There aren't many games in January that feel like a must win, but this one surely fits the mold. Carolina enters tonight's game with a 8-6 ( 1-2 ) record. For a team that entered the season as top 10 team, and one that was expected to compete for a ACC championship, and a trip to the Final Four. Injuries mounted early on, that have dampened those expectations. The previous game, Carolina suited up without 4 players they counted on to be apart of the rotation by conference play. The last time hey took the floor, they also got embarrassed at home by Georgia Tech. At one point in the first half they trailed 30-6, as they simply weren't ready to play from the start. The loss had their head coaching fuming even into Monday when he was quoted as saying "this is the least gifted team I've had since I've been here" if that doesn't sum up where this team is right now, nothing will.
Pittsburgh enters tonight with a 10-4 record, looking to earn a resume building win in Chapel Hill. The Panthers have scored wins over the likes of Florida State, Kansas State & Northwestern, but have suffered a home loss to Nicholls State as they seek consistency. Trey McGowens leads them in scoring at just over 12 a game. Xavier Johnson provides the ability of being a able to a little of everything, as he's their glue guy. They are just two of the four players that score in double figures, as scoring the basketball has been a struggle at times for Jeff Capel's bunch. They lack the necessary size to compete on the backboards in this conference, so they rely on their toughness to hold their own in that category. After falling at home to Wake Forest they'll be looking to get that bad taste out of their mouths.
This was supposed to part of the schedule where Carolina made some head way, and stack up some wins on the schedule. They didn't get off to the best start with the loss to Georgia Tech, but can salvage this stretch with a win tonight, and a win Saturday over Clemson. If they hope to do so they'll have to improve in some various areas starting tonight. 3 keys to getting back on track:
1. Playing With Pride: This was area wasn't evident in the loss this past weekend. They can't show up and think that because their jersey says " North Carolina " that it's going to be easy. There's always a target on your back, and especially this season where you appear to be more vulnerable than in years past. If Roy Williams can get these guys to play the game the way their capable of, and take pride in doing the little things that it takes to win basketball games, then it's possible to turn this thing around.
2. Defense: Georgia Tech scored 96, and made it look easy. They were able to drive the ball anywhere on the floor they wanted, which led to open looks all night long for a offense that entered the game struggling. There are a lot of similarities between that Georgia Tech and this Pittsburgh team, on the offensive end. If Carolina plays the same way they did last time out, they'll get embarrassed once more. The communication has to be better, the lack of floor balance has to improve but this comes down to effort. Defense is all about effort and want to, if they want to play hard on that end of the floor, they will.
3. Making Shots: This is a simple part of the game, that this team has struggled at for most of the season. Roy Williams has a saying "If you're going to take the shot, be tough enough to make it" Carolina hasn't been tough enough to make the open shots, let alone the guarded ones. It's not a one player issue, it's a whole team issue. Every player has to step up, and start making the shots. If this area improves, it all of a sudden doesn't look that bad, but the first step is to put the ball in the basket.
Series History: Like most teams, Carolina owns a winning record against the opponent. They are 14-3 overall, having won the last 6 times the two schools have played. Last season the Tar Heels won 85-60 in Pittsburgh. Roy Williams is 7-2 against Pitt as the UNC head coach.
UNC - 59th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 105.6 ( 63rd ) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 93.8 ( 67th )
Pittsburgh - 81st overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 104.2 ( 93rd ) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 94.6 ( 79th )
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