Previewing Pittsburgh

No. 12 North Carolina returns to action against Pittsburgh on Saturday following its ACC mid-week bye. Tip-off at the Petersen Events Center is set for noon and will be televised by the ACC Network.

North Carolina (18-6, 8-3) vs. Pittsburgh (16-9, 5-6)
Pittsburgh, Pa. - Petersen Events Center
Saturday, 12:00 p.m.
ACCN (Tim Brando, Mike Gminski)

Quotables

“We have won 16 games. Simply put, there isn’t much of a margin for error. With 10 minutes left, we have every opportunity to win. At that point, it isn’t if you are young — you have to execute and play through some things that didn’t go well or didn’t go our way. We have the ability, we have the guys, we have the players, we are not too young, we have enough to do it. We just have to go do it.” - Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon

PREGAME NOTES

Season to Date: Pittsburgh enters Saturday’s contest with a 16-9 (5-6 ACC) record. The Panthers been consistently average and has struggled to separate themselves from the pack in the ACC. Head coach Jamie Dixon’s squad is under .500 in conference play. The Panthers are currently in the middle of a tough stretch that includes a loss at No. 9 Louisville and games against UNC and No. 2 Virginia. The Panthers currently reside on the NCAA Tournament bubble and could improve their odds with a win over the Tar Heels.

Big Men Up Front: Pitt has a tradition of having tough, physical forwards. Although the frontcourt lacks depth, Pitt has two highly effective starting forwards in sophomores Michael Young and Jamel Artis. They lead the team in minutes (Young 32.2 mpg; Artis 30.1 mpg) and scoring (Young 13.2 ppg; Artis 12.8 ppg). Arits has played particularly well of late, winning ACC Player of the Week honors last week. The Baltimore native also had 15 points and 9 rebounds against a tough Louisville frontline on Wednesday night.

Defense Not as Formidable: Dixon’s teams have typically held a well-deserved reputation for playing great defense. This year the Panthers haven’t lived up to their coach’s high standards. So far this season, opposing offenses are shooting 44.6 percent against Pittsburgh, representing the worst field goal percentage defense in the ACC. To make matters worse, Pitt is 14th in the league at defending the 3-point shot as opponents are hitting 34.6 percent of their attempts from deep.

Comfortable at Home: Away from the friendly confines of Petersen Events Center, the Panthers’ record stands at a lowly 1-6. At home, however, Pitt has been outstanding. The Panthers have a 12-2 home record that includes a 76-72 win over No. 10 Notre Dame.

Strong Distribution Center: Pittsburgh has really excelled in sharing the ball this season. Collectively, the Panthers have averaged 16.5 assists per game, which is the second-highest total in the ACC (trailing only North Carolina at 17.3). For this offense, the player that drives the bus is point guard James Robinson. The junior guard has started 92 of a possible 93 games in his career thus far. This season, Robinson has the second-highest assist average in the conference (5.08 per game) to go along with 10.2 points per game.

Wright a Game-Time Decision: Starting guard Cameron Wright, who is averaging 9.1 points per game, will be a game-time decision on Saturday. He sat out Wednesday's loss to Louisville with a sprained left ankle.

Last Meeting: The Panthers defeated the Tar Heels, 80-75, in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals at the Greensboro Coliseum on March 14, 2014. UNC fell behind by 18 points before rallying to get within four points in the final minute. Pittsburgh outscored UNC, 21-6, in second-chance points. Marcus Paige led all scorers with 27 points.

Series History: UNC leads the all-time series with Pittsburgh, 8-2.

Projected Starters:
21 Michael Young (6-9, 235, So.) - 13.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg
22 Jamel Artis (6-7, 220, So.) - 12.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg
33 James Robinson (6-3, 198, Jr.) - 10.0 ppg, 5.1 apg
24 Chris Jones (6-6, 213, So.) - 8.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg 03 Cameron Wright (6-5, 205, Sr.) - 9.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg

Top Reserves:
00 Sheldon Jeter (6-8, 225, So.) - 3.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg
11 Josh Newkirk (6-1, 185, So.) - 7.0 ppg, 3.4 apg



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