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Off the cuff: Kenny Williams hits his first three of the year to give Carolina its largest lead of the game at that point, 66-55. Williams, a freshman, came in with a reputation of hitting long ones but he hasn’t had much luck and his playing time dwindled to zero in most games this season.

Brice Johnson scored inside - what else is new - to give Carolina its largest lead at 19 – 82-63.

"When Brice is scoring in the post, that helps us out a lot," said Joel Berry, who was the star of the game for Carolina. "In the second half, I think we got better (offensive) movement than we did in the first half. That was a big key."

As UNC coach Roy Williams said stopping Pitt on six straight possessions while Carolina was scoring on the other end late in the first half, was probably the biggest key.


Tar Heels 88, Duke 71
Carolina opens up a close one vs. Pitt

North Carolina was in a battle with Pittsburgh, tied at 45 in the second half. But sticky defense, strong interior play and 20 points from guard Joel Berry helped the Tar Heels pull away from Pittsburgh, 88-71, in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament. (3/10)

The Tar Heels, who trailed most of the first half before taking a late 39-35 halftime lead, led by as many as 19 points in the second half.

Pitt, which led by as many as seven points in the opening half, was ahead 35-29 with under four minutes left in the first half. Aggressive defense, including a Marcus Paige block at the buzzer, allowed the Heels to go on a 10-0 and take a 39-35 halftime lead. Carolina stopped Pitt on six straight possessions during the stretch.

Kennedy Meeks hit a short shot to tie it at 35-all before a Johnson dunk gave the Heels a lead. Berry picked up a steal and took it in for a layup with 20 seconds left to give Carolina that four-point halftime cushion and change the tone of the game.

“The intensity we had during that stretch was important,” said UNC coach Roy Williams who added that the rebounding and offensive motion picked up in the second half when the Heels pulled away. “But the last four or five minutes of the first half were big.”

Berry hit seven of his eight shots from the field, including a pair of threes, and came up with four steals to lead the Tar Heels. Brice Johnson came up with his usual double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Justin Jackson with 11 and Isaiah Hicks with 10 were the only other Carolina players in double figures.

The Tar Heels shot 59 percent for the game compared to 44 percent for Pitt, who started out hot and were shooting well over 50 percent at the half.

UNC got solid play from guys off the bench. In addition to Hicks’ 10 points, Nate Britt scored 9 and Theo Pinson had a game-high seven assists.

"We were able to get the ball inside," Berry said. "Brice gave us a big lift. Isaiah came in, gave us a big lift. Just having the balance of the inside-outside attack, that helped us out a lot."

Every healthy Carolina player got to play, including 11 who played at least five minutes.

Carolina moves on the semi-finals Friday at 7 p.m. against the Notre Dame, who beat Duke in overtime.


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