After a signature win over No. 11 Florida State on Saturday, the UNC men’s basketball team (15-9, 9-6 ACC) flopped in a 72-70 loss to the Syracuse Orange (14-8, 8-7 ACC) on Monday night at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.
Senior forward Garrison Brooks got the scoring started for the Tar Heels, and the team continued to apply pressure in the opening minutes. With nearly five minutes off the clock, UNC led 11-2, holding Syracuse to just 1-8 from the field.
Despite UNC’s hot start, Syracuse’s Buddy Boeheim quickly brought the game within one (11-10) with a 3-point jumper. Despite only leading the Orange by four halfway through the period, UNC was out-rebounding Syracuse 22-6 total — 10-1on the offensive glass. UNC only shot 35.1 percent in the opening half, but the team capitalized on big plays, including a slam dunk by first-year big Day’Ron Sharpe and a fast-break dunk for junior forward Leaky Black, and took a 20-13 lead.
Despite the rebound margin favoring the Tar Heels, UNC only led by five (28-23) with three minutes left in the period, and were tied with just under two minutes remaining. The Tar Heels were unable to dust Syracuse due to the Orange's seven 3-pointers, while UNC had zero in the opening half. Boeheim’s fourth 3-pointer of the game gave Syracuse its first lead (31-28) of the match, and he immediately followed that up with his fifth, heading to halftime with Syracuse leading 34-28.
After fizzling out at the end of the first half, a 3-pointer for first-year guard Caleb Love and a jumper in the paint for Brooks gave UNC the one-point lead, but only for a minute. Syracuse quickly brought their lead to 12, going on a 15-2 run over a five-minute stretch with just over 12 minutes left.
Every time UNC looked to be overcoming the deficit, Syracuse would respond with a burst of energy. With just over six minutes left to play, Syracuse went on a 9-1 run thanks to the efforts of Boeheim and Quincy Guerrier.
Not all was lost, though. A critical 3-pointer from Love brought UNC within six (68-62) with just over a minute to play. A free throw from Sharpe, a 3-pointer from first-year guard RJ Davis and a layup off a steal for Love brought the game within two with 18 seconds to spare.
But it wasn’t enough, as UNC fell, 72-70.
Who stood out?
In the opening half, Brooks, Sharpe, sophomore center Armando Bacot and first-year center Walker Kessler combined for 12 of UNC’s first 14 points — a trend that held throughout the game. Bacot finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds, while Brooks finished with 11 points and six rebounds.
The player of the game, though, was Boeheim. The guard was 5-9 on 3-pointers in the opening half, finishing 6-13. He shot 46.2 percent from beyond the arc and 45 percent from the field overall. Guerrier also finished with 18 points for the Orange.
When was it decided?
The Tar Heels looked to fight back after blowing the lead in the opening, but with Syracuse’s superior shooting behind the arc, UNC’s 20 turnovers and allowing the Orange to go on huge scoring runs, UNC put itself in a difficult situation. Despite last minute fireworks and energy from UNC, Syracuse hung on to win.
Why does it matter?
With this loss, the Tar Heels are putting themselves in a precarious situation heading into conference tournaments. A win against Syracuse to follow up the FSU victory would have provided a compelling resume for UNC, but a loss to a middling ACC team puts UNC’s NCAA Tournament hopes into even more doubt.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will take on their rival Duke Blue Devils on Saturday, March 6 at 6 p.m. in the Dean Smith Center.
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