UNC 81, Georgia Tech 49 F

Sharp-Shooting Panthers Rip Tar Heels

The No. 12 North Carolina men’s basketball team couldn’t match the sharp shooting and the season-high point production of the Pittsburgh Panthers Saturday afternoon at the Peterson Events Center, falling 89-76.

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With the loss, the Tar Heels dropped to 18-7 overall and 8-4 in the ACC. With the victory, the Panthers improved to 17-9 on the season with a 5-7 mark in league play.

Pitt’s 65-percent shooting day was the best field goal shooting percentage by a Carolina opponent in the Roy Williams era.

The Panthers were led by sophomore forward Sheldon Jeter, who tallied 22 points on 10-14 shooting.

Sheldon Jeter takes a jumper (Pitt Athletics)

Sheldon Jeter takes a jumper (Pitt Athletics)

Pitt didn’t miss a single shot for the first five minutes of action in the second half to emphatically cement its authority on the contest.

As for Carolina, despite getting the better of the boards with a 31-27 rebounding edge, it couldn’t find the offensive firepower necessary to keep pace with Pitt in this outing.

UNC head coach Roy Williams says his team ran into a buzzsaw.

“They made a bunch of shots. I think they made more threes in the first half than their average for the year. We helped them because we didn’t guard them very effectively. Their looks were open looks. Still, you don’t have to make them all. But they made a bunch of shots and should be congratulated for that,” Coach Williams says.

***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***

UNC junior forward Brice Johnson led UNC in scoring with 19 points while sophomore Kennedy Meeks produced 15 points of his own. UNC’s junior guard Marcus Paige, who normally provides some offensive spark for the Tar Heels, went cold Saturday, only connecting on three shots from the field to finish with a mere eight points.

Outside the lines of the basketball court, Coach Williams says he was touched by the Pittsburgh student section’s tribute to legendary UNC coach Dean Smith.

“That was a pretty neat thing what those kids did out there. They gave me a card signed by a bunch of kids sharing their condolences over the loss of Coach Smith. They also gave me the banner they were holding up before the game. College athletics is not all bad. I told those kids I would keep those. They will never be tossed. I will always have those,” Coach Williams says.

Early on, it was all Pitt. The Panthers, capitalizing on Tar Heel turnovers, sprinted out to a 10-0 lead just three minutes into the contest.

But from there, UNC settled in to the proceedings. A Joel Berry three-pointer cut the deficit down to a five-point margin at 12-7 with 13:20 on the first half clock.

With 7:51 to play, the Panthers led 26-22 and continued to shoot the ball well, while the Tar Heels answered with some solid offensive production of their own coming from a variety of angles – Meeks in the post, Paige from outside and others in between.

But Pitt got more contributions from Jeter and James Robinson to spurt ahead again, taking another 10-point advantage with a 38-28 lead. The Panthers simply couldn’t miss. At the half, UNC trailed Pitt 48-34.

Brice Johnson was one of the lone bright spots for UNC Saturday (Todd Melet)

Brice Johnson was one of the lone bright spots for UNC Saturday (Todd Melet)

Out of the locker room, Pitt continued to have its way against the UNC defense, knocking down shot after shot from behind the arc to increase its lead out to 57-38 with 17:08 remaining.

The Tar Heels could muster up little resistance to the hot-shooting abilities up the determined Panther attack firing on all cylinders.

A 21-point Pitt lead with 6:59 to go was plenty enough for the Panthers to cruise to the finish line and earn a much-needed signature win in the ACC with a NCAA Tournament berth in mind.

“That was their `A’ game,” UNC’s Marcus Paige says. “We didn’t bring ours, anywhere close to ours. They needed a big win. They saw this as a great opportunity and took advantage of it.”

Next up for the Tar Heels comes a rivalry matchup with No. 4 Duke Wednesday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium. If UNC doesn’t prevail in that one, it will have lost four of its last five contests with only five games left in the regular season.



Rested, Fresh Tar Heels Head To ‘Oakland Zoo’ To Tame Panthers

The No. 12 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 18-6 overall and 8-3 in conference, will play its first ACC game in Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon when it takes on the Pitt Panthers, who come in with a 16-9 mark on the season and 5-5 ledger in the league.

