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No. 8 North Carolina cruises past Pitt on Senior Day at the Pete

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Justin Jackson scored 23 points, Joel Berry added 19, and Kennedy Meeks chipped in 18 points and 10 rebounds as the No. 8 Tar Heels took care of Pittsburgh, 85-67. Jamel Artis and Michael Young combined for 24 points on the Panthers' senior day.

PITTSBURGH - Same throwback uniforms, same emotions, same confidence, even the same media pre-game meal.

Different results.

Trying its best to carry over the success of last Saturday’s upset win over Florida State, Pitt (15-14, 4-12) could not double up on its efforts, surrendering an 85-67 difference to No. 8 North Carolina (25-5, 13-3) Saturday at the Pete.

Justin Jackson led all scorers with 23 points on 9 of 20 shooting for the Tar Heels, while big man Kennedy Meeks had his way in the paint, tallying up 18 points with 10 rebounds.

UNC utterly dominated the Panthers on the glass, boasting a 48-28 advantage, including a season-high 24 offensive rebounds, which led to 28 2nd chance points and a 42-24 scoring difference in the paint.

“We were very pleased to get this win, knowing what this team was able to do the last time we saw them,” said North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who won his ninth ACC regular season crown in 14 years with Saturday’s win.

“We got off to a great start getting offensive rebounds and scoring,” continued Williams.  “Then we made a couple of shots and at halftime we really worked a good margin. Our success? I’d say the backboards, scoring in the paint and not giving up open threes.”

The Panthers, who took UNC to the buzzer in an 80-78 thriller back on Jan. 31 looked to be following the same tune down by just two with three minutes left in the first half, but a 10-0 Heels run to end the half canceled out all momentum for the Panthers who were down by a dozen at the break.

“That was a tough stretch for us,” said Chris Jones, who finished with 10 points on 3 of 6 shooting on his senior day.  “Jackson hit two really big shots that were kind of contested but he knocked them down.  That hurt us a little bit, but we had chances in the 2nd half to make a run, but for whatever reason we couldn’t.”

The Tar Heels hung a 33 of 73 (45.2%) shooting performance on Pitt, who could only answer with 19 field goals of their own, with seven of those coming from beyond-the-arc.

“Disappointing day, obviously.  I certainly feel bad for the seniors, I did not want to see them go out like this,” said Pitt coach Kevin Stallings.  “I feel bad we couldn’t put it together today and make this thing a little more competitive.  If you play zone and try to keep their size from having much of an impact on you then they open the perimeter on you.  Then if you go man they pound you inside.  We didn’t have an answer on either side.”

Seniors Michael Young and Jamel Artis each finished with a Pitt-best 17 points, while Young corralled a team-best eight rebounds.

Sheldon Jeter rounded out the numbers for the seniors netting seven points on 2 of 4 shooting before fouling out to a standing ovation with just under five minutes left in the game.

“We would like to come out with a win but we were disappointed with the outcome,” said Artis.  “The importance of rebounding was key and they beat us there.  They got a lot of long rebounds and were able to capitalize on that.”

UNC carried a solid 23/8 assist-to-turnover ratio, while the Panthers coughed up 12 turnovers, adding to a 17-9 difference in points off turnovers.

“They’re definitely tough to guard. They have guys on the inside that are good shooters,” said Jones.  “They are one of the best offensive rebounding team’s in the country and we knew that coming in.  I thought in the first half we did a good job on defense, but they were getting 2nd chances and that’s what hurt us in this game.”

Though disappointed for the loss suffered on senior day, Artis discussed the will to continue its push for a date in some sort of postseason appearance.

“We have to finish up strong,” he said.  “We can’t give up now, and we have a lot of confidence in ourselves.  We’re not going to stop working now.  We can win those two and make a run in the ACC tournament and we have a shot.”

Stallings agrees.

“If you have a game left it’s worthwhile to have a goal to win.  Different people have different attitudes towards different things, but I’ll be watching Georgia Tech tape tonight.  I don’t know how they’ll feel come Tuesday night, But I know how I’ll feel.  Hopefully they will want to continue to win and keep competing.”

After the Spread
North Carolina closed as a -9 point road favorite which set a Petersen Events Center record as the largest road favorite in the history of the building.  The total, set at 153.5 made bettors of both angles sweat till the end, as the under just clinched with a combined score of 152 points.

Next Up
The Panthers have two road games left until the end of the regular season.  They will travel to Georgia Tech on Tuesday, Feb. 28 in a game slated to tip at 9 PM.  Its finale will also be on the road with a Saturday game in Charlottesville against Virginia.

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