Rushed Reactions: Pittsburgh 80, #15 North Carolina 75Posted by mpatton on March 14th, 2014
Three Key Takeaways.
- Pittsburgh finally got its big win. The Panthers were on the bubble coming into the ACC Tournament, but a dominant beatdown of Wake Forest and a convincing (albeit close) win against North Carolina puts the Panthers squarely where they should be talking about seeding rather than sweating on Selection Sunday. The Panthers are healthy and have two great players in Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna. This team finally lived up to its computer profile. They pass the ball very well (when not being trapped in the backcourt, but more on that later), but most importantly, the way Pittsburgh plays there are no obvious weaknesses for opponents to exploit.
- North Carolina can’t keep starting slow. It’s a dangerous game to play. It’s even worse when you consider the Tar Heels appear to expect a perfect performance from Marcus Paige in the second half of every game. That said, give major credit to the Roy Williams for going to the press in the final quarter of the game. Pittsburgh really struggled with the pressure, and it got the North Carolina team (and crowd) back in the game. But there’s no reason this team should have stretches like the 3-of-19 start to open the contest. All that said, North Carolina almost pulled off one of the most unlikely comebacks I’ve ever seen. They never quit, almost seeming to forget about the first three quarters of the game. That could pay dividends later.
- These are both good teams. Good enough to make a deep run in the Big Dance (or lose the first weekend). After the game, Paige was asked how they had lived up to his expectations.
“The season is not over for us. It’s hard to say. There’s a lot that could happen in the next however many weeks that could change that answer. I think we have dreams and goals of making the deep Tournament run and I think we’re capable of doing that. A lot of it rests on that. We’re pleased with the way we’ve been able to fight back and win 12 games in a row and put ourselves in the good position. That’s not what our expectation was coming into the year. That’s what really made this month.”
Couldn’t say it any better myself.
Star of the Game: Talib Zanna, Pittsburgh. Zanna was outstanding. He was indefatigable on the glass in the first half, finishing the game with 21 boards (including 10 offensive rebounds). North Carolina couldn’t put a body on him no matter what defensive look they were showing. Watching the game, it felt like his rebounding (and a contested three from Lamar Patterson) were what kept North Carolina from going to a zone. Just as some icing on the cake, Zanna had three assists and only two turnovers. Foul trouble kept him from making a run at the ACC Tournament record for rebounds, but he’s still got games to play.
When asked about his thoughts on the ACC Tournament moving to Brooklyn in a few years, Roy Williams offered the perfect response:
“Frankly, my dear. […] I mean, we just got our butts kicked. And we got to get ready for the NCAA Tournament. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a blankety blank where the hell they put it. If they put it in Siberia, I’m going to try to go play. If they put it in Owen High School in Black Mountain, Swannanoa Valley, I’m going to try our best to go out and play. I know that’s not the answer you wanted but you got to remember I’m an old guy up here and we just our butts kicked.”
Sights and Sounds: North Carolina had a big crowd advantage, but you wouldn’t have known it for the first 30 minutes. As much as the Panthers came out and punched the Tar Heels in the mouth, the side effect was sucking all of the air out of Greensboro Coliseum. But when North Carolina mounted its furious comeback, the noise came with it.
What’s Next: Both of these teams won’t have to worry about Selection Sunday. More importantly, Pittsburgh will get a shot at top-seeded Virginia, who won at Pittsburgh on a last second shot. Jamie Dixon needs Lamar Patterson to find his shot though.