***Listen to the story***

After a week-long hiatus spent absorbing the news of Carolina legend Dean Smith’s passing while hitting the practice courts, UNC should be eager to tip things off at high noon Saturday.

The ‘Oakland Zoo’, as they call the boisterous student section at the Peterson Events Center, will be ready as well, doing their part to guide the Panthers to an upset victory over the Tar Heels.

The Pittsburgh student section AKA Oakland Zoo (Panther Athletics)

The Pittsburgh student section AKA Oakland Zoo (Panther Athletics)

UNC sophomore forward Isaiah Hicks, meanwhile, will be looking to block out the noise and continue on his upward trajectory. In his last outing at Boston College, Hicks tallied a career-high 21 points.

Junior guard Marcus Paige was impressed.

“He was a beast on the block. He went to his right-hand jump hook. He hit the boards. He was really impressive, especially for a guy in his second career start. I was proud of the way he fought for us,” Paige says.

Hicks says his offensive performance can vary from game to game, but on the defensive end, it’s another story.

“At times, it’s been on and off. But on the defensive side, it’s always been on because it’s something you can control. Effort is all about you, your brain and body. That’s something you can easily control,” Hicks says.

UNC head coach Roy Williams says Hicks has emerged as the premier defensive stalwart for the Tar Heels, and with the recent losses, Hicks has been getting more minutes.

“Defensively, he’s won the defensive player of the game I think more than anybody on our team. He’s been trying to do some good things. You lose two in a row, you can’t say everything’s rosy. I wasn’t ready to jump off the building, but you got to try something different,” Coach Williams says.

Isaiah Hicks extends for the slam (Nick Vitali)

Isaiah Hicks extends for the slam (Nick Vitali)

In the second half last weekend against the Eagles, Paige says his teammates were able to make some strides thanks in large part to enigmatic junior forward J.P. Tokoto’s play.

“It’s more about playing a little bit harder and playing together. We did a great job of screening for each other in the second half and working to get great shots. J.P. set the tone for us defensively. He [Tokoto] did a great job being a pest on defense. Everybody followed that with intensity and urgency. The level of commitment to what we were doing ramped up another level,” Paige says.

Tokoto has been inconsistent this season. Bursts of breathtaking moments have been followed by bouts of sloppiness.

“J.P. gives us a third ball-handler in there when he makes the easy play. When he makes the easy play, they usually end up being assists. When he tries to hit the home run, it usually ends up being a turnover,” Coach Williams says.

Still in search of a marquee ACC win to put them on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, head coach Jamie Dixon’s Panthers fell just short of snagging one against the No. 9 Louisville Cardinals Wednesday evening.

Sophomore forwards Jamel Artis and Michael Young provide the most potent offensive attack for Pitt and will get most of the defensive attention from UNC.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the game, though, will occur before tipoff. Who will be in Carolina’s starting lineup? Coach Williams has been playing around with it lately and isn’t sure who will take the floor from the outset this weekend.

Carolina leads the all-time series with Pitt, 8-2, but the Tar Heels fell to the Panthers, 80-75, in ugly fashion in last year’s ACC Tournament quarterfinals in Greensboro.


UNC Heads to Pitt For Second ACC Contest

With the help of two-time ACC Player of the Week sophomore Stephanie Mavunga, the North Carolina women’s basketball team has jumped one spot to eighth-best in the national rankings.

The Tar Heels hold a record of 14-1 and are set to face the 10-4 Pittsburgh Panthers Thursday evening at 7 p.m. in the Steel City.

In this past week alone, Mavunga has averaged 24.5 points on 76 percent shooting from the field as well as 10.5 rebounds. Carolina’s low post has now become hers to dominate and Mavunga looks forward to leading her team into the next conference challenge.

“I know (Assistant Coach Andrew Calder) is always yelling at me to be patient, so I think I’m being a lot more patient,” Mavunga says. “And now that Xylina is not in there, I feel like (Danielle Butts) has more of an outside game than Xylina does, and that opens up the post a little more for me.”

