|Posted on March 7, 2018 at 11:45 PM|
Article by Dan Tortora
It seems like yesterday that the North Carolina Tar Heels entered the Carrier Dome to face the Syracuse Orange in a game that they ran for almost its entirety until Syracuse found their way to a 74-74 with 3:07 remaining.
Then, the wheels fell off the comeback car for the Orange, with poor shot selection and a costly turnover, all leading to the Tar Heels' 78-74 victory.
The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) men's basketball tournament offered a shot at redemption for Syracuse, an 11-seed, facing off with 6th-seeded North Carolina.
Both teams began the game with tip shots, the first by Luke Maye of the Tar Heels and the second from true freshman forward Marek Dolezaj of the Orange, tying the game at two apiece.
Cameron Johnson would hit a three and Maye would benefit from not being boxed out on a putback, getting North Carolina ahead 7-2.
Syracuse sophomore shooting guard Tyus Battle would connect from long range for back-to-back three-pointers to give Syracuse their first lead of the game, at 8-7.
A three-pointer at the 13:34 mark of the first half would get the lead back for the Orange, this time coming from junior point guard Frank Howard, making it 13-11.
There were five lead changes and three ties in less than nine minutes to start the game, with Syracuse holding the slight advantage, 16-15, at the 11:32 mark after a make from beyond the arc by true freshman forward Oshae Brissett.
Howard and Battle would make two consecutive turnovers to follow, which turned into three points for the Tar Heels, placing them ahead 20-16.
Brissett's second three of the game would bring the Orange to 5-for-6 shooting from long distance to begin the contest, and to within one, 20-19.
But, Syracuse allowed 14 points around the rim in the first 12 minutes and change, which would place them behind North Carolina 27-19 inside eight minutes before the break.
Poor decision-making on defense, a lack of focus on how much time was on the game clock, and failure to look for one another for high-percentage opportunities left the Orange digging themselves an even deeper hole, down 31-19 with 5:16 to go in the first half.
Syracuse's offensive drought that began at the 10:19 mark of the first half did not end until the 5:03 mark, a span of five minutes and 16 seconds that was broken by a jumper by Battle that made it 31-21, well in favor of North Carolina.
Wasted possessions where they did not look for one another, holding onto the ball which took away future first-half possessions for themselves coupled with a lack of knowing where players were on the court and anticipating that the rebounds would come right to them, uncontested, led to a double-digit deficit that the Orange would take into the break, 39-29.
Syracuse seemingly began the second half the same way they left the first half as far as defensively, giving up seven points less than two minutes into the half.
On offense, they would continue to stay out on the perimeter and dribble, passing the ball from time to time on the perimeter with no looks inside.
Twice in the opening five minutes, the Orange would have a shot-clock violation, the second coming from Battle who appeared to have had no idea that the shot clock was running to its end.
Battle began the second half 0-for-5, forcing up attempts that looked like desperation heaves.
True freshman center Bourama Sidibe ended an Orange scoring drought that last from the 17:27 mark to 13:39 left in the game, a span of almost four minutes, when he took an offensive rebound off of a miss by Battle and put the ball right back up and in.
Through the first half of the second period, North Carolina was on an 18-10 run out to a 57-39 advantage, with 10 minutes left to play.
But the Tar Heels would go on a drought of their own, not making a field goal from the 12:58 mark of the second half until 6:14 remaining, a span of six minutes and 44 seconds. Syracuse went on a 13-4 run in that span.
A spin and elevation in the lane by Battle turned into an old-fashioned three-point play that brought the Orange within nine, down 66-57, with 4:17 to play.
However, prior habits got the best of Syracuse as they continued to lack movement and play-calling on offense, did not look inside, and forced shots, while getting beat over the top on defense on long heaves.
The Orange never led for a moment of the second half and looked like they were completely in another world than their opponent.
With 1:04 to play, head coach Jim Boeheim cleared his bench and put in the walk-ons, a move usually made when the team has a handle on the lead late.
A 78-59 win by North Carolina moves them onto the ACC Tournament quarterfinals against the 3rd-seeded Miami Hurricanes, while the Orange move to 20-13 on the season, with nine ACC wins and 11 ACC losses.