Syracuse men’s basketball falls to UNC in a late night battle

SU falls to UNC in a late night battle

A costly turnover and foul by the Orange in the final minute give the Tar Heels the 72-68 win.
Published: January 24, 2023
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Syracuse's Judah Mintz (3) and North Carolina's RJ Davis (4) collide while chasing after a loose ball during Tuesday's game at the JMA Wireless Dome.

As snow blanketed Syracuse University’s campus and the second week of the semester commenced for students, North Carolina came into the JMA Wireless Dome for a Tuesday night primetime ESPN matchup to take on the Orange.

SU was coming off a convincing road win versus Georgia Tech while the Tar Heels were riding a three-game winning streak. Both were 6-3 in ACC play and had secured wins over the same opponent Notre Dame this season.

So with the table set, the Orange found a way to keep up with the pre-season No. 1 ranked team and even took a lead briefly in the final 1:23 left before succumbing to UNC 72-68 on a turnover and offensive foul.

North Carolina came in trying to bury the Orange early, led by Caleb Love and his three first-half threes. UNC got up 15-6 and maintained distance early in the first half, but Joe Girard had two threes of his own en route to a game-high 12 points to keep it close and get SU to within 4 points at halftime, 38-34. Armando Bacot chipped in 10 first-half points, and it was a battle to see him and Jesse Edwards haggle for space and rebounds in the low post.

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Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim reacts to a foul call on Chris Bell (center) as he is helped up by teammate Joe Girard.

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Syracuse's Chris Bell (0) and Jesse Edwards (14) attempt to block North Carolina's Armando Bacot (5).

The intensity was high coming out of halftime for the Orange. After tying it up, 38-all on a Chris Bell fastbreak dunk less than two minutes into the second half.

The game became a hotly contested back-and-forth affair. Bacot came out early in the second half and showed why he’s an All-American, scoring eight points, drawing three fouls on Jesse in the first eight minutes, and sending him to the bench with four total.

UNC opened the lead up to eight during that stretch, but big shot-making from the fresh tandem of Mintz and Bell, who had 15 points and three 3’s, helped SU claw back and made it a one-possession game for much of the latter part of the second half.

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North Carolina's Leaky Black (1) spins away from Syracuse's Joe Girard (11) before making his way down the court.

After Girard hit a 3 to put SU up 2 with just under 90 seconds left and the Orange got a stop of the ensuing possession, it seemed like the Orange would walk away with that coveted Quad 1 or 2 win to bolster their NCAA tournament resume.

But Pete Nance, the game’s leading scorer with 21 points, was fouled on a dunk attempt with 21.4 seconds left, Jesse Edward’s fifth and last foul. After making the first, Nance missed the second, only to have Joe Girard dive for the loose ball and throw it directly to Nance on the save, who scored for UNC to go up one.

The Tar Heels never relinquished after that, and with a charge call and flagrant foul combo on Judah Mintz against RJ Davis on SU’s last offensive possession, the second charge Mintz was called for against Davis, the Tar Heels snuck out of the Dome with a 72-68 win.

Boeheim was mainly indifferent to the large free throw discrepancy for the Tar Heels in the post-game presser, simply saying it was “unusual.” He did say that he didn’t think Mintz’s first charge was called correctly, and he left abruptly after being asked by a reporter about his squad’s inability to win close games.

Syracuse's Judah Mintz (center) attempts to hold the ball away from North Carolina defenders during an ACC men's basketball game on Tuesday, January 25, 2022, at JMA Wireless Dome.
Syracuse's Judah Mintz (center) attempts to hold the ball away from North Carolina defenders.