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Off the cuff: That game against Pittsburgh at home should tell the country how good the ACC is this season. Now losers of seven in a row in the conference, Pitt was a three at the buzzer away from upsetting the first-place Tar Heels.

Except for a late stretch where the Tar Heels missed nine straight shots from the field and missed four free throws, Carolina played well. Coach Roy Williams says his team has to defend shots better but a bunch of those shots, including some late threes, were highly contested. There were some late rotations earlier in the game but Pitt was hitting them whether they were covered or not.

In the last seconds, up by three, Coach Williams elected to have his players foul to put Pitt on the foul line rather than risk a tying three. The strategy worked but it would have been easier had the Heels hit all their free throws. Carolina was only 13 of 19 from the line.

"We need to make those free throws," Coach Williams said. "I think it'll help us next time." He said he thinks his guys will knock 'em down the next time they are in the situation.

Tar Heels 80, Pittsburgh 78
Carolina survives threes raining down

North Carolina never trailed but after Pitt's 13 three-pointers, including five in the last few minutes, the visitors had a chance to win the game with a three at the buzzer. But a contested running three from the right wing by Jamel Artis was well off target and the Tar Heels held on for an 80-78 victory. (1/31)

The Tar Heels seemed to be pulling away, up 68-59 with eight minutes to play. But Carolina went cold, missing nine straight shots over the next six minutes while Pitt went on a run, highlighted by back-to-back threes from Panther Michael Young, to pull within a point at 71-70 with two minutes to play.

UNC's Joel Berry, who missed every shot in Carolina's previous game, then made perhaps the biggest bucket of the game. Berry, around an Isaiah Hicks screen, drove by several Pitt players for a basket and he was fouled. After hitting the free throw, the Heels led 74-70.

With Carolina missing some throws and Pitt hitting two more threes, the Panthers hung in until the end. After Hicks made one of two free throws with five seconds left to make it 80-78, Artis missed the last-second shot.

While this was a matchup between the ACC's first-place team and the last-place team, no one could tell as both teams played well.

"They shot well," UNC coach Roy Williams said, still lamenting his team's inability to clamp down defensively on opposing shooters. "They were a really good team tonight. But we hung in there."

The game was tied twice - once in the first half at 20-all and once in the second half at 49-49 - but Carolina answered each time to extend leads to as many as nine points.

Justin Jackson hit a three late in the first half to put Carolina up 38-30 while Hicks scored on a nifty reverse layup for an old-fashioned three-point play to put Carolina up 68-59, the largest margin of the game.

Jackson led the way with 20 points followed closely by Berry's 19 points. Hicks scored 18 while Kennedy Meeks rounded out the four double-figure scorers with 10 points.

"They are probably the best last-place team in the country," Jackson said of Pittsburgh. "They have a bunch of shooters on their team."

Cameron Johnson hit a career-high six threes and a career-high 24 points to lead Pitt.

The Tar Heels, now 20-4 and 8-2 in the ACC, had nine threes of their own and outrebounded the Panthers 31-23.

The Tar Heels seek to keep it going against second-place Notre Dame at home at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Box Score

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