CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team just isn’t close to competing with the top teams in the country. For the fifth time this season, Syracuse (11-5, 2-3) lost by a significant margin to a ranked team, falling to the No. 7 North Carolina Tar Heels (13-3, 5-0) by a final score of 103-67 on Saturday afternoon.
Syracuse was without 7-foot-4 center Naheem McLeod for the second straight game. McLeod was not in North Carolina for the loss.
Syracuse started off slow offensively but once again Chris Bell knocked down his first three attempt of the game. Armando Bacot was able to score inside in the early going as Maliq Brown fronted the All-ACC big man and the weak side help was late and to no avail. JJ Starling scored at the rim and Brown had a putback but North Carolina led 14-7 by the first media timeout and never looked back.
Benny Williams, Quadir Copeland and Mounir Hima all checked in at the under 16. Carolina continued to work its size advantage inside and got to the rim without much resitance. The Tar Heels opened up a 20-4 points in the paint edge just ten minutes into the game.
Frustrated on offense, Syracuse’s transition defense was caught trying to gamble for steals and the Heels made them pay. North Carolina is too good of a team to turn the ball over in those scenarios and burned the Orange with three open triples on the back side. After Seth Trimble and Ingram made back-to-back threes, Adrian Autry called timeout trailing 34-16.
From there Syracuse went to the 2-3 zone — not just on out-of-bounds-underneaths — at the under eight minute mark to try to change the tenor of the game. After getting down by 27 in the first half, Syracuse was able to go on a 9-0 run starting with a Bell three and by getting Mintz going.
Still, the Syracuse offense often settled for tough, contested mid-range shots and struggled to get clean looks at the rim and couldn’t sustain momentum before the break. North Carolina owned the paint 28-12 and had a 24-17 rebounding edge at the intermission. Syracuse trailed 52-30 at the half.
Out of the break, Mintz made two free throws and Brown connected on a jumper to get the UNC lead to 18. Bell then connected on his third three of the game to get the margin to 15, but that was as close as Syracuse would get the rest of the way. Elliot Cadeau answered with two straight scores and Bacot threw down a wide open dunk, followed by a Davis layup that forced Autry to call a timeout just three minutes into the half. North Carolina led 62-39.
The wheels fell off the wagon for Syracuse from that point as Bell was whislted for a flagrant foul on Cormac Ryan. He made both and North Carolina continued to extend its lead. Syracuse stayed in the 2-3 zone for the rest of the half, but even after missed shots by Carolina, the Orange struggled to close out stops with rebounds. The Tar Heels had a 53-30 edge in rebounding on the game and 22-6 second chance points advantage.
Peter Carey checked in with just over eight minutes left, his first game-action since November against LSU. He would register a bucket, a rebound and two blocks. Down the stretch Syracuse never threatened and North Carolina even went 2-3 zone against it. Copeland would still compete in the blowout but it was mostly for naught. Autry inserted the walk-ons late and North Carolina broke the century mark, the first opponent to do that to Syracuse in two years. Syracuse remains winless all-time in the Dean E. Smith Center.
Mintz led Syracuse with 21 points while Copeland and Bell had 16 and 13, respectively. RJ Davis led all scorers with 22 points for Carolina.
Syracuse hits the road to take on Pittsburgh this Tuesday. That game tips at from the Petersen Events Center at 7 pm ET and airs on ESPN2.