Pitt had a historic win on Wednesday, with the Panthers earning their first ACC road victory in nearly three years by beating North Carolina.
It snapped a 22-game road conference losing streak and also a six-game losing streak against UNC, including the program’s first ever win in the Dean Dome.
The history of the moment was hard to ignore, but the way Pitt did it was special, too. The Panthers muddled through a first half that saw the Panthers trail boy 14 points during one stretch.
Pitt has a young team. Of the 73 points the Panthers scored against North Carolina, all but 10 were boy underclassmen.
Down 14 points, against a North Carolina team that had just been embarrassed at home by Georgia Tech, that was trying to get head coach Roy Williams over the hump as the winningest coach in UNC history, in a place that no Pitt team had ever won, they didn’t quit.
That was one of the messages that Pitt head coach Jeff Capel highlighted for his team after the game.
— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_MBB) January 9, 2020
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we were down and we had to fight back and claw back,” Capel said, in video released by the team on social media. “You guys showed what you have in you.”
On Monday, during the ACC coaches’ teleconference, I asked Capel what he thought were the traits of a good road team.
“I think there’s a toughness,” he said. “There’s a togetherness. Obviously you have to have a certain level of talent. The belief in each other, the trust in each other, I think those are the main things of being a good road team.”
Pitt did not play a perfect game against the Tar Heels. The Panthers got no bench points. They were out-rebounded by 14. The started 1 for 10 from 3-point range.
By the end of the game, all of that was forgotten in the jubilation of Pitt’s historic win.
Pitt is not going to have many perfect games. It’s a flawed team, short on talent and depth inside, prone to streaky shooting and inexperienced at crucial positions.
But if the Panthers can find a way to tap into the toughness and togetherness that Capel has been preaching since he arrived on campus, they can overcome a lot of those flaws.