Orange fall to UNC in final Dome matchup

Orange fall to UNC in final Dome matchup

The Orange just couldn't keep up with the Tar Heels
Published: February 29, 2020
Syracuse's Elijah Hughes prepares to make a drive while covered by North Carolina #1 Leaky Black.
Syracuse's Elijah Hughes prepares to make a drive while covered by North Carolina's Leaky Black.

Despite the Orange’s painful loss to the North Carolina 92-79, the atmosphere for the final game under the Carrier Dome’s original roof was nothing short of magical.

For the past 40 years, the Dome has featured basketball legends like Jim Boeheim and Carmelo Anthony, masterful musicians like Billy Joel and Paul McCartney, and most importantly some of the greatest fans in basketball. Those patrons made an otherwise embarrassing loss a fittingly exciting send-off for the Dome as we know it.

Bourama Sidibe led the Orange (16-13, 9-9 ACC) against the Tar Heels (12-17, 5-13 ACC) in a game that never felt lost until the closing minutes.

Bourama battles back

The game opened to a chorus of boos, cheers and in between for celebrity guests Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, and Jimmy Fallon. That mixed reaction is a solid representation of how the game felt. For the first nine minutes of play, both teams were scoring with moderate frequency. Syracuse seemed to hold their own well, but center, Marek Dolezaj, had already recorded two personal fouls.

A dunk by Sidibe tied the game at 17 points. However, UNC suddenly went on an unanswered 16-0 run led by Christian Keeling, Cole Anthony, Garrison Brooks, and Justin Pierce to make it 33-17. The Orange’s defense entirely broke down. The Tar Heels effectively moved the ball around, and Syracuse’s zone couldn’t keep up.

The ‘Cuse didn’t let things lie, however, as Sidibe began rebounding everything in sight. Unlike Dolezaj, he avoided fouls and came up big on defense. His dominance under the basket allowed him to tee up Buddy Boeheim. The pair led them on their own unanswered run of 11 points to close the gap to 33-28 with two and a half minutes remaining in the first.

Things went back and forth for the remainder, while Sidibe stayed hot in the paint. The half finished with a pair of free throws by the 6-10 forward from Mali. He nailed one to make it 40-35 as the Orange rolled into the locker room with a full head of steam. Sidibe had 11 rebounds, but he wasn’t done there.

Syracuse struggles

UNC is having an objectively bad year. Roy Williams’ squad, which he himself called “not very gifted,” came to Syracuse with a 28 percent three-point shooting record. For whatever reason, in the first six minutes of the second half, the Heels put away six from beyond the arc.

Garrison Brooks and Cole Anthony continually stole the game from the Orange. Brooks pulled in 14 rebounds and ended the night with 26 points. Anthony couldn’t miss with seven buckets from downtown, ending with 25 points. Syracuse can guard against a hot player in the paint, but when that player is supplemented by someone like Anthony, they suffer.

As the half progressed, the Orange simply couldn’t fight back. With UNC nailing shots left and right, their defense couldn’t keep up. None of this was helped by Dolezaj staying in foul trouble for the entirety of the game. The center only played for 19 minutes.

By the end of the game, the Orange had been outscored 92-79.

After the game, Jim Boeheim acknowledged the fans saying, “The support (this year) has been as good or better than it’s ever been.”

In a year this tough, maybe that’s just what Syracuse needed.

Moving forward

With this game signifying the end of home matchups for Syracuse hoops, things look bleak. They won’t make the NCAA Tournament. However, winning their remaining two games on the road would look great alongside a run in the ACC Tournament. With some luck and more stellar performances from Sidibe, the Orange could have a fun jaunt through the NIT. They play again in Chestnut Hill, Mass., on Tuesday, March 3 against the Boston College Eagles.

In attendance at the game today were also Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, and Jimmy Fallon.
Among those sitting courtside Saturday's game were New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and TV host Jimmy Fallon.