Syracuse men’s basketball squeaks past North Carolina 72-70
Syracuse men's basketball beats UNC 72-70
Coming off a newly formed fastest-to-get-to-900-wins accolade, UNC’s Roy Williams was unable to continue that success in the Dome as Syracuse barely topped the Tar Heels, 72-70.
With only two games remaining in the season, both at home in the Dome, Syracuse was itching to get another win to help ground them a little bit more before the ACC Tournament begins on Mar. 9 and runs through Mar. 18. The Orange struggled Saturday against their most recent opponent Georgia Tech, dropping that matchup 84-77.
North Carolina tops the all-time series 14-5, and Syracuse fell to the Tar Heels back on Jan. 12 of this year, so Syracuse was seeking some revenge as well in Monday’s battle.
“We fought through everything,” said head coach Jim Boeheim. “I thought we did just enough, we battled them just enough to win the game.”
The players to watch heading into the contest for UNC were Armando Bacot and Day’Ron Sharpe, as Bacot averages a team-best 11.2 points per game and Sharpe leads the Tar Heels in both rebound and block average, leads the ACC and ranks 16th in the nation in offensive rebounds per game.
Quincy Guerrier went head-to-head with Bacot in the initial tipoff, who won it for the Tar Heels, and in UNC’s first possession they moved easily through the Syracuse defense with Garrison Brooks picking up the first two points of the game.
Joseph Girard III quickly answered with two of his own but UNC’s Kerwin Walton found himself wide open on the near side, missed the attempt from outside the arc but the miss was rebounded and sunk by Bacot.
A missed shot by Griffin gave the ball right back to UNC but a Bacot offensive foul flipped the possession arrow again, and the ball headed back into the Syracuse end.
Boeheim took a shot a little too early, the ball tapping the rim from a lob from outside the arc, but a turnover in the UNC end gave the ball right back to Girard and the Orange. Girard’s 3-point attempt didn’t go, and the Tar Heels were still up by two early in the first half.
Three-pointers were not looking to be Syracuse’s best bet early on as Boeheim missed another one and the Orange defense let Walton drive right in to the basket to add two more to their lead.
Sharpe added another two for UNC off a Marek Dolezaj foul and Syracuse still failed to get hot from beyond the arc as Girard missed another 3-pointer.
Walker Kessler landed a jumper and put the Tar Heels up 11-2. Jesse Edwards got two just under five minutes into the first half, severing the Syracuse scoring drought, but foul trouble stinted the Orange’s momentum as Edwards picked up two within three minutes.
Dolezaj logged his first points of the night and was fouled on the play and sent to the line to pick up the extra point, bringing the score to 11-7, UNC.
Edwards grabbed the rebound off a missed UNC shot, but had the ball stripped from him before he could get a shot off. Boeheim sunk his first three of the night and all of a sudden, Syracuse was within one. But with the Orange unable to get in the paint or see anything go from beyond the arc, UNC added five more and extended their lead back up to six.
Boeheim looked to start something for Syracuse, launching another 3-point bucket and the Orange were within three. But the score did not stay that way for long as UNC logged four more consecutive points and Boeheim’s three failed to incite anything for ‘Cuse.
Syracuse’s offense struggled as the Tar Heels were watching and stopping the Orange’s every move. Guerrier added his first points of the night with just over six minutes to go in the first half, bringing the score to 22-16, UNC.
Kadary Richmond brought the score to 18 with two in the Syracuse end as the Orange tried to make a late first-half return against the Tar Heels. But two back-to-back turnovers and fouls for Syracuse allowed UNC to add to their lead, 24-18 with 4:23 remaining in the half.
Boeheim dented the Tar Heels lead with a quick jumper, but Brooks had a fast return down at the other end, quickly reducing the addition. Guerrier popped in another three for Syracuse, but UNC returned with two of their own, and it was 28-23 UNC with just over three minutes left to play in the opening half.
