The 12th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels continue a three-game road trip on Saturday, as they take on the Pittsburgh Panthers in an ACC showdown at the Petersen Events Center.
UNC hasn't played since last Saturday, a 79-68 win at Boston College. The victory improved Roy Williams' squad to 18-6 overall and 8-3 in the ACC, good for a tie for third place with Duke and Louisville. North Carolina will wrap up its road trip next Wednesday at arch-rival Duke.
Jamie Dixon's Panthers are in the midst of a daunting three-game gauntlet that started this past Wednesday with a 69-56 loss at ninth-ranked Louisville. The setback halted a three-game win streak for Pittsburgh, which now stands at 16-9 overall, but just 5-6 in conference play. The Panthers will close out the treacherous set with a trip to second-ranked Virginia on Monday.
North Carolina has won eight of the 10 all-time meetings with Pittsburgh. The two teams split a pair of meetings last season, as North Carolina won in Chapel Hill (75-71), while Pittsburgh got the last laugh in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals (80-75).
Roy Williams moved Isaiah Hicks into the starting lineup for just the second time this season and the moved paid off in a big way, as the 6-8 sophomore netted a career-high 21 points in the win over Boston College. Brice Johnson had a big game as well, recording a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds for UNC, which outscored BC in the paint, 46-32. Star guard Marcus Paige played second-fiddle to the team's interior game, adding 13 points in the win.
Strong offensive numbers have been the norm in Chapel Hill this season, as the Tar Heels are netting 78.8 ppg on a healthy .469 shooting effort. The team usually can enforce its will on the boards as well and sports an impressive +9.7 rebounding margin (fourth in the nation), grabbing 42.8 boards per outing (second nationally). Everything funnels through Paige, as the junior guard tops the team in scoring (14.2 ppg), assists (4.2 apg) and steals (34). Big man Kennedy Meeks (12.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 30 blocks) and Johnson (12.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 26 blocks) are a potent one-two punch in the low post. Freshman Justin Jackson (9.9 ppg) and junior J.P. Tokoto (8.7 ppg) are regular contributors as well.
The Panthers trailed by only five points at halftime (27-22), but Louisville went on a crippling 22-2 run in the second half to put the game out of reach at the KFC Yum! Center. The Cardinals shot 50 percent from the field in the game, while the Panthers delivered on just 37.7 percent in the loss. Michael Young led the way in defeat with 16 points. Jamel Artis just missed a double- double with 15 points and nine rebounds.
Young has had a strong season and currently leads Pittsburgh in both scoring (13.3 ppg) and rebounding (7.8 rpg). Artis however, has come on strong to challenge Young. The 6-7 sophomore has been on a blistering pace over the last eight games and is now averaging 12.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per outing. James Robinson (10.0 ppg) rounds out the double-digit averages on the Pitt roster, although Cameron Wright (9.1 ppg) and Chris Jones (8.8 ppg) are eager to join the group.