North Carolina has lost in the championship game of the ACC tournament in each of the last three seasons, a distinction only one other team can claim - and that was 40 years ago.
Before the 15-ranked Tar Heels can begin thinking about ending that trend, they have a couple games to get through, starting with Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals Friday.
North Carolina (23-8), seeded fourth after going 13-5 in conference play, lost to Miami in last season's title game to join Maryland (1972-74) as the only teams to fall in the ACC final in three straight years.
Playing for a tournament championship in three consecutive years remains an accomplishment and the Tar Heels are certainly hoping to get another shot at winning their 18th ACC crown, which would put them one behind all-time leader Duke.
It was the rival Blue Devils who ended North Carolina's 12-game winning streak Saturday night, handing the Tar Heels a 93-81 loss in Durham that evened the season series at a game apiece after Duke's 74-66 defeat in Chapel Hill on Feb. 20.
The loss ended a strong run through the conference after the Tar Heels dropped four of the first five games on their ACC slate.
"I definitely remember being 0-3 and 1-4 (in the league), and that feeling is not going through this locker room," said Marcus Paige, who scored 24 points Saturday. "We know we still have a chance to make some noise later on, and this isn't going to change that."
Brice Johnson added 15 points and James Michael McAdoo had 13 for the Tar Heels, who shot 59.6 percent but couldn't overcome a 34-20 disadvantage on the boards.
"I think at the end of the day, it just came down to our want-to against their want-to, and it just wasn't there - the sense of urgency," said McAdoo, who averages a team-high 6.6 rebounds but had none Saturday.
The defeat also denied North Carolina its sixth win over a Top 25 team. One of those victories came against then-No. 25 Pittsburgh, 75-71 on Feb. 15 in the only meeting between the two since the Panthers joined the ACC.
McAdoo had 24 points and 12 boards in that one, while Paige scored 18 and shot 5 of 6 from 3-point range. The rest of the Heels were 1 for 8 from beyond the arc.
Pitt put up quite a fight in Chapel Hill, finishing with a 40-40 split on the glass against the ACC's top rebounding team and piling up 11 steals. But leading scorer Lamar Patterson shot 5 of 15 and the team went 4 of 15 from long range with 14 turnovers.
The fifth-seeded Panthers (24-8), who went 11-7 during their first ACC campaign after winning three of their last four in the regular season, advanced to face the Tar Heels by cruising to an 84-55 victory over Wake Forest in the second round Thursday.
Patterson scored 24 points and Talib Zanna added 17 for Pitt, which handed the Demon Deacons one of the most lopsided ACC tournament losses in school history.
Pittsburgh hasn't won a conference tournament since claiming the Big East crown in 2008, a victory that closed an eight-year stretch in which the Panthers advanced to the championship game seven times.
- Sports & Recreation
- North Carolina