Chapel Hill, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - James Michael McAdoo racked up 24 points and 12 rebounds, Marcus Paige hit five 3-pointers and resurgent North Carolina delivered its sixth straight win, a 75-71 decision over 25th-ranked Pittsburgh at the Smith Center.
McAdoo went 11-of-18 from the field and Paige missed just once from beyond the arc as the Tar Heels (17-7, 7-4 ACC) dealt Pitt a second tough loss in four days. The Panthers entered Chapel Hill off Wednesday's heartbreaking 58-56 setback to No. 1 Syracuse, in which the Orange's Tyler Ennis sunk a game- winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Brice Johnson added 13 points and seven rebounds in the victory.
"It's a big win over a very good basketball team, and I'm glad I don't have to go to Pittsburgh this year," Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams said afterward. "They're awfully good, but we made some big plays."
Lamar Patterson paced Pittsburgh (20-6, 8-5) with 16 points and Jamel Artis had a career-high 13 along with seven rebounds in the loss, the Panthers' fourth in six games.
"We had our opportunities," said Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon. "I thought we did some good things. We came here to outrebound them and we didn't. We had more turnovers than they did, and those were the two things we said that we had to do. We didn't get those done, so they came out with the win."
The Tar Heels trailed by as many as seven points in the first half, but moved ahead by putting together a 12-2 run later in the period. Paige was fouled while hitting a 3-pointer and made the subsequent bonus shot to put UNC up 33-29 with 1:49 left in the frame, then fed McAdoo for a layup on the following possession that extended the margin to six.
Pittsburgh went more than 6 minutes without a basket during the stretch, before James Robinson ended the cold spell with a jumper in the final minute that sent the Panthers into the break down 35-31.
Paige and Leslie McDonald knocked down treys around a Robinson bucket to increase North Carolina's lead to 45-37 with five minutes elapsed in the second half. The Panthers countered with a 7-1 spurt to get within two, but the Tar Heels responded with a 15-5 tear to temporarily break the game open.
The pivotal run featured two more triples from Paige and a 3-point play from Johnson that put the Panthers in a 61-49 hole with 8:50 left to play.
Pitt never could quite overcome the deficit, though it put a scare into the Dean Dome faithful by answering UNC's burst with a 12-2 surge. Patterson drained a jumper and was fouled to trim the differential to 63-59 after the resulting foul shot, and Artis scored just over a minute later to make it a two-point game with five minutes left.
McAdoo came through with a pair of key baskets on the Tar Heels' next two trips down the court, however, and added another with 1:14 remaining that gave UNC a 70-65 edge.
The Tar Heels were ahead by seven with under a minute left, but another 3- point play from Patterson ignited a 6-2 push that brought the Panthers within 74-71 with 22.6 seconds to go. Pitt then got the ball back when Artis' missed free throw went off a UNC player, and Patterson got a good look at a potential game-tying three that landed off the mark.
Johnson was fouled when corralling the rebound after the Panthers' Talib Zanna couldn't tip in Patterson's off-target attempt, and hit 1-of-2 from the line to seal the win.
"I felt like I was in the '72 Olympics. That's what it felt like out there," said Williams of the nail-biting finish.
Earlier, Patterson buried a pair of threes to lead a 10-2 spurt that gave the Panthers an 18-11 advantage nine minutes in. He picked up his second foul shortly afterward, however, and Pitt struggled offensively without its leading scorer on the court.
The Tar Heels recorded six of the next eight points after Patterson went to the bench, including back-to-back buckets by McAdoo that cut the lead to 22-21.
The new co-ACC members were meeting for meeting for the first time since an 82-61 UNC win at the Smith Center on Nov. 29, 1996. The Tar Heels have now taken eight of the nine all-time matchups ... Each of Pittsburgh's last five games have been decided by five or less points, with two going into overtime and two ending on buzzer-beating shots ... Zanna, the Panthers' second leading scorer on the season, managed just five points on 2-of-11 shooting ... Artis' previous career best was 11 points, set against Virginia on Feb. 2 ... Pittsburgh shot 40.6 percent compared to 44.3 percent for the Tar Heels, dropping the Panthers to 2-6 this season when posting a lower field goal percentage than the opposition.