WASHINGTON -- The shot selection kept getting better and that translated on the scoreboard for No. 7 North Carolina in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals.
"The second half, we did a much better job offensively and we got better shots," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said after an 88-71 victory over Pittsburgh on Thursday afternoon at the Verizon Center.
Guard Joel Berry scored 20 points and forward Brice Johnson added 19 as North Carolina blew out Pittsburgh in the second half, when the Tar Heels shot 61.5 percent from the field.
Forward Justin Jackson's 11 points and forward Isaiah Hicks' 10 points also helped top-seeded North Carolina (26-6).
"The last three minutes of the first half we got (going)," Jackson said. "The second half, we started to build on that."
Pittsburgh, despite pulling even early in the second half, didn't have answers at the defensive end.
"We played well in the first half and did some good things," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. "As the game progressed, our defense caught up to us."
The Tar Heels meet the Duke-Notre Dame winner in Friday night's first semifinal.
Forwards Michael Young and Jamel Artis each scored 19 points and forward Sheldon Jeter had 11 points to pace eighth-seeded Pittsburgh (21-11), which has lost three of its last four games.
A day after Pittsburgh might have damaged Syracuse's NCAA Tournament hopes with a one-point victory, the Panthers couldn't do the same as far as the Tar Heels' bid for a No. 1 regional seed.
Dixon said he's uncertain if fatigue played a factor.
"Possibly we didn't play enough guys," he said. "You can point to our defense. Their size and the way they were scoring way too easily."
Jackson, who was scoreless in the first half, had nine points in the first 10 minutes of the second half as the Tar Heels began to pull away.
"We had an inside and outside attack," Berry said. "We were sitting on 3s ready to shoot. ... You could tell our intensity started picking up."
Six North Carolina players had at least eight points.
"They had a lot of people that they were throwing at us," Young said. "They were just rotating guys."
Then seldom-used North Carolina guard Kenny Williams entered for the first time and bagged a 3-pointer for a 66-55 lead. Williams, who played in only two of the previous six games, hadn't scored since Jan. 20 against Wake Forest.
"I've always got to be ready," he said.
Johnson made 8 of 11 shots from the field and Berry was 7 of 8.
Pittsburgh shot 40.7 percent from the floor in the second half.
"We didn't let them get comfortable," North Carolina guard Theo Pinson said.
The Panthers had stayed within range despite a couple of strong North Carolina runs.
After Pittsburgh tied the score at 45, guard Marcus Paige's 3-pointer and Pinson's basket in the lane steadied the Tar Heels.
North Carolina converted off two Pittsburgh turnovers in the final minute of the first half to claim a 39-35 lead at the break. Those plays were part of a 10-0 run to end the half.
Berry had 13 first-half points, hitting all six of his shots from the field. That bolstered the Tar Heels to 56.7 percent for the half from the floor.
Pittsburgh scored the game's first eight points. North Carolina took its first lead at 16-14 on guard Nate Britt's three-point play with 12:07 left.
The Panthers regained a flow and took a 33-26 lead before the Tar Heels' burst.
NOTES: North Carolina holds the tournament's No. 1 seed for the 25th time. ... G Cameron Johnson, a redshirt freshman, made his first career start for Pittsburgh a day after scoring a season-high 24 points against Syracuse. ... C Joel James and F Luke Maye didn't play in North Carolina's regular-season finale on Saturday night at Duke, but they both came off the bench in the first half against Pittsburgh. ... This was Pittsburgh's third season in the ACC and the second time the teams have met in the quarterfinals. Pittsburgh won in 2014. ... The Tar Heels won this year's regular-season meeting 85-64 at home last month. ... North Carolina G Marcus Paige was honored before the game as the recipient of the Skip Prosser Award as the ACC Scholar-Athlete for men's basketball.