North Carolina (16-7, 6-4) vs. Pittsburgh (20-5, 8-4)
Chapel Hill, N.C. -- Smith Center
Saturday, 1 p.m.
CBS (Ian Eagle, Greg Anthony)
“The thing we have been working on as a team [is] we have young big guys and finishing around the rim is something that we are trying to improve and get better at… Finishing inside with our big guys and with our three freshmen, as well as Talib [Zanna], is something we need to improve on, there is no question. We are getting the ball where we want to get it; we’re getting it in good spots. We have to do a better job of finishing out of it.” – Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon
Season to Date: Pitt enters Saturday’s contest with a 20-5 (8-4 ACC) record. The Panthers won 16 of their first 17 games, with the lone loss coming by one point to No. 10 Cincinnati (44-43). Since jumping out to a 4-0 start in its first ACC season, Jamie Dixon’s squad has split its last eight league games. Pitt lost on Wednesday night to top-ranked Syracuse (58-56) on a 35-foot buzzer-beating heave by Tyler Ennis. The Panthers’ five losses have come against teams ranked 17th or higher in the current AP poll – Syracuse (twice), No. 8 Duke, Cincinnati and No. 17 Virginia.
Patterson Pacing Pitt: Senior forward Lamar Patterson joined Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis and C.J. Fair and Duke’s Jabari Parker as the ACC’s lone representation on the Naismith Trophy Midseason Watch List announced earlier this week. The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder out of Lancaster, Pa. has earned ACC Player of the Week honors on three occasions and ranks fourth in league play in scoring (17.3 ppg). Patterson has struggled shooting the ball against competition (41.0), although he’s remained effective from 3-point range (38.5). The fifth-year wing injured his thumb against Miami and the severity was evident in a 1-of-9 shooting display in the overtime win against Virginia Tech on Feb. 8.
Injuries Mounting: Long before Patterson hurt his thumb, sophomore wing Durand Johnson (8.8 ppg) was lost for the season due to a torn ACL and meniscus injury suffered against Wake Forest on Jan. 11. That season-ending injury limited Pitt’s effectiveness in going small, as Johnson at the three and Patterson at the four served up a difficult matchup for opposing defenses. Senior forward Talib Zanna (12.7 ppg, 7.9 rpg) has been hobbled with a sprained ankle over the past two weeks but played well in 29 minutes against Syracuse (16 points, 14 rebounds).
Efficiency on Both Ends: The Panthers’ balanced approach is the cornerstone of their success this season. In ACC play, Pitt ranks fourth in field goal percentage (44.5) and fifth in 3-point field goal percentage (36.4), while ranking fifth in field goal percentage defense (40.7) and fourth in 3-point field goal percentage defense (33.2). Those statistics correlate to overall efficiency as Dixon’s squad ranks 28th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 15th in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com. Add in a fourth-place residence in rebounding margin (plus-2.8), turnover margin (plus-1.67) and assist-turnover ratio (1.4) and Pitt’s resume explains why it’s currently fourth in the ACC standings.
Pace of Play: Pitt ranks 312th in kenpom.com’s adjusted tempo rankings (63.7) and rank fifth in the ACC in scoring defense (60.0). Dixon’s preferred style of play allows his team to keep more talented opponents within striking distance, although it also affords those less talented the same luxury. Five of Pitt’s last six games have been decided by a combined 18 points with two going to overtime. The Panthers represent the fifth ACC opponent for UNC that ranks north of 300 in adjusted tempo. The Tar Heels are 1-3 in those games.
Random Fact of the Day: Raleigh, N.C. native Josh Newkirk is highlighted in the school’s game notes as being the first player to commit to Pitt on Twitter.
Last Meeting: UNC defeated Pitt, 82-61, on Nov. 29, 1996 at the Smith Center.
Series History: The Tar Heels lead the all-time series with Pitt, 7-1. The Panthers’ lone win came in the 1941 NCAA Tournament by a score of 26-20.
0 James Robinson (6-3, 200, So.) - 8.2 ppg, 4.0 apg
3 Cameron Wright (6-4, 205, Jr.) - 10.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg
21 Lamar Patterson (6-5, 225, Sr.) - 17.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.4 apg
2 Michael Young (6-8, 245, Fr.) - 5.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg
42 Talib Zanna (6-9, 230, Sr.) - 12.7 ppg, 7.9 rpg
1 Jamel Artis (6-7, 230, Fr.) - 4.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg
13 Josh Newkirk (6-1, 185, Fr.) - 3.7 ppg, 1.4 apg
11 Derrick Randall (6-9, 240, Jr.) - 2.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg
Roster & Bios
(Photos by USA Today Sports)