The Tar Heels are up against an underdog that is quickly rising through the ranks, led by senior guard Brianna Kiesel. Kiesel averages 17.9 points, and almost five rebounds and assists per game.

Allisha Gray has been key to UNC's success this season (Elliott Rubin)

Allisha Gray has been key to UNC’s success this season (Elliott Rubin)

Although Pitt is unranked, they are starting their season with their best record in years at 10-4. Before a very narrow 6-point loss to No. 7 Louisville, the Panthers had not lost a game since December 7th.

Pitt and UNC have not had a matchup on the Panthers’ home court since January 2, 1981, in which the Tar Heels fell 79-67.

The game will be broadcast on 97.9 FM, WCHL and televised on ESPN3.


Tar Heels Tame Panthers For Happy Homecoming

The North Carolina football team rallied past Pittsburgh 40-35 Saturday afternoon thanks to a four-touchdown performance from quarterback Marquise Williams that electrified the Kenan Stadium crowd and evened the Tar Heels’ record at 5-5 overall and 3-3 in ACC play.

With the loss, the Panthers dropped to 4-6 on the year and 2-4 in conference play.

***Listen to the story***

Williams’ key fourth-down conversion kept the final drive alive for the Tar Heels and allowed for T.J. Logan to punch the ball in the end zone for the go-ahead score with 50 ticks remaining on the clock.

The win was absolutely vital for Carolina’s postseason chances. UNC head coach Fedora says he was happy with the perseverance of his team Saturday afternoon.

“We had a lot of guys who were very resilient and persevered when things didn’t look good. We were really positive all the time on the sideline with each other. No matter what mistakes were made, there was a lot of encouragement. They just kept playing. We talked about it during the week […] that if we stay together, we’ll be all right. We found a way to get the win,” Coach Fedora says.

In total, Williams tallied 276 yards and one touchdown through the air and racked up 122 yards on the ground with three scores. Logan led all UNC running backs with 92 yards and a touchdown that sealed the victory.

Pitt’s prolific running back James Conner didn’t disappoint. The sophomore churned out 220 yards and scored four touchdowns to lead the Panther offensive attack.

James Conner

James Conner rumbles ahead (Post-gazette.com)

The Panthers shot out to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter thanks to a pair of Conner touchdown runs, one for 56 yards and another from 16 yards out.

From there, the Tar Heels answered. A 23-yard dash on a keeper by Williams cut the deficit down to 14-7 with 12:03 on the second quarter clock.

But Pitt responded right back with a 50-yard touchdown pass from Chad Voytik to Tyler Boyd to extend their edge out to 21-7 with 6:57 left in the half.

A late scoring drive that served as the longest of UNC’s season, ended with a 2-yard touchdown by Williams around the end. But a failed two-point conversion attempt had the halftime scoreboard reading 21-13 in favor of the visitors from Pittsburgh.

In the second half, a 63-yard connection from Williams to Switzer narrowed the gap to a mere two points with 13:48 in the third quarter.

The Tar Heels got things clicking on offense, finding rhythm and distributing the ball effectively in a typically up-tempo manner.

But with 3:33 left in the game, Conner dashed into the end zone for his fourth score and gave his Panthers the 35-34 edge.

Marquise Williams and Ryan Switzer share a call with the coaching staff. (Elliott Rubin)

Marquise Williams and Ryan Switzer share a call with the coaching staff. (Elliott Rubin)

As it turns out, there was far too much time on the clock. UNC answered the bell with a gutsy drive that included a fourth down conversion from Williams and ultimately ended with the game-winning Logan rushing touchdown that sealed the 40-35 win.

Star signal caller Williams says he had no doubts about his ability to come up with the goods in his team’s final drive.

“If a team goes down to score and we have maybe three minutes to go, I go down to the right far end zone, stand by myself and get my thoughts together. I tell myself that I practice this every Wednesday. I told myself I’m going to win this two-minute drill for the team. It felt good,” Williams says.

