|Posted on March 1, 2021 at 9:25 PM|
Article by Dan Tortora
In what was supposed to be the final home and final overall regular season game for the Syracuse Orange men's basketball team ended up being their second-to-last due to COVID-19 rescheduling.
This contest that was supposed to mark the end of the regular season came against the North Carolina (UNC) Tar Heels, a team that entered the Dome at 9-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and 15-8 overall. Their 9-5 conference record placed them sixth in the standings of 15 member schools.
Syracuse came into this contest ninth in the ACC at 7-7, with an overall record of 13-8.
Tar Heels' senior forward Garrison Brooks and Orange sophomore guard Joe Girard, III, traded jumpers to start the game followed by a 9-0 run by the Tar Heels.
Sophomore center Jesse Edwards broke the Syracuse scoring drought with a layup at the 15:09 mark. This field goal snapped a span of over four minutes where the Orange did not score a single point. Including this field goal, Syracuse would go on a run themselves, with eight unanswered points to bring them within one, down 11-10 at the 13:16 mark. Senior forward Marek Dolezaj contributed to this run with the team's first three-point play of the game, which came the old-fashioned way. Junior guard Buddy Boeheim would gain three himself to follow, his from beyond the arc, Syracuse's first three-ball of the night.
Down 16-10, the Orange would move on offense and pass the ball around until someone got a clear look when Dolezaj dished to Boeheim who made his second deep ball of the game, this one to beat the shot clock, getting the Orange within one possession, 16-13.
However, Syracuse would follow with back-to-back turnovers that led to high-percentage attempts at the rim that freshman forward/center Day'Ron Sharpe and junior guard/forward Leaky Black finished, respectively, to move the Heels out to a two-possession lead, 20-13.
Sophomore forward Quincy Guerrier would give the Orange some life on the offensive side with a three to get the team to a 22-16 deficit.
At the 3:41 mark, Guerrier would make his second deep shot of the game, moving Syracuse to within three, down 26-23.
Boeheim would send his third long ball of the ball through the nylon to bring the Orange to a two-point deficit, 28-26.
Following this deep ball, Syracuse would capitalize off of a UNC turnover when Dolezaj had his shot bounce in from the paint to tie the contest at 28.
Dolezaj would steal the ball from Sharpe at the 1:25 mark and feed Boeheim who would connect from beyond the arc for the fourth time in the first half, giving the Orange their first lead of the game, coming with 1:19 on the clock before halftime.
Syracuse would hold on to their possession late, with Boeheim launching from long range with nine seconds on the game clock. The net would welcome his attempt, giving Boeheim his fifth-made deep shot of the opening half, rolling the Orange out to a 34-28 lead at the break.
Boeheim and Guerrier were the only players to connect from beyond the arc for Syracuse in the first half, with Boeheim going 5-for-9 and Guerrier 2-for-3.
Girard went 0-for-2 from distance in the first half and junior forward Alan Griffin ended the opening half 0-for-3.
As a team, UNC did not make a single shot from distance in the first half, going 0-for-9, while Syracuse ended the half 7-for-17.
Boeheim led all scorers on either side in the first half, with 17 points, playing in all 20 minutes.
Sophomore forward/center Armando Bacot led all Tar Heels in the first half with nine points.
Edwards would play almost 11-straight minutes in the first half from the 16:34 to the 5:47 mark. He would be off the floor for exactly one minute before 45-year head coach Jim Boeheim would send him out again. But Edwards would pick up his third foul almost immediately, and Boeheim would place him back on the bench. Edwards would have two points, five rebounds, one block, one turnover, and one steal in his time on the floor in the opening half.
UNC would open the second half on an 8-1 run, overtaking the lead from Syracuse, going from down six at the half to ahead by one, 36-35.
Edwards came in just 39 seconds into the second half and would score the first points for the Orange in the half, coming at the line at the 16:51 mark, giving the lead back to the Orange at 37-36.
This would begin a 13-2 run by Syracuse to move them out to their first double-digit lead of the contest, ahead 48-38.
An offensive rebound and finish under the basket by Guerrier would move the team out to a 15-2 run that would extend their lead to 12, 50-38, with 12:09 to play in the game.
With 10:14 to go, Dolezaj committed his fourth foul of the game, leading to freshman guard RJ Davis heading to the line. Davis made both, bringing the Tar Heels within two possessions, down 50-45.
Dolezaj had five points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals, and three blocks in 30 minutes of play before picking up his fourth foul.
Boeheim's jumper at the 9:09 mark would end a 7-0 run by UNC, bringing the score to 52-45 Syracuse. He would get to and surpass 25 points with an old-fashioned three-point play that gave him 26 points at the time.
Edwards would dunk it home off an assist by true freshman point guard Kadary Richmond to expand the Orange advantage to 10, 57-47, with 8:12 remaining.
Guerrier took an inbounds pass from Boeheim and finished at the rim, with a physical face-off. He would come back on a fast-break on the following possession, making an off-balanced shot which would give him 16 points on the night with 6:35 to play, and rolling the Orange out to a 61-48 lead.
Edwards would foul out at the 6:11 mark, finishing with six points, eight rebounds, four steals, one block, and one turnover in 24 minutes.
Griffin scored his first points of the game with 3:26 left to play on a layup that gave Syracuse a 67-56 lead.
But UNC would not go away without a late fight, as freshman guard Caleb Love got the Tar Heels within two possessions, 68-62, off a three that came with 1:48 to go.
Redshirt-sophomore forward Robert Braswell would foul Sharpe with 50 seconds to go. Sharpe would make the first and miss the second, but Love would get the offensive rebound, leading to a three-point attempt by Davis, where the ball would hit the back of the rim and drop in, making it 70-66 Syracuse with 48 seconds left on the game clock.
Braswell would try to force a pass late in the contest, which Love would steal and take down the court, connecting at the rim to bring the UNC deficit to two, 70-68, with 18.6 seconds remaining.
Boeheim makes the smart call that seems to rarely be chosen by coaches, having his team foul the Tar Heels before they can attempt a three, with Girard fouling Love.
The plan works for the Orange as Love misses both freebies.
Girard went 2-for-4 from the charity stripe at the end of the game, which would give Syracuse the separation they needed en route to a 72-70 win over UNC.
The Orange would hold the lead in the second half for all but 49 seconds.
Syracuse's victory moves them above the equator line in the ACC at 8-7, as they rose to 14-8 overall.
The loss for UNC places them at 9-6 in the ACC, and 15-9 overall.
Boeheim, as he did in the first half, led all scorers on either side, ending the night with 26 points in 39 minutes. He went 9-for-20 from the field, including 6-for-13 from long range. Boeheim outdid the entire Tar Heels' team from long range, with six made three-pointers to four.
Guerrier followed Boeheim with 18 points, and added six rebounds as well.
Richmond would finish with six points and nine assists.
Bacot, who led all Tar Heels in the first half, led the team as well at the end of the game, with 18 points. He also had 15 rebounds to finish with a double-double.
Senior forward Garrison Brooks followed Bacot with 11 and Love had 10.