Greensboro, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Talib Zanna led the way with 19 points and a career-high 21 rebounds, as Pitt raced out to a huge lead then hung on to knock off No. 15 North Carolina by a 80-75 count in ACC quarterfinal action.
"I was really proud of our guys. I was really excited about how we played," said Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon. "Beat a very good team. Talib wasn't healthy, Lamar wasn't healthy, I told our guys we went in expecting to win this game. That was our thought process going into it and I thought our guys did a great job."
James Robinson added 19 points, six boards and four steals for the fifth- seeded Panthers (25-8), who advance to take on Virginia in a Saturday semifinal. Lamar Patterson had 12 points and Cameron Wright contributed 11 for the winners.
"We lost at the buzzer, so that game could have went either way. We'll be ready for it," Robinson said of the rematch with the Cavaliers after a close meeting in the regular season. "We can play with them or we can play with anybody in the country we feel like. So we'll be ready to go. We'll have our minds and body ready."
Marcus Paige poured in a game-high 27 points before fouling out late for the Tar Heels (23-9), who dropped two in a row after winning 12 straight. Brice Johnson totaled 16 points and six rebounds for the four seed, with James McAdoo adding 15 points and seven boards.
North Carolina didn't wake up until the late stages, trimming a 15-point deficit with 3:21 remaining into a four-point spread, 75-71, after Paige connected on two free throws with just over a minute left.
He fouled out with 25.4 on the clock, but Wright bricked both his attempts. Nate Britt was then forced to foul Robinson, and he made 1-of-2 for a five- point spread. Britt countered on a long two, and it was 78-75 with 11.4 showing.
Robinson added two more from the line to give Pitt an 80-75 edge, and after McAdoo missed a trey, Patterson went to the charity stripe after grabbing the defensive board. Though he missed both, the Tar Heels did not release a final shot.
Needless to say, it's extremely disappointing to play the way we did the first 30, 32 minutes of the game," noted North Carolina head coach Roy Williams. "We were in too much of a rush on the offensive end of the floor. We had some good shots the first three or four possessions and then they didn't go in and we started really rushing thing s and that's how it got to be the margin."
Pitt was in control from the outset, jumping out to an 8-3 edge. UNC scored the next four, but was helpless to stop a 19-2 surge which created an 18-point gap inside of six minutes left in the half. Robinson totaled nine in the stretch.
North Carolina regained equilibrium, and closed within 36-26 at the break after Paige completed a three-point play and McAdoo sank a jumper.
McAdoo's two from the line managed to pull UNC within 41-31, but Zanna's back- to-back tip-ins fueled a quick 9-2 surge and Pitt was up 50-31 after Wright's jumper with 11:40 to play.
Young completed a three-point play three minutes later and the Panthers' margin ballooned to 19, at 57-38.