Next up for the Tar Heels comes a short week of practice before a nationally-televised contest against 8-2 rival Duke Thursday night at Wallace Wade Stadium.



UNC Football Looking To Match Pitt’s Physicality Saturday

The 4-5 North Carolina football team desperately needs a Homecoming win against the 4-5 Pittsburgh Panthers Saturday. The 12:30 p.m. kickoff inside Kenan Stadium will feature one of the nation’s premier running backs, and he’s not playing for the Tar Heels.

***Listen to the story***

The Panthers are playing an old-school brand of power football that Pittsburgh fans enjoy and opposing ACC defenses lament.

UNC head coach Larry Fedora puts it bluntly, saying the Tar Heels have two choices this weekend – man up or take a beating.

“You have to come with a mentality that you’re going to match the physicality. If you don’t, you’re going to get embarrassed,” Coach Fedora says.

Sophomore wide receiver Ryan Switzer says the five losses have been hard to swallow, but the upperclassmen leadership is holding the team together with the stretch run of the season to come.

Switzer making people miss (UNC Athletics)

Switzer making people miss (UNC Athletics)

“It’s hard to stay positive when you have five losses. But that’s where the seniors and leaders on this team come into play. That’s how they earn their titles as leaders when we’re struggling. It’s our job as a team to stay positive. We have three big games left to finish the season,” Switzer says.

The star attraction for the Panthers is running back James Conner, who’s already racked up over 1,300 yards on the ground this year.

Coach Fedora says the Panther offense can wear out opposing defenses and will offer a severe challenge to the struggling Tar Heel unit.

“He’s [Conner] a big 6’ 2”, 250-pound guy that can go. They lead him with a 270-pound fullback and are really big up front. The quarterback is doing a nice job and then you’ve got the [Tyler] Boyd kid that makes all kinds of plays out at wide receiver for them. We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Coach Fedora says.

Coach Fedora is under no illusions. He doesn’t expect his defense to completely shut down a runner as talented as Conner, but he says the Tar Heels will have to limit his damage and come up big on third downs.

“I don’t know if you can go into the game and say you’re going to stop the run. We have to control the run. We have to be effective, force them into third downs and then get off the field on third down,” Coach Fedora says.

The Kenan scoreboard operators best be prepared for some fireworks Saturday.

Former Panther quarterback and current color analyst for Pitt radio Pat Bostick says although the game will feature two strong offenses, they both go about their business in very different ways.

“It’s two different styles. Carolina is going to run plays at a fever pace. They want to run fast. They want to run 75-80 plays a game and possess the ball for less than 25 minutes. Pitt’s going to want to do the opposite by running the football and score points running the football. The key for both of them is protecting the ball,” Bostick says.

James Conner (Post-gazette.com)

James Conner (Post-gazette.com)

Switzer, for one, recognizes the urgency surrounding this time of year. He says the Tar Heels need to take full advantage of each play on the football field with the finish line looming large.

“We don’t get to get these games back. It’s important for us to go into the next three games with that mindset. I feel like that will help us all as a team. You’re definitely not promised another game. We need to make sure that we don’t take these last few for granted and play with everything we have,” Switzer says.

Against a rugged Panther football team that likes to use ball control to eat up the clock with long, sustained drives, Coach Fedora says junior quarterback Marquise Williams and company must be efficient on offense to emerge victorious.

“They’re going to get in their base fronts and play football. They’re going be very sound, tackle well and be where they’re supposed to be. They’re going to make you beat them. We have to execute on offense to be able to do it. We have to get back to playing football the way we play it,” Coach Fedora says.

The Tar Heels lead the all-time series against the Panthers on the gridiron by a 5-3 margin and snagged the most recent meeting in 2013 – a 34-27 victory spurred on by a pair of Switzer punt returns that went the distance.

With both squads needing to win two of their final three games to qualify for the postseason, the stakes will be high Saturday afternoon in Kenan Stadium.


Scouting Report: Radio Analyst & Former Pitt QB Pat Bostick

WCHL’s Matt Oakes had the chance to chat with Pittsburgh color commentator and former Panther quarterback Pat Bostick. The two discussed Pitt’s transition into the ACC, star running back James Conner, the loss of historic rivalries and the keys to the Panthers-Tar Heels matchup this weekend.

