during the game at the Dean Smith Center on January 31, 2017 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

No. 12 North Carolina outlasts Pitt

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After looking sluggish in a loss at Miami on Saturday, No. 12 North Carolina bounced back with a 80-78 win over Pitt at home in the ACC on Tuesday night.

The Tar Heels (20-4, 8-2) maintained a consistent lead on the Panthers for most of the game but could never seem to put them away, as Pitt cut the lead to one twice with under two minutes left. But the Tar Heels were finally able to put things away

Junior Justin Jackson finished with a game-high 20 points as 13 of those points came during a very efficient first half. After some recent mediocre performances, point guard Joel Berry bounced back with 19 points on 5-for-9 three-point shooting as he looked much more comfortable against Pitt.

Things were also easy for Isaiah Hicks on the interior as he was 6-for-8 from the field for 18 points and eight rebounds while Kennedy Meeks had 10 points and five boards.

North Carolina shot 50 percent from the field (29-for-58) and made a respectable 37 percent of their three-pointers on Tuesday.

Perimeter defense is going to have to improve for the Tar Heels, but they ultimately got big offensive plays from experienced veterans to improve to 12-0 at home this season.

The Panthers (12-10, 1-8) had a great comeback effort and some critical late shots but they just couldn’t get over the hump and gain the lead in this one. Guard Cameron Johnson was impressive as his six three-pointers helped him to a game-high 24 points as he provided a much-needed scoring boost for Michael Young (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Jamel Artis (17 points). Chris Jones also added 12 points for the Panthers.

This is Pitt’s first seven-game losing streak since the 2011-12 season as this team is struggling in ACC play. It was the defense that was the letdown for Kevin Stallings’ group on Tuesday as they couldn’t get critical stops when they needed to late in the game. The Panthers went 13-for-29 from three-point range and still lost because North Carolina was able to get pretty much anything they wanted.

Pitt has a chance to play the role of spoiler for some teams down the stretch but the defense has to get better.

No. 14 Louisville holds on for win over Pitt

LOUISVILLE, KY - JANUARY 11:  Quentin Snider #4 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball during the game against the Pittsburgh Panthers at KFC YUM! Center on January 11, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Louisville jumped out to a big early lead and barely held on from there as the No. 14 Cardinals used an up-and-down effort to capture an 85-80 ACC home win over Pitt.

It looked like a rout might be on for Louisville in this one as they jumped out to a 47-26 halftime lead and led by double-digits for most of the second half. But the Cardinals offense slowed down in the second frame as a scoreless stretch and some turnovers let the Panthers creep back in the game.

Pitt closed the lead to five points with under a minute left but ultimately fell short as the Panthers had their second consecutive miserable start to a game that ultimately buried them in the end as they attempted to rally.

Louisville (13-3, 2-2) was paced by Quentin Snider, as the junior point guard had a solid outing with 22 points and five assists. Donovan Mitchell and Deng Adel added 15 points each for Louisville while Ray Spalding added 11 points and eight rebounds.

For as great as Louisville looked in the first half, they looked equally as awful in the second half. Against a team like Pitt at home, the Cardinals can get away with a split effort like that, but Louisville is going to need to play a more consistent 40 minutes to beat a lot of the better teams in the ACC.

While Louisville’s second-half struggles are a bit concerning there is some intrigue with how this team played in the first half. The Cardinals looked like a force on both ends of the floor as they mixed and matched a lot of unique lineups and gave Pitt fits.

I particularly liked Louisville’s one small-ball look in which Spalding spent some time at the five because it gives the Cardinals the option to play five long and athletic players that make it tough to advance the ball against. If Spalding can do a good enough job of protecting the rim and rebounding as the five in that lineup that could be a look that Rick Pitino turns to more often.

Louisville has a strong stretch of four games coming up where they get Duke at home on Saturday, Clemson at home next week and then back-to-back road games at Florida State and Pitt. It’ll be be interesting to see how the Cardinals look against Duke on Saturday after their horrible second half, since the Blue Devils are coming off of a loss at Florida State and will likely come out aggressive.

Jamel Artis had a monster night and did everything he could to keep Pitt in this game but the senior didn’t have enough help. Artis finished with 43 points but Michael Young was the only other double-figure scorer for the Panthers with 17 points.

Pitt (12-5, 1-3) is going to need more from guys outside of Artis and Young to beat the upper-echelon teams of the ACC, but that isn’t any sort of new revelation that we didn’t know already.

 

 

VIDEO: Steve Vasturia late overtime 3 lifts No. 24 Notre Dame past Pitt

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 17:  Ryan Cline #14  of the Purdue Boilermakers and Steve Vasturia #32 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish battle for a loose ball during the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 17, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Notre Dame needed overtime and a late three from senior Steve Vasturia to push itself past Pitt for a road ACC win on Saturday.

The No. 24 Irish were down by two with time winding down when Vasturia pump faked and created the go-ahead three. Notre Dame’s road win was important since teams like Duke and North Carolina fell to unranked teams earlier in the day.

