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Heel Tough Blog: ACC Tournament Semifinals- Pittsburgh Recap

Geoff Burke- USA Today Sports

The Tar Heels continued their push for their first ACC Tournament title since 2016 on Friday night when they faced the Pittsburgh Panthers in the semifinal round. They would face an early deficit against the No. 4 seed but would storm back with a big night from their stars on both ends of the floor, just like they did in the first matchup of the season with the Panthers.

The Tar Heels jumped out to an early 8-4 lead, but an 11-0 run from Pittsburgh would give them a seven-point lead that Carolina would spend the rest of the half battling back from. Armando Bacot would lead the charge offensively for them as they stormed back to take a 28-26 lead at one point, but struggles to finish at the rim on that end of the floor and contain Carlton Carrington on the other end gave the Panthers in the lead by two heading into halftime.

The back-and-forth nature that the game had towards the end of the first half continued to start the second half with both teams' guards exchanging tough buckets. An 8-0 run for the Tar Heels following the under-16 timeout would give them a six-point lead that they would extend to seven a few minutes later. Unfortunately, they could not push that lead out any further and the Panthers would rally to tie the game at 62 with 4:25 remaining.

The Tar Heels would respond with one of their best closes to a game this season. They would score the next seven points and close the game on a 10-3 run to close out the victory. R.J. Davis was the man who stepped in clutch time, something that he has done so many times in the last year and a half, dropping nine of his 25 in the final 4:04 to help the Tar Heels advance to their first conference tournament title game since 2018.

  1. Stars Shine Bright: After everybody had their moments where they took over the game yesterday, it was the team’s two biggest stars who were the difference in this one. As we said above, Davis was the difference maker down the stretch, scoring nine of the team’s last ten points, but he was hitting tough shots throughout the night on his way to a team-high 25 points on 8-18 from the field. Meanwhile, Bacot was dominant in the paint all night, dropping 19 points and ripping down a team-best 11 rebounds. The two combined for 31 of the team's 39 in the second half and carried the load on a night where the rest of the team failed to put another player in double figures.

  2. Ingram and Bacot Shine Defensively: While Carrington may have dominated at times for Pittsburgh, the Tar Heels did a great job of shutting down their other two stars. We thought it would be tough to repeat the type of performance that the team had against first All-ACC member Blake Hinson in the regular season, but they topped it tonight, holding him to a season-worst five points on 2-12 from the field. Harrison Ingram was the main reason for those struggles and he said in the postgame that he was motivated to take him out of the game after he was named to the first-team over him. The team also did an amazing job on fellow guard Ishmael Legette, holding a guy who scored 30 points in the quarterfinals to just six points on 2-7 shooting. Bacot was also phenomenal on the defensive end of the floor. He did an outstanding job of guarding on the perimeter and against the dribble drive when switched on to the guards and contested everything at the rim without fouling. The way this team is defending right now is why this team has a great chance to cut down the nets in Phoenix in early April.

  3. Seth Trimble Continues to Break Out: Trimble has been outstanding since last Saturday and he was outstanding once again tonight off the bench. With Elliot Cadeau struggling, he played 24 minutes for the team and was big for the team on both ends of the floor. He had another strong night defensively, especially in the second half, helping to cool off Carrington, but his effect on the offensive end of the floor was significant for a third straight game. While he may not have scored in double figures as he did in the previous two games, he did contribute five points and dish out four assists all while not turning the ball over once. Trimble has been so much more confident offensively since the calendar turned to March and it is a big part of why people are starting to feel more confident that this team is in for a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.


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