Heels end losing skid against last-place Pitt

The tension surrounding North Carolina’s basketball eased a bit as the Tar Heels ran past Pittsburgh 96-65 in Chapel Hill. Six Carolina players scored in double figures but the biggest lift may have come from a player who scored just two points. Theo Pinson, who was injured against Clemson, returned to the lineup and led the Heels in rebounding with 13 and in assists with eight, while turning the ball over just once. “He is 1 for 7 (shooting), and he is one of the most important players in the game,” UNC coach Roy Williams said pointing to his rebounds, […]

The tension surrounding North Carolina’s basketball eased a bit as the Tar Heels ran past Pittsburgh 96-65 in Chapel Hill.

Six Carolina players scored in double figures but the biggest lift may have come from a player who scored just two points. Theo Pinson, who was injured against Clemson, returned to the lineup and led the Heels in rebounding with 13 and in assists with eight, while turning the ball over just once.

“He is 1 for 7 (shooting), and he is one of the most important players in the game,” UNC coach Roy Williams said pointing to his rebounds, assists. “That’s what we need him to do.”

The Tar Heels also got a lift from Luke Maye, who scored only four points in the loss at Clemson. Maye led all scorers with 26 points, going three of five from the three-point line and five of five from the free throw line.

“Shot free throws better. Shot it from three a lot better,” Maye said. “It was a lot better performance. It is a lot better when the ball goes in the basket.”

Carolina broke open a close game with a 14-3 run late in the first half to take a 45-35 halftime lead. The Heels poured it on in the second half as their defense held the Panthers to just 30 percent shooting in the half. The win stopped a three-game losing streak and avoided what would have only been the second four-game losing streak for the Heels during the Roy Williams era.

“When we play hard and play together, we are a very dangerous team,” Pinson said. “That’s something we lost a little bit in January so we just needed to pick that up and we did a good job of that.”

Coach Williams said his team’s emphasis for the game revolved around defense, rebounding on both ends of the court and making more of an effort. “Our guys around here, you lose a couple and they start to feel the pressure because they are such good kids,” he said. “I think we were tight early, and we missed some shots… You lose yourself yourself in the game by diving onto the floor, sprinting back, and all of sudden things get easier for you.”

In addition to Maye’s 26 points, those scoring in double figures were Kenny Williams with 15, Cam Johnson with 14, Joel Berry with 12, Garrison Brooks with 10 and Sterling Manley with 10.

The Tar Heels, who host rival Duke Thursday night, improve to 17-7 and 6-5 in the league while Pitt, in the midst of an 11-game losing streak, falls to 8-16 and 0-11 in the ACC.

For a box score and more on the game, including information about Johnson playing his former team, please click here.