Pitt basketball: Pitt routs Wake Forest, eyes chance at ACC semifinals

Pitt Huddle

Pitt silenced its critics and cruised past Wake Forest 85-54. Pitt opened up the game with a quick 11-2 run which put the Panthers in control for the duration of the game.

The Panthers were led by their seniors Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna. Patterson scored 24 points today for the Panthers, while Zanna contributed 17 points. The Panthers were able to contain Daemon Deacons sophomore center Devin Thomas. Thomas recorded 19 points and 10 rebounds against Notre Dame on Wednesday, but he was held to eight points and five rebounds against Pitt.

Pitt’s zone defense was stifling Wake Forest all game. It was the kind of defensive display that makes you wonder just how high this Pitt basketball team’s ceiling is.

Two weeks ago, the Panthers’ tournament chances were diminishing. However, with a victory over Wake Forest, Pitt is safe and an absolute lock for the tournament.

This Pitt basketball team will face the UNC Tar Heels Friday at 2:00 pm with a trip to the conference semifinals on the line.

The two teams met previously on February 15 at the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill, NC and UNC prevailed over Pitt 75-71. That was in the thick of a particularly tough stretch for the Panthers. The Panthers seem to be playing much better this time around and could easily handle the Tar Heels on a neutral site.

That being said, a victory over UNC tomorrow afternoon would help the Panthers obtain a better seed in the tournament. Right now, ESPN analyst Joe Lunardi has the Panthers slated to be a ten seed in the tournament. I think that if the Panthers beat UNC they will start to climb up higher in the rankings and ultimately earn a better seed.

The Panthers will need to shut down UNC stars Marcus Paige and James Michael McAdoo. Paige, a first team All-ACC selection, and McAdoo, a second team All-ACC selection, combined for 42 points in the last matchup with the Panthers.

The 15th ranked Tar Heels are the fourth seed in the ACC tournament. They started the season 1-4 in conference play before winning 12 straight games to save their season. UNC is coming off of a bad loss to arch-rival Duke at Cameron Indoor, 93-81. UNC looks to regain their winning ways in the ACC tournament before they attempt to make yet another Final Four run.

The Panthers need to continue playing strong defense if they want to beat the Tar Heels. I think it can be done. Today’s Pitt basketball team looked similar to the Pitt basketball team that was taking the ACC by storm in early January.

A victory over UNC would accomplish more than just advancing in the ACC tournament. A win would give the Panthers their first signature win of the season, enhancing their tournament resume significantly.

I think Pitt will win against UNC and it will not be too close of a game, if the Panthers play as they played today. It depends on which Pitt basketball team shows up, today’s team or February’s team.

The game will be broadcasted on ESPN.