RJ Davis takes over as No. 4 UNC reaches ACC Tournament final by beating Pitt 72-65

Fri, Mar 15, 2024
NCAAB News (AP)

RJ Davis takes over as No. 4 UNC reaches ACC Tournament final by beating Pitt 72-65

WASHINGTON (AP) - RJ Davis took over the game with 25 points, Armando Bacot scored 19 while grabbing 11 rebounds and No. 4 North Carolina beat Pittsburgh 72-65 on Friday night to advance to the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament final.

The Tar Heels' eighth consecutive victory coupled with other results around the country put them in the driver's seat for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That path cleared earlier in the day when fifth-ranked Tennessee lost 73-56 to Mississippi State in the Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinals.

UNC (27-6, 17-3) still had to take care of business against Pitt (22-11, 12-8), an opponent firmly on the NCAA bubble playing to shore up its spot in the field. The Panthers led by as many as nine in the first half and kept punching back until late, tying it at 62 with about four minutes left until Davis hit just his second 3-pointer to put the Tar Heels ahead.

After seven lead changes throughout, they never trailed again, with Davis grabbing a crucial rebound and hitting a long 3 in the final minutes to help put it away. The unanimous ACC player of the year scored 19 of his points in the second half.

READ MORE Newton leads No. 2 UConn past St. John's 95-90 and into first Big East title game since 2011 No. 12 Auburn routs 15th-ranked South Carolina 86-55 to reach SEC Tournament semifinals No. 9 seed Mississippi State stuns 5th-ranked Tennessee in SEC quarterfinals 73-56

Virginia - likely March Madness-bound but not a lock - or 10th-seeded North Carolina State is up next in the final on Saturday night. It's UNC's first appearance in the final since 2018, and one more victory would give the program its first ACC Tournament title since 2016 when it was also held in Washington.

Roy Williams, the Tar Heels' coach at the time who led them to three national championships, fittingly watched in the first row at halfcourt in Carolina blue. And he was far from alone, with UNC fans making up most of the crowd for the semifinals 24 hours after rival Duke was eliminated.

Carlton Carrington led Pitt with 24 points, and Jaland Lowe had 17. The Panthers, who were up early thanks to some hot 3-point shooting, were hurt by three fouls in the first 14 minutes on Federiko Federiko, keeping the center on the bench for long periods of time.

BIG PICTURE

Pitt: This is the end of the road in D.C., but Jeff Capel's team has a good chance of continue its season in the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers are 40th in the NET Rankings, and beating Wake Forest on Thursday separated them from the Demon Deacons who also came into the week with NCAA uncertainty.

UNC: The Tar Heels are rounding into form at the perfect time to make their top-seed case to the selection committee and look poised to make a deep NCAA Tournament run. With Davis and Bacot trading back and forth the Batman and Robin roles and plenty of complementary players able to step up, UNC is going to be a tough out against anyone.

UP NEXT

While Pitt sweats out Selection Sunday, UNC will play for the 19th ACC Tournament championship in program history on Saturday.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball

STEPHEN WHYNO DC-based hockey writer covering NHL, Capitals and Commanders twitter mailto "
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