Boeheim launched a three through the net and stronger defense in the UNC end — that led to a five-second violation — shook the Tar Heels enough to keep UNC from adding any more to their two-point lead. Dolezaj tied the game at 28 off of the turnover and the Orange seemed to finally be finding their footing. A midcourt Tar Heels turnover ended in a Boeheim three-pointer and Syracuse regained the lead with close to a minute left in the first half.
Boeheim got off one last three for the half, registering his 1,000th career point, and what was a game of catch-up for Syracuse in the first half ended in a 34-28 lead as both teams headed into the locker room.
Bacot had eight points in first half and Sharpe only grabbed three rebounds while Brooks trailed right behind Bacot with seven points of his own.
Boeheim tallied 17 points in the first, the second closest being Guerrier with six, but Griffin stood out in the first in that he was unable to put up any points and logged only one rebound and two blocks.
“He just had one of those tough games,” said coach Boeheim about Griffin’s performance. “If his jump shot’s not going, he’s gotta find a way to get to the foul line.”
Syracuse struggled to bring the momentum they had at the end of the first half into the second half, scoring only one point to UNC’s eight within the first three minutes. But Buddy responded with his first three of the second half and the Orange regained the lead, 40-36.
After a two-point response from the Tar Heels, Richmond added another two, followed by a layup by Guerrier and Syracuse’s lead was at six just over five minutes into the second half.
Guerrier and Richmond both added two more, and it looked as if a rhythm was finally starting to fall into place for the Orange early in the second half.
Syracuse’s momentum was jolted a bit as they saw a shot-clock violation, but the Orange’s infamous zone defense quickly put the ball back in SU’s hands, and Guerrier finished the play with two in the paint off an offensive rebound.
UNC’s RJ Davis managed to slip two in to bring the score to 50-43 just under halfway through the second half, and Dolezaj picked up his fourth foul with 10:14 remaining on the clock.
Boeheim extended their lead to seven but additional foul trouble for Syracuse put Bacot on the line for two, and the score was now 52-47, ‘Cuse. But Boeheim was not done yet as he picked up the and-one, bringing Syracuse to an eight-point lead. Edwards dunked another two points right after, and the Orange were up by 10 with under eight to go in the final half.
Guerrier added four more to his game point total and brought the score to 61-48 with 6:30 left on the clock. Syracuse ran into some foul trouble as Edwards fouled out with just over six minutes left and Dolezaj, with four, came in to replace him. Dolezaj completed a spin move to prove his worth, and Syracuse add two more to their lead.
Richmond picked up his third foul, and UNC was back within nine with just under five to go in the game. But Guerrier wanted nothing to do with that and brought the score to 65-54 with two of his own.
Griffin sunk two while moving under the basket and the Tar Heels answered with two of their own shortly after, keeping Syracuse to a nine-point lead. Dolezaj headed to the line and made it a 10-point lead for the Orange with just over two and half minutes remaining.
Boeheim sent Leaky Black to the line with 1:55 to go in the game and he decreased the SU lead by one, but UNC got the rebound, and Caleb Love cut it down by even more by sinking a 3-point bucket.
Guerrier hobbled off the court, bent over and clearly in pain with just over a minute to go in the contest, but Griffin added two more to Syracuse’s lead at the line after being fouled by Black.
Davis threw in a 3-point basket for UNC, making it 70-66 with 43 seconds to go. Robert Braswell turned the ball over, and the play resulted in a two-point basket as Love was on his way down to the ground.
It was a game of fouls for the last 13 seconds as neither team wanted to go down without a fight. Girard went back and forth between being at the line and sending the Tar Heels to the line. UNC had the last word as Brooks finished the game with a jumper, but it was not enough to top the Orange, and Syracuse pulled out the two-point win, 72-70.
“Big thing was getting the rebound,” said Buddy Boeheim of the win. “If we can get it, we can go.”
Syracuse looks to win their final game of the season back home in the Dome on Wednesday against Clemson at 5 p.m.