Pitt men’s basketball comes away with another crucial win over North Carolina 65-64


AP Photo/Chris Seward

Pittsburgh center Federiko Federiko (33) goes in for a dunk against North Carolina during the second half ofan NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, in Chapel Hill, N.C.

By Jack Markowski, Staff Writer

Coming off the heels of perhaps their biggest win of the season against Miami, Pitt (16-7, 9-3 ACC) may have one-upped themselves on Wednesday night. 

Facing North Carolina on the road (15-7, 6-4 ACC), the Panthers got the best of the Tar Heels in a back-and-forth affair that resulted in a 65-64 Pitt victory. 

Graduate student guard Nelly Cummings turned in one of his best performances of the season with 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Graduate student guard Jamarius Burton added 19 points of his own, spearheaded by an impressive second half showing. 

Junior forward Blake Hinson opened the scoring just over two minutes into the game with a mid-range jumper off the backboard. Graduate student forward Pete Nance hit a three-pointer on the subsequent possession for the Tar Heels’ first bucket of the game, making it 3-2. 

Cummings and UNC junior guard Caleb Love traded threes on consecutive trips down the floor at the 16:03 and 15:45 marks respectively, giving UNC an early 9-5 lead. 

Nance and Love pushed the Tar Heels lead to 14-7 following the media timeout at 15:31. Cummings responded with a pair of clutch buckets of his own, keeping the Panthers within three. 

Graduate student guard Greg Elliott made the Panthers’ first field goal in four minutes with a pull-up jumper at the 9:33 mark, making it 19-15. He then later hit a corner three in transition two possessions that brought Pitt within one.

The Panthers took advantage of back-to-back travels by the Tar Heels, gaining their first lead of the game on a Burton three with just less than seven minutes remaining in the half. 

Pitt then extended their lead to 23-19 on a pair of Burton free throws before a deep Love three made it 23-22. 

North Carolina tied the game at 26-26 a few minutes later then took a 28-26 lead on the ensuing possession after Bacot made both free throws on an one-and-one opportunity. 

Redshirt senior guard Nike Sibande quickly tied the game on a transition lay-up before Cummings hit a mid-range jumper, giving Pitt a two point lead

Love gave North Carolina a 31-30 lead on a free throw with just over a minute into the half, but a Sibande lay-up gave the Panthers a 34-33 lead heading into halftime. 

The Panthers failed to contain the Tar Heels on the glass in the first half, as they were out-rebounded 23 to 16 while affording North Carolina consistent second-chance opportunities. 

Love and Cummings were the only two players who reached double-digit points in the half, leading their teams in scoring with 13 and 12 points respectively. Junior guard R.J. Davis and Burton, who are among the leading scorers in the ACC, struggled to find  momentum as they shot a combined 2-for-14 from the field. 

A Burton second-chance layup opened the second half scoring and made it 36-33. Sophomore center Federiko Federiko added a layup on his own on a nice dish from Cummings, pushing the score to 38-33 at the 18:08 mark. 

Things got chippy between the two sides on an inbound pass for the Panthers at the 17:24 mark and the referees gave Davis and Cummings each a technical foul. 

A Davis transition layup awarded the Tar Heels a 39-38 lead just over four minutes into the second half. A Bacot free-throw made it 44-40 in favor of North Carolina at the 13:44 mark. Cummings then went on a blistering 9-0 run with three-straight from behind the arc, catapulting the Panthers to a 49-46 lead., 

A Burton jumper pushed it to 57-50 and killed the Tar Heels’ momentum for the time being. North Carolina brought the crowd back into the equation after cutting the Panther lead to 59-55 and played heavily through Bacot, who made it a three-point game shortly after. 

Love then tied the game at 61-61 on a deep contested three that sent the home crowd into a frenzy, reinvigorating the Tar Heels’ confidence. 

Cummings fouled out with two minutes left and put Davis, the player he was jawing with all half, at the line with a chance to tie it. The foul also left Pitt without its most reliable offensive weapon in a game that looked poised for late drama. 

Davis made it 63-62 before Bacot, the hero of the half, gave North Carolina a one-point lead with a pair of free throws. He quickly became the scapegoat though, as he traveled against a double-team and granted Pitt the ball with a chance to swing the pendulum once again. 

Burton was fouled on the next possession and put the Panthers up one after a trip to the line. North Carolina put their faith in Love to win it on the last shot of the game, but a Sibande block ended any hopes of pandemonium in Chapel Hill and clinched the win for Pitt. 

The Panthers’ ability to remain composed paid off once again tonight. Pitt never let the game get away despite playing in a tough road environment and consistently matched the Tar Heels’ physicality. 

Cummings and Burton both came up clutch time and time again and kept pace with North Carolina’s playmakers. Federiko’s defense and rim-protection emerged as a difference-maker too, as he held Bacot in check in the first half and clogged up the paint all night.

The Panthers’ ACC schedule continues with a home game against Louisville next Tuesday. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. and coverage will air on the ACC Network.