Pitt lands key junior college commitment

DAYTON, OH - MARCH 15:  Head coach Kevin Stallings of the Vanderbilt Commodores reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at UD Arena on March 15, 2016 in Dayton, Ohio.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Pitt and new head coach Kevin Stallings landed a key commitment on Friday as junior college wing Jared Wilson-Frame pledged to the Panthers.

The 6-foot-5 Wilson-Frame is attending Northwest Florida State College as he averaged 15.4 points per game. Also a prominent player during his high school career, Wilson-Frame was a standout for Expressions Elite in the Nike EYBL.

A power wing who can attack the basket and make plays around the rim, Wilson-Frame becomes the fourth member of the Class of 2017 to commit to Pitt as he joins point guard Aaron Thompson, guard Marcus Carr and big man Terrell Brown. Wilson-Frame will have two years of eligibility left once he starts at Pitt.

Overall, this is a solid four-man recruiting class for Stallings in his first year at Pitt as he’s recruited multiple spots for his rotation. It’s also interesting to see Stallings go the juco route in recruiting since his old job at Vanderbilt didn’t allow him to easily land players from that approach.

 

No. 7 UNC opens ACC Tournament by topping Pitt 88-71

North Carolina coach Roy Williams, center, reacts with his team behind him after a play during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament against Pittsburgh, Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Washington. North Carolina won 88-71. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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WASHINGTON (AP) Seventh-ranked North Carolina got off to a fast start at the ACC Tournament as the regular-season champion routed Pittsburgh 88-71 Thursday to take the first step toward its first conference title since 2008.

Four players scored in double figures as the Tar Heels (26-6) shot 58.9 percent from the floor and pulled away from Pittsburgh (20-11) in front of a boisterous crowd in baby blue at Verizon Center.

Joel Berry II led North Carolina with 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, and Brice Johnson added 19 on 8-of-11 shooting. The Tar Heels will face either No. 19 Duke or Notre Dame in the semifinals Friday.

Jamel Artis and Michael Young each scored 19 points for the Panthers, who still should be NCAA Tournament-bound despite the loss.

Artis started the game with a personal 8-0 run in the first 91 seconds. Looking spry despite playing 24 hours earlier, Pitt led by as many as eight early until the Tar Heels found their groove.

A turnover by James Robinson with 47 seconds left in the first half led to an emphatic dunk by Johnson that gave UNC the lead. While the Tar Heels went on a 12-0 run that carried over into the second half, Pitt had a 4:52 scoring drought.

The Panthers tied the score at 45 with 15:52 left on a 3-pointer by Sheldon Jeter. The tie lasted 15 seconds until Paige connected from long range, and UNC kept Pitt at arm’s length.

The Tar Heels went on an 11-0 run that put the game out of reach and showed just how dangerous they can be when hitting jumpers.

KENNY KILLS PITT

UNC freshman Kenny Williams’ 3-pointer during the big second-half run was the first basket of his college career after starting 0 for 12. It was the seldom-played guard’s first shot attempt since Valentine’s Day.

PITT’S NCAA CASE

Coach Jamie Dixon, who referenced the NIT if his team lost its ACC Tournament opener, said it was in “pretty good shape” after beating Syracuse. The Panthers – who entered ranked 53rd in the RPI with the 41st-toughest strength of schedule – are 8-8 against top-50 opponents.

NET GAINS

Arena workers replaced one of the nets at halftime because the bottom had become frayed. Not coincidentally, it was the end North Carolina scored on when it made five straight shots to end the first half.

TIP-INS

Pittsburgh: Cameron Johnson and Robinson, the heroes of the second-round win against Syracuse, combined for to shoot 5 of 18 from the field. … With his fourth assist, Robinson became the fifth player in school history to reach 600 in his career.

North Carolina: Reached the ACC Tournament semifinals for the fifth time in the past six years. … The Tar Heels improved to 5-0 in neutral-site games this season.

UP NEXT

North Carolina: Faces the winner of No. 19 Duke vs. Notre Dame in semifinals Friday.

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: No. 5 Xavier, No. 8 Iowa suffer road losses

Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead (15) celebrates after defeating Xavier in an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
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GAME OF THE DAY: Ohio State 68, No. 8 Iowa 64

Ohio State now has 11 Big Ten wins, but only three have come against teams not in the bottom five of the conference standings. That’s what made this result, with Marc Loving scoring 25 points, so important for a team that still has work to do when it comes to getting into the NCAA tournament. As for Iowa, they’ve now lost four of their last five games with their offensive struggles being the big reason why. This result also means that Indiana has clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title, which they can earn outright with a win at Iowa Tuesday night.

IMPORANT OUTCOMES

Seton Hall 90, No. 5 Xavier 81: The Pirates likely punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament with this win, leading by as much as 21 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final margin would lead one to believe. Desi Rodriguez was sensational for the Pirates, finishing with 27 points, 12 rebounds and three assists, and Isaiah Whitehead added 22 to go along with five assists. Seton Hall’s turnover count was a bit high (18), but they did more than enough to ensure that the followed up Thursday’s win over Providence with another quality result.

