The Pittsburgh Panthers delivered a shocking upset on Friday, emerging victorious by a score of 80-75 against the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Panthers put on an impressive display on both sides of the ball, rendering the star-studded North Carolina team ineffective for a good portion of the contest.
Adding insult to injury, Pittsburgh defeated the Tar Heels in their own backyard of Greensboro, N.C.
This loss marks the second in a row for North Carolina. The team must have very little confidence at this point, losing its season finale to Duke by a score of 93-81 and then suffering another big loss to Pittsburgh after its comeback bid fell short on Friday.
From the onset of the game, Pittsburgh controlled the tempo. The Panthers quickly put the Tar Heels into a deep hole, pulling ahead 36-26 at halftime.
Pittsburgh increased its lead to 19 with just eight minutes left in the game, and all hope seemed to be lost for the Tar Heels.
However, Marcus Paige put the team on his back and rallied to within four points with one minute remaining. CSN's Daniel Martin tweeted about Paige's stellar second-half performance:
After some sloppy play, and questionable calls from the officials, the Panthers were able to hang on to their dwindling lead and win by a score of 80-75.
Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon explained his confidence in his team, but also reflected on why the game almost slipped away from them, according to an interview with ACC Men's Basketball, via Twitter:
The biggest problem for the Tar Heels on Friday was that they simply could not keep up with Pittsburgh's big man, Talib Zanna.
Zanna dominated the boards throughout the contest and came away with an improbable 21 rebounds. He added 19 points by connecting on eight of his 13 attempts from the field, and he added three assists, one steal and one block for good measure.
At one point, Zanna out-rebounded the entire North Carolina team, according to a tweet from Oakland Zoo:
His play signifies how the day went for the Tar Heels. Pittsburgh connected on 51.9 percent of its field goals and accumulated 43 boards, while North Carolina shot 41.0 percent and managed 35 rebounds.
North Carolina's stars didn't fare well on the big stage. James Michael McAdoo made just four of his 13 attempts from the field, while Paige, the team's only legitimate three-point threat, struggled early in the contest.
It took Paige and Co. a while to get going, highlighted by this tweet from Carolina Basketball:
Head coach Roy Williams was disappointed with his team's performance, but gave kudos to Pittsburgh during an interview with ACC Men's Basketball, via Twitter:
Pittsburgh looks like a legitimate contender going forward. However, the Tar Heels must put together an entire games' worth of solid play if they are to compete in the NCAA tournament.
As North Carolina looks ahead to the upcoming tournament, Pittsburgh's focus is on Saturday's semifinal match against No. 1 Virginia.
Lamar Patterson is already focusing on his next contest, and explained the team's confidence level during an interview with ACC Men's Basketball, via Twitter:
Talib Zanna, F, Pittsburgh
Zanna was fantastic on Friday. From the beginning of the contest, he dominated the boards. His defensive prowess, combined with this aggressiveness in the paint, was one of the biggest contributing factors to Pittsburgh's success.
Game Grade: A+
James Robinson, G, Pittsburgh
Robinson came away with 19 points after a very steadfast day of shooting. He connected on five of his seven attempts from the field and made eight of 12 free throws. Robinson added six rebounds, three assists and four steals.
Game Grade: A
Lamar Patterson, F, Pittsburgh
Patterson wasn't the most accurate shooter for the Panthers on Friday. He made just four of his 11 attempts from the field. He did make three of eight three-pointers on the game, finishing with a total of 12 points.
Game Grade: B-
James Michael McAdoo, F, North Carolina
The Tar Heels simply needed more from McAdoo on Friday. He was off target over the duration of the contest, connecting on just four of his 13 attempts from the field for 15 points. He added seven rebounds and two assists, but he couldn't produce effectively enough to help the Tar Heels' comeback bid.
Game Grade: C-
Marcus Paige, G, North Carolina
Paige was North Carolina's savior over the second half of the game. After a terribly slow start, he heated up and connected on nine of his 20 field-goal attempts, including four of 12 from downtown. He finished with a game-high 27 points.
Game Grade: A
Brice Johnson, F, North Carolina
Johnson came off the bench to be North Carolina's most efficient shooter on Friday. He connected on eight of his nine attempts from the field for 16 points and added six rebounds, one steal and one block in the loss.
Game Grade: A