Here are three takeaways from SU's loss:
1. Cooney, continuing to heat up, can do that
Even as Syracuse has struggled, Trevor Cooney has begun to heat up in recent weeks. In the five games leading up to Saturday's contest, he shot 45.2% from 3. Still, Cooney hadn't yet had a breakthrough performance, having not eclipsed 19 points in a single game this season.
But that changed Saturday night, when he scored a game-high 27 points and went 5-of-12 from beyond the arc. At times, it was almost as if he were single-handedly keeping Syracuse in the game, making a number of shots that helped swing momentum in the Orange's favor.
Cooney's 27-point outing marked his best scoring performance since tallying 28 points in last year's contest at North Carolina, though it's worth noting he took five more shots in that game than he did Saturday.
Cooney entered the season expecting his shooting percentage to go up significantly, given that he would be surrounded by several other 3-point threats, something that would — theoretically, at least — free him up for more open looks. After a slow start to the season, he's starting to achieve those expectations; following Saturday's game, he is now shooting 36.3% from 3.
2. Syracuse is capable of competing on the glass with teams like North Carolina
It seemed like a foregone conclusion that North Carolina, one of the country's best rebounding teams, would have its way on the glass with Syracuse, one of the country's worst rebounding teams.
But the Orange actually managed to outrebound the Tar Heels, pulling down 35 boards to UNC's 33. SU came down with 14 offensive rebounds, something that can be credited mainly to Dajuan Coleman, who had six offensive boards on the night. Coleman, Cooney, Michael Gbinije and Tyler Roberson each had at least five rebounds.
However, UNC still used its size advantage to exploit Syracuse down low. In the game's final eight minutes and 15 seconds, North Carolina registered 10 made field goals in the paint, which catapulted the Tar Heels to a 34-17 run in that span, more than good enough to pull away from the Orange.
Still, for SU, it was encouraging to compete like that on the boards, something the Orange had seldom previously done this season.
3. Boeheim wants to have Gbinije play off the ball, but not at a cost
In the first half, Boeheim tried on two separate occasions to move Gbinije to the wing on offense, allowing him to play off the ball, where he's generally more effective. Boeheim did that by first inserting Franklin Howard, who returned after missing two games with an illness, at point guard and shifting Gbinije to shooting guard.
Howard struggled in the minutes he played, though, and Boeheim soon replaced him with Kaleb Joseph, the Orange's other point guard. But Joseph too had his share of issues, and Boeheim decided to scrap the plan and move Gbinije back to point guard.
Gbinije has been struggling to begin ACC play — he's shooting just 29.3% from the field — and it's worth experimenting with different lineups to try to get him going. But if Howard and Joseph are going to struggle, it makes more sense to just keep Gbinije at point guard, since that allows both Cooney and Malachi Richardson — both of whom have been heating up from 3 — to stay on the court.