***Listen to the interview***


UNC Men’s Soccer Takes Over No. 1 In CSN Poll

The UNC men’s soccer team surpassed the only team it has fallen to this season and now sits in the top spot in the nation, according to a recent poll.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 11.21.45 AM

Click to enlarge

College Soccer News ranked North Carolina No. 1 in the nation Monday after its 3-0 ACC win against Pittsburgh on Friday in Chapel Hill.

That win propelled the Tar Heels past the former No. 1, UCLA Bruins, who the Heels lost to, 1-0 in the Carolina Nike Classic on August 31.

The Bruins’ recent scoring woes helped contribute to the shift: UCLA is coming off a pair of 0-0 ties to Santa Clara and Cal Poly over the weekend.

Notre Dame held the No. 2 spot before Monday’s poll but fell to No. 4 after a 1-0 loss to Kentucky last Monday. Washington sits in the No. 3 spot, moving up two; Virginia rounds out the top five falling one spot.

The Tar Heels are back on the road and out of conference play Tuesday against William and Mary. That game can be seen on NSCAATV with the kickoff scheduled for 7:00 p.m.


UNC Men’s Basketball Schedule Released

The UNC men’s basketball team eases into its 2014-15 campaign, but the newly released schedule is highlighted by some high-level opponents.

View the Schedule

The new 15-member Atlantic Coast Conference is stacked with talent bringing Louisville to the mix this year after Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame joined last year. The Tar Heels face the Cardinals in a home-and-home conference series this season; Carolina faces Syracuse and Notre Dame in the Smith Center and will travel to Pittsburgh.

Only one of the UNC-Duke matchups is scheduled to be carried on both ESPN and the ACC Network this year. The rivalry is the only contest carried by two networks. The ACC Network could very well still pick up the season finale in Chapel Hill on March 7.

Out of conference, the Tar Heels travel to Lexington, Kentucky to face the Wildcats in mid-December. Last year, Kentucky traveled to Chapel Hill where Carolina handed out the 82-77 defeat of Wildcats.

McAdoo Emerges as ‘Giant Killer’ Carolina Edges Kentucky 82-77

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, UNC travels to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis. Carolina opens the tournament on Paradise Island against Butler and will face two other opponents out of the group of Oklahoma, UCLA, UAB, Florida, Georgetown, or Wisconsin.

Those dying to get to basketball season, you’ll be happy. Late Night with Roy comes three weeks earlier this year. The unofficial season tipoff is October 3.

Tar Heel Take: Late Night with Roy

The ACC officially announced the 2014-15 schedules Wednesday.


The Grid: Orange High Panthers

We continue our weekly preseason high school football series with a hop over to Hillsborough to check in on the Orange Panthers. The Panthers tore through the competition a year ago, just falling short of perfection at the final hurdle, but veteran head coach Pat Moser is back for another run in 2014.

***Listen to the story***

The Panthers were sitting at the doorstep of history in 2013, with only the Southern Durham Spartans standing in their way of an undefeated season.

Coach Moser says he wishes his squad could have cleared the final hurdle, but losing to the eventual state champions, featuring a quarterback who recently committed to play at Wake Forest, is nothing to be ashamed of.

“For us to be 10-1 at the end of the season, we felt pretty good. It was a very talented and good team in Southern Durham. They proved that by going on to win the whole thing. As far as we were concerned, we had a lot of fun. It was a great year for OrangeHigh School. We’re looking forward to this year,” Coach Moser says.

The Orange skipper identified a bevy of teams to watch out for in 2014, including Bill Hall’s Northwood team, defending champion Southern Durham, and an improving Chapel Hill squad.

Orange High field

Orange High field

Coach Moser says playing in the ultra-competitive 3A Big Eight conference is a double-edged sword.

“It’s tough to play that kind of competition week in and week out, mainly because if you’re not playing well for some reason one night, you can lose. But at the same time, playing that kind of competition prepares you for anybody you’re going to play in the states,” Coach Moser says.

