North Carolina rolls past Pittsburgh
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina spent two weeks on a tough road trip that included two losses, a struggle against the Atlantic Coast Conference's last-place team and a scary moment for its Hall of Fame coach.
Sunday's dominating performance eased some concerns and pressure that had built over that stretch.
Brice Johnson scored 19 points and the ninth-ranked Tar Heels shot 59 percent to beat Pittsburgh 85-64 in the team's best performance in weeks. They had plenty of balance, shared the ball and got out in transition. They even pleased coach Roy Williams with their defensive attention.
A bad showing on the glass was the only hiccup in what senior Marcus Paige called "as close as we've played to a complete game in a long time."
"This felt good," he said, "this effort defensively and our efficient offense was back."
The Tar Heels (21-4, 10-2) finished with 26 assists on 32 baskets, 24 points off turnovers and 16 fast-break points — more than they had in their last three games combined — against the Panthers (17-7, 6-6).
Quite a way to go into a midweek rivalry game with Duke.
The Tar Heels were at home for the first time in two weeks after a road trip that started with losses at Louisville and Notre Dame after an 8-0 ACC start. Then came Tuesday's game at Boston College, where Williams briefly collapsed in a second-half huddle after an attack of vertigo and spent the rest of the game in the locker room.
Williams was back in the office on Wednesday's day off, returned to practice Thursday and told reporters Friday he was fine while cracking jokes about his two-decade history with vertigo dating to his Kansas years.
Getting back home helped everyone else feel better, too.
"It feels a lot better to get a win like that and just be able to put that behind you," Johnson said. "Because people were starting to look like, 'Oh they might be going downhill.' ... or (it's ) the turning point of our season."
Michael Young and James Robinson each scored 15 points for the Panthers, who shot 37 percent and committed 19 turnovers.
"It was a bad performance in pretty much every facet," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said.
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