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Syracuse WBB Stuns North Carolina, 61-56, For "Best Win of the Season"

The Orange (16-7, 6-4) ended its two-game losing streak and its drought against ranked teams with a statement win against the No. 13/11 Tar Heels in the Carrier Dome.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The streak is finally over.

Syracuse, which came into the game 0-7 against ranked teams, broke that drought by picking up its first top 25 win on the season.

For the second straight year, Syracuse upset North Carolina.

For the second straight year, Syracuse beat North Carolina by five points.

And both times, Quentin Hillsman called it the biggest win of the season.

The No. 25 Orange upset the No. 13/11 Tar Heels, 61-56, in the Carrier Dome and earned the resume-building win it so desperately needed.  A jovial Hillsman joked after the game that he wouldn't have to keep answering the weekly barrage of media questions about his team's performances against the best.  That's because his team stifled the Tar Heel offense, leaving no questions about what their NCAA Tournament fate will be.

"Tonight was a huge win for us and for our season," Hillsman said.  "We knew coming into this that this was going to be a major, major part to the rest of our season to get this W at home."

The Orange only shot 27.3 percent, but won with defense by getting 14 steals and forcing 24 Tar Heel turnovers.  That defensive pressure came right away when Briana Day forced a charge with 17:19 left in the first half.  Hillsman crept a few steps onto the court to applaud his center, while the players behind him jumped off the bench to show their support.

A few minutes later, Day came all the way out to near the announcers' table to deflect a Tar Heel pass out of bounds.

"Our players came out and played with urgency," Hillsman said.  "That's what we talked about after our last game and going into these last couple of games. Because we knew that this could possibly be the last ranked team that we play for the season."

Syracuse doesn't have a ranked team left on its schedule, but it now has pulled off the type of quality win that has been so elusive this season.

Hillsman and his players talked about their urgency and must-win mentality throughout the week and backed it up by not folding in key moments, like it had done previously in the year.  The Orange has lost three games this season against top 25 teams when it had the lead at halftime.

With a late run, North Carolina threatened to make it a fourth.

The Tar Heels surged back after trailing by ten at intermission and by seven points with just 29 seconds to play. They pulled to 59-56, however, with four made free throws and two misses at the line from Brianna Butler.  Jessica Washington hoisted up a 3-pointer, which could have tied the game with 11 seconds left. But instead, it sailed way off the mark and Peterson drew a foul and sunk a pair of free throws to seal the game.

"We just knew how important this game was," Peterson said.  "Not saying that we didn't know how important those other games were, but we never gave up and we continued to play with a sense of urgency."

Coming into the game, Syracuse was projected as an 8-seed in the NCAA Tournament in ESPN's latest polls.  Even though the win gives the Orange some insurance, Cornelia Fondren said her mentality will stay the same.

Said Fondren, "We still have to go out and win every game.  I just feel like every game, we have to play like its our last game."