Johnson, Paige help No. 9 Tar Heels roll past Panthers 85-64

North Carolina cruises past Pitt (1:11)

Brice Johnson records 19 points while four other Tar Heels score in double figures as North Carolina beats Pittsburgh 85-64. (1:11)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina spent two weeks on a tough road trip that included two losses, a struggle against the Atlantic Coast Conference's last-place team and a scary moment for its Hall of Fame coach.

Sunday's dominating performance eased some concerns and pressure that had built over that stretch.

Brice Johnson scored 19 points and the ninth-ranked Tar Heels shot 59 percent to beat Pittsburgh 85-64 in the team's best performance in weeks. They had plenty of balance, shared the ball and got out in transition. They even pleased coach Roy Williams with their defensive attention.

A bad showing on the glass was the only hiccup in what senior Marcus Paige called "as close as we've played to a complete game in a long time."

"This felt good," he said, "this effort defensively and our efficient offense was back."

The Tar Heels (21-4, 10-2) finished with 26 assists on 32 baskets, 24 points off turnovers and 16 fast-break points -- more than they had in their last three games combined -- against the Panthers (17-7, 6-6).

Quite a way to go into a midweek rivalry game with Duke.

The Tar Heels were at home for the first time in two weeks after a road trip that started with losses at Louisville and Notre Dame after an 8-0 ACC start. Then came Tuesday's game at Boston College, where Williams briefly collapsed in a second-half huddle after an attack of vertigo and spent the rest of the game in the locker room.

Williams was back in the office on Wednesday's day off, returned to practice Thursday and told reporters Friday he was fine while cracking jokes about his two-decade history with vertigo dating to his Kansas years.

Getting back home helped everyone else feel better, too.

"It feels a lot better to get a win like that and just be able to put that behind you," Johnson said. "Because people were starting to look like, `Oh they might be going downhill.' ... or (it's ) the turning point of our season."

Michael Young and James Robinson each scored 15 points for the Panthers, who shot 37 percent and committed 19 turnovers.

"It was a bad performance in pretty much every facet," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said.



Pittsburgh: Young didn't start for the first time this season. Dixon said afterward it was "nothing major but something that just had to be addressed" without elaborating further. ... Second-leading scorer Jamel Artis scored five points on 2-for-8 shooting. ... Pitt made 9 of 21 3-point attempts but just 5 of 13 free throws.

UNC: Justin Jackson scored 14 points. ... UNC had five players in double figures. ... Jackson and Theo Pinson had six assists each. ... A week after playing in the Super Bowl, Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen attended wearing a UNC shirt and hat.


Pitt finished with a 41-29 rebounding advantage, including 19-1 on the offensive glass, but fell to 14-2 when outrebounding its opponents.


The Panthers had lost three of four since a 5-2 league start, including 65-63 on a late tip-in at No. 12 Miami on Tuesday. Now they have failed to crack 65 points in three straight games.

"I thought really our half-court defense was pretty sound," Dixon said. "But it's the 19 turnovers. And the shot selection was atrocious. So really our offense was a big cause of our defensive breakdowns because it's hard when you turn it over that many times, a lot of live-ball turnovers as well.

"We could sit here and analyze it all day long. We just got manhandled."


Pittsburgh hosts Wake Forest on Tuesday.

UNC hosts Duke on Wednesday.