Pittsburgh Panthers vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Pick & Prediction JANUARY 2nd 2024

Winless in its first pair of Atlantic Coast Conference matchups, Pitt will take another try at getting in the win column in league play against No. 8 North Carolina at home Tuesday night.

The Panthers (9-4, 0-2 ACC) fumbled a halftime lead against rival Syracuse in an 81-73 loss on Saturday. Pitt coach Jeff Capel noticed a difference in intensity between the two sides.

“I thought they played with such energy (and) a sense of urgency,” Capel told reporters postgame. “We didn’t match it. We were weak. They were knocking the ball away from us. They were out-hustling us. We would get rebounds and they knocked the ball away from us.”

Carlton Carrington paced the Panthers with 17 points and had seven rebounds against the Orange. Guillermo Diaz Graham added 14 points, but Blake Hinson — who entered among the nation’s leaders in scoring — was limited to 11 on 3-of-12 shooting.

Against the Tar Heels (9-3, 1-0), Pitt will have to deal with guard RJ Davis, who recorded his first career double-double of points and assists in a 105-60 home win over Charleston Southern on Friday.

Davis finished with 20 points and 10 assists in 26 minutes on the floor.

“He’s in a really good rhythm,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said. “His leadership has been off the charts this year, his defense has been terrific and there are very few players that from an offensive standpoint have the ability to score with the ball in his hands and off the ball — and still be able to distribute and get other people involved.”

The Tar Heels won their league opener at home against Florida State, 78-70, on Dec. 2.

Now, after eight weeks of home games and neutral-site contests, North Carolina will play its first true road game of the season at Pitt.

“I think it’s overrated in terms of playing in somebody else’s gym,” Hubert Davis said. “The basket is still the same. As a player I never was like, ‘Man, I don’t know if I can play there because of the crowd and I’m away from the Smith Center.’ Whether it’s at Pittsburgh and Clemson, North Carolina State or Chapel Hill, let’s compete and see what we can do.”

RJ Davis leads the Tar Heels with 21.7 points per game, while Armando Bacot helps with 15.1.

North Carolina puts up a conference-high 86.2 points per game, while Pitt is good for 80.5.

One weak spot for Pitt has been free-throw shooting. The Panthers are shooting 66.55 percent from the foul line this season, ranking 292nd in Division I. They went just 11 of 24 at the stripe in the eight-point loss to Syracuse.

“It’s nothing that I can do or any coach can do,” Capel said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We can practice them, which we do. We have to be able to have the necessary strength to step up and make free throws in situations that extend the lead, to cut into a lead, to stop a run — things like that.”

–Field Level Media

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