For the first time in program history, Pitt was defeated at home by North Carolina, with a 81-72 loss to the Tar Heels at Petersen Events Center on Sunday.
Pitt (4-9, 2-8 ACC) was led in scoring by Jayla Everett, who registered 22 points. The Panthers shot 37.5% from the floor and outrebounded the Tar Heels 46-41, with 22 coming off the offensive glass.
North Carolina (10-8, 9-3 ACC) were backed by a strong 22-point effort from Janelle Bailey. The senior made all but one of her free throw attempts and made 42% of her shots. Stopping Bailey proved to be a tall task for Pitt due to Cynthia Exeja fouling out and Rita Igbowke collecting four of her own. In total, the Panthers committed 25 personal fouls.
As a team, Carolina shot 38% and made 36% of their three point attempts. They also committed just two turnovers in the second half.
Pitt fired the opening shot in the first quarter, as Dayshanette Harris stole a skip pass and converted a tough layup on the offensive end. The Panthers expanded on their lead when Everett made a long three, her first of two in the opening half, to give Pitt a 7-3 advantage.
North Carolina began battling back down low thanks to superb efforts from both Bailey and Kennedy Todd-Williams. Excellent looks on the interior in back-to-back possessions allowed the Tar Heels to tie the game within seconds. Todd-Williams added a three to give UNC a 10-7 lead as the game headed to its first media timeout. After the pause, North Carolina expanded its lead to six after Stephanie Watts got another three to fall for the Tar Heels.
As UNC tried to add to its lead, Pitt remained tenacious on the glass, especially on the offensive side, but allowed the Tar Heels to get their own second chance opportunities on the other end.
One place where the Panthers were unable to duplicate the success of North Carolina was the free throw line. Pitt missed all five of their first half attempts from the charity stripe and was forced to watch the Tar Heels knock down 15 of their 18 attempts.
Those free throws gave UNC a lead that hovered around ten points for a period of time. Pitt fought back by continuing to hit the offensive glass and began closing the gap. A Destiny Strother for Pitt made it a one possession game, but the Tar Heels responded by finishing the half on a 10-4 run.
A run was all that Pitt needed to give themselves a chance at mounting a comeback in the second half. That run, however, never came.
There were times in the second half where it appeared as if Pitt could stop UNC’s momentum and fight for a chance at the win. Destiny Stother hit multiple threes to bring Pitt within 10 points, and some late fourth quarter baskets got the Panthers within a couple possessions.
Carolina always answered after a Pitt make. Those momentum stopping makes, combined with their ball security, and constant trips to the free throw line proved to be too much for Pitt to combat with.
Pitt next travels to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, on Tuesday for a date with Boston College at 6 p.m.