Gerry Broome - AP
For the second time in 10 days, Carolina will face Pittsburgh as ACC play is in full swing now. The Tar Heels enter the all important matchup with a even 8-8 record, having lost 3 straight games, including a home loss to these Panthers. The last time we saw the Heels on the floor, they blew a 10 point lead in the final 2 minutes in a eventual home loss to Clemson. It was the first time in school history that Clemson had won a game in Chapel Hill, as the season continues to spiral downward.
Pittsburgh will be seeking a season sweep of the Tar Heels for the first time since joining the ACC. They enter the contest on the heels of a close overtime loss to Louisville earlier this week. The Panthers own a 11-6 record, and in a year where the bubble is going to wide open, every win matters. Trey McGowens and Xavier Johnson are the known commodities, but it was Justin Champagnie that derailed the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill last week. The then 22% three point shooter, nailed 4 triples in the second half that completely turned the tide in the second stanza. A season sweep of North Caroline would give this program a lot of confidence, as it continues to rebuild under Jeff Capel.
Carolina is trying to avoid a second 4 game losing streak this season, as it heads on the road for the first time in the new year. Brandon Robinson appears to be ready to play after suffering minor injuries in a car accident over the weekend. It's unknown the status of Jeremiah Francis, and Cole Anthony has hinted at a possible return on Instagram. A healthy Carolina team may turn this thing around, but if they can play a complete game they are more than capable of winning in a hostile Peterson Events Center. 3 keys to getting off the schneid in 2020:
1. Contain the Dribble: Pittsburgh attacked the Tar Heels with their ability to drive the lane, and get easy kick out buckets. It got so bad that Carolina again played a zone defense to try, and contain the penetration. It would be great if Francis is able to go as he's proven he can be a guy that can stay in front of the ball against ACC opponents. If not it means every perimeter player will need to step up the intensity on the defensive end.
2. Limiting Careless Turnovers: With 2 minutes left in the Clemson game, Carolina had only committed 6 turnovers. Over the final 2 minutes, and overtime session they committed 4 as they broke down in the final minutes. There's a great chance that the Panthers will press Carolina early, and often. Leaky Black has to be stronger and smarter with the basketball, if he is asked to run the offense once again tomorrow. It's why this team getting healthy is so important, because the pressure is going to ramp up with the Heels vulnerable.
3. Consistent Offense: In the first matchup Carolina consistently found ways to score the basketball in the first half, which is why they built a 14 point lead. That went away in the second half, as the offense became a shell of itself in the final 10 minutes in particular. The offense needs to run through Brooks and Bacot, as the perimeter game is a liability outside of Robinson. If they can keep the ball in the painted area, Carolina should be able to take advantage out of a smaller opponent.
Series History: Despite losing the first matchup, Carolina is 14-4 against Pittsburgh. On the road the Heels are 5-1 despite the environment the Oakland Zoo creates.
UNC - 86th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 104.7 ( 87th ) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 95.9 ( 91st )
Pittsburgh - 78th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 104.4 ( 95th ) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 94.4 ( 71st )
TV Info: The all important rematch with Pittsburgh will tip at noon on ESPN.
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