GAME NOTES: The 25th-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers had the game in the bag Wednesday night against Syracuse, until a Tyler Ennis 35-foot 3-point heave sailed through to the bottom of the net, dropping Pitt at home. The Panthers will try to rebound from that loss as they travel to face the North Carolina Tar Heels in Atlantic Coast Conference action at the Dean Smith Center.
Pittsburgh led the Orange with four seconds to play, but Ennis's 3-pointer at the buzzer gave Syracuse a 58-56 victory, preserving the team's unbeaten record and disappointing Panthers fans everywhere. Pitt fell to 8-4 in conference play with the defeat.
North Carolina has won five games in a row, and had Wednesday night's marquee showdown with Duke postponed due to nasty weather conditions. The Tar Heels, at 6-4 in the conference, will play their first game since last Saturday - a 73-62 defeat of Notre Dame.
North Carolina has already jumped out to a quick all-time series lead over the Panthers, 7-1, in the brief history between these two teams. This game marks the first and only time these two teams will meet on the court during the regular season.
Ennis took the inbounds pass for Syracuse with 4.4 left to play and the Orange down by two points. He launched up a 35-footer that found the bottom of the net, dropping the Panthers in the final seconds of the contest. Talib Zanna paced Pittsburgh in the game with 16 points and 14 rebounds for the double- double. Lamar Patterson netted 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting from the floor for Pitt. The Panthers shot 36 percent from the floor in the loss.
Patterson is the team's leading scorer this season with a 17 ppg average and a team-high 111 assists on the year. His 36 steals is second to only Cameron Wright, who turns in 46 on the season. Zanna is second on the squad with a 12.7 ppg average on 57.8 percent shooting. Zanna also boasts the team's best rebounding total with 7.9 rpg. Wright checks in at third in scoring with 10.8 ppg.
North Carolina trailed by as many as nine points in the first half of last Saturday's contest against Notre Dame. But the Tar Heels many the comeback run and ended up grabbing the 11-point victory. James Michael McAdoo led the Heels with 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Marcus Paige netted 16 with a team-high six assists. J.P. Tokoto netted 13 points and Brice Johnson chipped in 10 in the win.
Paige tops the North Carolina squad in scoring this season with a 17 ppg average, along with a team-best 105 assists on the year. McAdoo isn't too far behind Paige's scoring total at 15 ppg, which is complemented by a team-best 6.8 rpg mark. Leslie McDonald owns a 10.9 ppg average for third on the team, and Johnson checks in at fourth with 10.1 ppg.
This game will be a perfect measuring stick to determine how the Panthers can bounce back from such a tough conference defeat. The Tar Heels are very strong, especially at the guard position. And the Smith Center can be a nightmare to play in, so the Panthers better bring their "A" game.
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