Despite strong first half, SU falls to Tar Heels

SU men's basketball falls to UNC

Elijah Hughes scored 15 in the first half and went scoreless in the second half.
Published: February 27, 2019

Jim Boeheim speaks about the loss to UNC in a post-game press conference.

Blue and white wrapped around the shining Roy Williams court. The roar of the crowd set the tone early for what was soon to come at the Dean Smith Center: a loss for Syracuse from No. 5 North Carolina, 93-85.

Syracuse came out firing, looking a lot like they did on Jan. 14 at Cameron Indoor against Duke: energetic, strong and quick. A quick 15-6 lead, including two three-pointers from Elijah Hughes, got the Orange in motion as a force from behind the arc.

The Orange had an electric start. Shooting 57 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range, everything seemed to be clicking for Syracuse. Hughes continued his flow from the outside, finishing with five three-pointers in the first half.

The Tar Heels started to worry as they watched shot after shot fall. Free throws kept UNC in the game. One point may not always make a huge difference, but in a game with a total of 44 fouls, free-throws were a key component. On the other side for the Orange, these simple unguarded 15-foot shots were tough to fall.

The Orange had the momentum going into halftime, leading the Tar Heels 46-43.

North Carolina’s Coby White came out strong in the second half with a three-pointer. Frank Howard answered with a three on the other end to hold the Syracuse lead, 49-46. White responded with another three to tie the teams in Chapel Hill, 49-49.

Then two more threes turned into a 9-0 run for the Tar Heels. With 14:35 left in the second, UNC led 58-49.

It was crucial that someone needed to step up for the Orange. When the Orange upset Duke at Cameron Indoor, Tyus Battle was the answer for Syracuse but for this occasion, no one seemed to be stepping up when the team needed it most.

Buddy Boeheim and Battle tried to break the momentum of the Tar Heels with back-to-back three pointers, bringing Syracuse within one with 13 minutes left in the game, 60-59.

Battle started to bring his talent into this game with another three with 11:16 left, bringing the game to a tie at 63, which was followed by another three-pointer less than two minutes later. But the fire from Battle wasn’t enough to hold off UNC.

The Orange missed seven free throws in the second half. It was tough to keep up with North Carolina making free throw after free throw with many fouls called on the Orange in the second half.

Oshae Brissett looked to help the Orange come back with an and-one jumper until he missed yet another free throw for the Orange. Battle’s 29-point performance wasn’t enough to top the Tar Heels on this occasion.

North Carolina’s White was the difference in this game. Every time Syracuse attempted to catch up, he would hit a tough shot or assist a teammate with a good pass. He hit a three pointer with 6:38 left in the second followed by a dunk, bringing the Tar Heels up on Syracuse 81-73.

White finished with 34 points with six three-pointers and shot 10 for 10 from the free-throw line. The star point guard led North Carolina over Syracuse 93 to 85 in Chapel Hill.

“Coby is the best scoring point guard I have ever coached,” UNC head coach Roy Williams said.

Williams was very impressed by his performance tonight, especially his flawless free throw percentage.

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said after the game that “a key component in the game was free-throws.” Syracuse shot 56 percent from the line to North Carolina’s 91 percent. UNC collected 34 of their points from free-throws, which was a huge addition throughout the game — especially in the second half.

The Syracuse Orange look to bounce back on Monday at 6 p.m. as they host No. 2 Virginia in the Carrier Dome.