CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill men’s basketball team came to play Wednesday night riding the NCAA bubble, and a home game against the below-.500 University of Pittsburgh seemed like the perfect remedy to help improve the Tar Heels’ standing and push for the postseason.
Instead, it turned out to be just the opposite, as an in-conference loss will now weigh heavy on their postseason bid.
Pittsburgh stunned UNC 76-67 inside the Dean Dome and had the Tar Heels scratching their heads.
“We just didn’t play the way I hoped, anticipated, thought we would play,” UNC head coach Hubert Davis said shaking his head. “With so much to play for. With so much motivation to compete and have fun, I’m just very disappointed.”
Slow starts have been a problem for UNC (18-8, 10-5 ACC) this season and were again against a team with the worst offense in the ACC.
The Panthers shot 51-percent for the game, including 59-percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
The Tar Heels trailed by as many as 21 points before cutting the lead to six points with two minutes remaining, only to fall short.
“I don’t think we were ready at the level we needed to be,” forward Leaky Black said, who finished with 11 points. “We came out sluggish and they hit us in the mouth.”
To be fair, Pittsburgh (11-16, 6-10 ACC) is arguably playing its best basketball of the season, riding a three-game win streak.
But this is a game the Tar Heels could ill afford to lose given their tenuous postseason position.
“We’re upset,” Tar Heels guard Caleb Love said when asked about the mood in the UNC locker room after the game. “This is a terrible loss.”
And now UNC will try to turn the page as the regular season quickly winds down.
“We’ve got no choice,” Davis said. “You can sit here and whine and complain and point fingers and make excuses and continue to be down on yourself, or you can show up the next day and get ready to compete and fight. And that’s my expectation.”
Next up for the Tar Heels is a Saturday 4 p.m. matchup with Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, against the 16-10 Hokies.