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Off the cuff: Cam Johnson started slowly against his former Pittsburgh team (going just one of seven from three-point range) but he pulled it together to score 14 points, dish four assists and pick up a couple of steals.

"I tried not to look at this game any different obviously you're going to feel some things when you play your former team. I spent three years there. I grew up in Pittsburgh. My dad played at Pitt. My mom went to nursing school there. My brother still is doing research for the university so obviously I have a pretty strong connection there. Just try to look at it as a whole other game. There is a little bit of extra emotion playing against your former team, but I just tried to come out and make it feel like any other game."

Pitt coach Kevin Stallings was asked a couple of times about Johnson, a couple of different ways but he was strangely evasive.

"I don't like to comment on other people's players. Ask Roy about how he played. I couldn't tell you. I was worried about my guys," said Mr. Personality.

When asked about losing with Johnson playing on the other team, Stallings answered everything except that while focusing on Luke Maye.

He answered, "The game got away from us at the end of the first half. There were a couple of loose balls that they got that turned into points from turnovers and things. From there, they came out. We tried to play zone at the start of the second half. We knew going into the game that Luke Maye was a bad match-up for us. We didn't have a great guy to defend him and so we tried to play the zone, and they came out and hit a couple shots against us to spread the lead out. We just weren't able to guard him. We didn't have an answer for them defensively and a lot of that was caused by the mismatch we had with Maye and of course how well he played."

Kenny Williams said that Johnson may have felt some pressure going into the matchup against his former coach. He said, "He missed some good-looking shots. He's been shooting the ball well. One of those was a tough shot, but the rest of them were pretty open." He told Johnson to pretend it was just any game.

Johnson seemed to play better after one particular play. "I know Garrison [Brooks] made a tremendous play diving on the floor and then passing it to me. It was almost like I was little confused, like 'Wow, I'm right under the hoop with no one around me.' The energy in the arena picked up a lot. I think that was the overwhelming emotion, the energy in the arena and Garrison making a tremendous play and building up a lead."

Tar Heels 96, Pittsburgh 65
Heels end losing skid vs. last-place Pitt

The tension surrounding North Carolina's basketball eased a bit as the Tar Heels ran past Pittsburgh 96-65. (2/3)

Six Carolina players scored in double figures but the biggest lift may have come from a player who scored just two points. Theo Pinson, who was injured against Clemson, returned to the lineup and led the Heels in rebounding with 13 and in assists with eight, while turning the ball over just once.

"He is 1 for 7 (shooting), and he is one of the most important players in the game," UNC coach Roy Williams said pointing to his rebounds, assists. "That's what we need him to do."

The Tar Heels also got a lift from Luke Maye, who scored only four points in the loss at Clemson. Maye led all scorers with 26 points, going three of five from the three-point line and five of five from the free throw line.

"Shot free throws better. Shot it from three a lot better," Maye said. "It was a lot better performance. It is a lot better when the ball goes in the basket."

Carolina broke open a close game with a 14-3 run late in the first half to take a 45-35 halftime lead. The Heels poured it on in the second half as their defense held the Panthers to just 30 percent shooting in the half. The win stopped a three-game losing streak and avoided what would have only been the second four-game losing streak for the Heels during the Roy Williams era.

"When we play hard and play together, we are a very dangerous team," Pinson said. "That's something we lost a little bit in January so we just needed to pick that up and we did a good job of that."

Coach Williams said his team's emphasis for the game revolved around defense, rebounding on both ends of the court and making more of an effort. "Our guys around here, you lose a couple and they start to feel the pressure because they are such good kids," he said. "I think we were tight early, and we missed some shots... You lose yourself yourself in the game by diving onto the floor, sprinting back, and all of sudden things get easier for you."

In addition to Maye's 26 points, those scoring in double figures were Kenny Williams with 15, Cam Johnson with 14, Joel Berry with 12, Garrison Brooks with 10 and Sterling Manley with 10.

The Tar Heels, who host rival Duke Thursday night, improve to 17-7 and 6-5 in the league while Pitt, in the midst of an 11-game losing streak, falls to 8-16 and 0-11 in the ACC.

Box Score

Theo Pinson
(UNC Sports Information Photo)

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