The unquestioned leader of this Panther team is senior signal caller Garrett Cloer. Coach Moser says Cloer’s garnering plenty of national attention at the college level and has been taking his own game to the next level in his preparations this offseason.

“He’s [Cloer] being recruited by everybody in the country. He’s a great student and a great leader. I think he’s set the tone for our whole team in the offseason. He’s worked really hard. Our other kids have worked really hard. We’ll see. I think we’ll be okay,” Coach Moser says.

If the man behind center wasn’t enough to get Coach Moser excited for his offense, the guy in the backfield should put him over the top. Running back Tay Jones can flat out fly.

“We have a great running back in Tay Jones. He had 1,800 yard rushing last year. He’s working right now in summer school to get eligible. Hopefully, he will make the grade and be with us,” Coach Moser says.

Tay Jones (High School OT)

Tay Jones (High School OT)

Pending a successful completion of summer coursework, Jones should be a terror for opposing defenses. But the true backbone to this Orange squad rests on the other end of the ball.

The Panther defense is a sight to behold. In 2013, Orange pitched four shutouts and held opponents to single digits in an emphatic eight games.

To move the ball against Orange is to accomplish something special. Coach Moser says he always prioritizes the defense, putting the best athletes on that side of the ball.

“We always put the most emphasis that we can on the defense. We try to play the best defense that we can. We two-platoon. We take our kids that can run and will hit. That’s who our defense is,” Coach Moser says.

One of the great traditions at Orange is the awarding of ‘Zero’ candy bars to the team after a full-game shutout is achieved. And true to form, Coach Moser says his kids are hungry for more chocolate in 2014.

“That’s something that the kids like. […] They like getting the Zero bar if they can hold people to zero. We’ll do that as well as maybe add a couple more positions,” Coach Moser says.

The fearless Panthers, with their key offensive playmakers and always ruthless defense, should be in the hunt for another conference title this fall.


One and Done! Late Tar Heel Rally Falls Short Against Pitt

GREENSBORO – The No. 15 North Carolina men’s basketball team fell 80-75 in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals Friday afternoon to drop to 23-9 overall on the season.

UNC vs. Pitt 060With the victory, Pittsburgh improved to 25-8 on the year and advanced to face top-seeded Virginia in Saturday’s semifinal round at 1 p.m.

“We had some chances. We really tried hard. Got it to four with the ball two different occasions and got it three and didn’t stop, but the kids tried exceptionally hard and they’re a wonderful bunch of kids. But we just didn’t play nearly as well as we wanted to play early,” UNC Head Coach Roy Williams said after the game.

Pitt senior center Talib Zanna outrebounded the entire Carolina team until midway through the second half. In total, he grabbed 21 rebounds, tied for third-most in an ACC Tournament game. Zanna recorded his 11th double-double of the season.

Carolina fell behind 25-8 at the 7:14 mark to go in the first half and started off the contest 0-7 from the floor. It proved too much to overcome in the end.

As usual, UNC sophomore point guard Marcus Paige saved his best stuff for the end. He finished with a game-high 27 points, registering his 11th game with more than 20 points this season.

UNC vs. Pitt 044Sophomore Brice Johnson finished with 16 points for the Tar Heels, going a sharp 8-9 from the floor. James Michael McAdoo ended up with 15 points.

“I think we can learn from the things we did well in that last eight minute stretch. We played really well. We forced a lot of turnovers and we were able to make things happen with our traps, which will be helpful next week,” Paige said in his postgame remarks.

The Tar Heels closed within four points multiple times, but just couldn’t muster the strength to complete the gritty comeback effort.

Carolina finished the contest shooting 41 percent as a team while Pitt shot at a much better 54 percent clip. Additionally and crucially, the Panthers outrebounded the Tar Heels 43-35.

UNC vs. Pitt 035Senior Leslie McDonald had a disappointing ACC Tournament finale, fouling out in the second half with zero points.

Next up for the Tar Heels will be the NCAA Tournament. UNC will await its seeding and regional location this Sunday.

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