They were in it ‘till the final buzzer, but the Syracuse Orange couldn’t pick up a much needed resume boosting win, as they fell to the North Carolina Tar Heels by a score of 78-74.
The first half opened with some stellar ball movement from the Tar Heels, as their ability to swing the ball quickly allowed for them to find easy looks inside. The Orange were biting on Luke Maye’s pump fake, which led to open layups around the rim and kick-out shots off of the fake.
The Orange struggled early to penetrate the North Carolina man-to-man defense, and were left taking contested jumpers late in the shot clock. With the contested shots not falling, the Tar Heels were able to capitalize off of them and push the pull in transition.
The Orange did find a little success on offense from Tyus Battle’s dribble penetration (eight first half points), as the dynamic scorer used his craftiness inside to finish over the taller defenders. Battle’s scoring success didn’t last long, as the Orange went stagnant on offense and into isolation mode—we all know that doesn’t lead to success for this team.
The Tar Heels followed Syracuse’s 11-2 run with more dynamic offensive sets, as they were able to pick apart the zone with ease, this time finding open looks from the perimeter. The Tar Heels ended the half shooting 5-11 from deep, as they opened up a double digit lead late in the half. However, an Oshae Brissett three at the buzzer gave him 10 points at the break, as the Orange went into the half down 41-32.
The second half opened with the Tar Heels dominating the offensive glass, as every time the Orange seemed to be getting in a groove, the Tar Heels would answer a second chance bucket. The Orange looked better on offense, as the ball was moving and their jumpers were falling, but Theo Pinson found a way to beat the Orange with ease, whether it be passing the ball (seven assists) or finishing inside (23 points).
Frank Howard started to get his shot going, scoring 25 points on 9-18 shooting, but the Tar Heels’ ability to get the ball inside hurt the Orange the most when they needed stops. Pinson’s quick passes countered the Syracuse length, allowing North Carolina to score off of high-low passes.
With the Tar Heels starting to separate themselves again, the Syracuse “big three” took measures into their own hands, and started to go on a little offensive tear themselves (they combined for 66 points). Battle turned into the second half player we have seen him be this whole season, as his pull up jumper tied the game at 74 with under three minutes to go.
However, a costly turnover by Pachal Chukwu led to a Tar Heel bucket, and the Orange couldn’t make up for it on the other end of the court. It was another heart breaking loss against a quality opponent for the Orange, but they will have another chance to boost their resume with a win on the road against Duke this Saturday.