shot and Talib Zanna failed to make a comfortable shot from 2 feet, letting North Carolina get away with dropping a 10 point lead late in the second half.
It was quite the performance from James Michael McAdoo, one of the more inconsistent talents in College Basketball, waking up on the right side this time with 24 points and 13 rebounds, enjoying a strong Junior season which should be his last in Chapel Hill. Marcus Paige scored 18 points with 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals, making it yet another impressive all-around performance from him to carry his team to extend their winning streak.
Paige has scored at least 15 points in each of UNC’s six wins over the last four weeks. He was 5-of-6 from beyond the arc in the win and is shooting slightly better than 50% during this winning streak, compared to 23% in the five games that came before their galvanizing win over Clemson.
We know the type of team we’re playing against, and we know we’ve played some teams that were struggling a little bit, but this team is really good. They played Syracuse tough a couple of times, and they were ranked in the Top 25, so we knew this would be a big win for us and give us more confidence that what we’re doing is an improvement over what we were doing at the beginning of the year. It was a little heartbreaking we couldn’t play Duke. I was ready — all of us were really ready to play them. Just knowing there was going to be a lot of students in here, we were extremely ready for that. We just got back to it. We had to let it go … and we had to get ready for our next opponent, which was Pitt.
This was the kind of game UNC needed to help their tournament seeding credentials and possibly heading back into the top 25. It was their first win over a ranked ACC team this season, losing by double digits in their games to Syracuse and Virginia (who weren’t ranked when the two teams met for the first time). They still have two games against Duke (#8) left to put behind them.
For Pittsburgh it was another heartbreak and proof that despite top 30 in the nation in both offense and defense, there’s quite a lot for them to improve on when it comes to execution in the final moments of the game.
I thought we did some good things, but at the end of the day we came into here to outrebound them and we didn’t, and we had more turnovers than they did. And those were the two things we said we had to do. … We’ve got to go out and execute better.