Pittsburgh 76, No. 15 Duke 62: The Panthers added a needed quality win to its résumé, as they punished the Blue Devils on the glass. Pittsburgh grabbed better than 55 percent of its available misses, with Chris Jones and Sheldon Jeter combining for seven of the team’s 16 offensive boards. Jamel Artis led five Panthers in double figures with 17 points, and James Robinson celebrated “Senior Day” with 14 points and seven assists.

STARRED

Shaq Goodwin and Dedric Lawson, Memphis: Both posted double-doubles in the Tigers’ win over Tulsa. Goodwin finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds, and Lawson racked up 27 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.

Desi Rodriguez, Seton Hall: 27 points, 12 rebounds and three assists in the Pirates’ 90-81 win over No. 5 Xavier.

Damyean Dotson, Houston: 22 points, 14 rebounds and three assists in Houston’s 75-68 win at Connecticut.

Alec Peters, Valparaiso: 25 points and 15 rebounds in the Crusaders’ two-point win at Green Bay.

STRUGGLED

Brandon Taylor, Penn State: Taylor shot just 1-for-6 from the field, scoring two points before fouling out of the Nittany Lions’ 88-57 loss at Michigan State.

Derryck Thornton, Duke: Five points on 2-for-9 shooting, two assists and three turnovers in the Blue Devils’ 76-62 loss at Pittsburgh.

Sterling Gibbs, Connecticut: Five points (1-for-5 FG), three assists and three turnovers in the Huskies’ 75-68 home loss to Houston.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 6 Michigan State took care of business in East Lansing, beating Penn State 88-57. Denzel Valentine led the way with 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Spartans, who have won four straight games.
  • No. 13 Oregon completed an undefeated season at home and also maintained sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 with an 86-73 win over Washington. Elgin Cook finished with 26 points and seven rebounds and Dillon Brooks added 19 points for the Ducks, who close out the regular season at the L.A. schools next week.
  • No. 24 SMU moved back into a tie for first in the American with a 74-53 home win over Tulane. Ben Moore led a balanced offensive effort with 16 points while also grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking two shots, and Sterling Brown added 15 points and four assists.

OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS

  • While Connecticut is well-positioned to return to the NCAA tournament, they did themselves no favors with a 75-68 home loss to Houston. UConn’s defense was the issue, as the Cougars managed to shoot 51.9 percent from the field.
  • Saint Joseph’s avoided what would have been a bad loss, pulling away in the second half to beat Saint Louis 77-63. DeAndre Bembry and Isaiah Miles combined to score 45 points, with Bembry adding eight rebounds and six assists to his game-high 27 points.
  • Creighton, which has a lot of work to do to get back into the bubble conversation, steamrolled St. John’s 100-59 in Omaha. Seniors Geoffrey Groselle and James Milliken combined to score 41 points for the Bluejays, and St. John’s head coach Chris Mullin was ejected in the second half.
  • Tennessee State picked up a confidence boost of sorts with an 87-72 win over OVC regular season champion Belmont. Keron DeShields scored 25 for the Tigers, who will be the four-seed in next week’s OVC tournament and could face Belmont in the semifinals.
  • Monmouth locked up the outright MAAC regular season title with a 77-68 win over Niagara. Next up for King Rice’s Hawks will be either the Purple Eagles or Quinnipiac in Friday’s MAAC quarterfinals.
  • Iona will be the two-seed at the MAAC tournament, and they capped their regular season with an 86-78 home win over Canisius. Tim Cluess’ Gaels will play either Canisius or Marist in their quarterfinal matchup Friday.
  • Tulsa suffered a damaging loss as it looks to earn an NCAA tournament bid, falling 92-82 at Memphis. Shaq Goodwin led the Tigers with 28 points while also grabbing 11 boards, and Dedric Lawson finished with 27, 12 and six assists.
  • Valparaiso, already the Horizon League regular season champion, moved to 26-5 on the season with a 70-68 win at Green Bay. Alec Peters finished with 25 points and 15 rebounds.
  • Wisconsin won for the tenth time in the last 11 games, beating Michigan 68-57 in Madison. Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown combined to score 30 points and grab 11 boards for the Badgers, who are now part of a four-team logjam for second place in the Big Ten.
  • Nevada, which went 5-13 in Mountain West play a season ago, moved to 10-6 under first-year head coach Eric Musselman with an 87-80 overtime win over Colorado State. D.J. Fenner and Tryon Criswell combined to score 47 points and Cameron Oliver, who’s been the conference’s best freshman, finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Wolf Pack.
  • Oregon State took care of business in its home finale, beating Washington State 69-49. Gary Payton II (who brought his father’s number out of the rafters for Senior Night), Tres Tinkle and Drew Eubanks scored 13 points apiece for the Beavers.
  • Virginia Tech locked up a first-round bye in the ACC tournament with an 81-74 win at Wake Forest. Justin Bibbs led four Hokies in double figures with 22 points.
  • California extended its win streak to seven straight games with an 87-65 win over USC in Berkeley. Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown scored 18 apiece for the Golden Bears, who went 18-0 at Haas Pavilion this season.