It was a game to forget for the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team, who fell to #7 North Carolina 103-67 on Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill.
The Tar Heels outperformed the Orange in nearly every statistical category and had five players finish in double figures. Judah Mintz notched his first 20-point game since Dec. 9, but it wasn’t nearly enough for Syracuse’s absent defense, allowing over 100 points for the first time in over two years.
Let’s keep the takeaways short and sweet today from what was a forgettable game.
Coming out flat
If SU wanted any chance to pull off a huge upset, it needed to compile 40 minutes of near-perfect basketball. Unfortunately, the Orange faltered minutes into the game, putting them in a 10-point hole after six minutes.
A three-pointer by Chris Bell put Syracuse up momentarily, but the Tar Heels fired off a 7-0 run to take the early lead. Armando Bacot led the charge with two easy buckets in the paint. UNC also found success in its press defense, and a steal by Cormac Ryan off a hesitant inbound pass from Justin Taylor resulted in a quick layup.
The Tar Heels continued their dominant defensive ways, holding the Orange to just 4/18 from the field through 10 minutes. By then, the lead had ballooned to nearly 20 points.
It didn’t get any prettier by halftime, either. Syracuse looked tired and completely defeated as North Carolina’s advantage continued to snowball. Judah Mintz and Chris Bell combined for 20 first-half points, while the rest of the squad managed just 10 on 3/16 shooting. Ouch.
Punched in the paint
The battle down low was about as one-sided as it gets. UNC outscored SU 58-32 in the points-in-the-paint department, getting anything it wanted from there throughout the game.
Besides Maliq Brown, no one else on Syracuse stepped up to rebound. Bacot and Jalen Washington took advantage of the Orange’s lack of size and aggression, combining for 12 first-half points on 6/6 shooting.
It only got worse in the second half. The Tar Heels’ quick ball movement confused SU’s defense both in man and zone, resulting in wide-open looks right under the basket. With under minutes remaining in the game, UNC had more points in the paint (52) than SU had total (51).
Coming into ACC play, I was really concerned with how Syracuse would match up against the conference’s top big men. Don’t get me wrong, Maliq Brown did all he could (6 points, 8 rebounds), but the lack of depth at the center position is glaring. Not even a healthy 7’4” Naheem McLeod could’ve stopped UNC’s dominant offense down low.
Chris Bell steps up from range
If there’s one positive to take away, it’s Bell’s continued offensive success. After leading the Orange with 20 points last time out against Boston College last time, the sophomore turned in 13 more in Chapel Hill.
Bell’s third three-pointer from the corner gave SU a glimmer of hope, down by 15 with 18 minutes to go. But, another North Carolina run put the game out of reach, and the forward subbed out for the remainder of the game only having played 22 minutes.
Cam out aggressive in the second half.— Syracuse Men’s Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) January 13, 2024
Bell's 3 gives him 13.
Despite the minimal playing time, Bell drilled all three of his attempts from distance. It’s the second time this year he’s made at least three three-pointers in back-to-back games. With Mintz and Taylor non-existent from behind the arc (zero combined threes), SU needs Bell more than ever going forward.
What were your takeaways from today’s game? Let us know in the comments.