The Orange found themselves in a win or go home game on Monday night going up against the North Carolina Tar Heels. Getting to play on the biggest stage on ESPN in front of the whole entire sports world to watch was a very big deal. Two of the most historic franchises in college basketball history with two of the most iconic head coaches in Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim.
Syracuse has been very impressive playing in the Carrier Dome this season, going into Monday nights affair with an 11-1 home record. The Orange knew their hopes at making the NCAA tournament would be a forgone conclusion if they could not get past a scrappy UNC team.
Like most games this year, the Orange got off to a slow start not being able to buy a jumper through the first five minutes of the game. SU fell behind early 11-2 and were forced to make some early substitutions. Knowing what was at stake, the Orange climbed their way back into the game, in big part thanks to the play of Buddy Boeheim.
Coming into the game, Boeheim was just 16 points away from becoming the 64th player in team history to reach 1,000 career points. Despite having no fans in the Dome, there was no better time for Boeheim to achieve this milestone than on his home court.
Rather than waiting until the second half to achieve this milestone, Boeheim decided to get it done in the first half. Knocking down five first half three-pointers, Boeheim went on a run to erase their first half deficit and give the Orange a 34-28 lead heading into the half.
Boeheim knocked down a three with just nine seconds left in the first half to implement himself as Syracuse’s newest 1,000-point scorer. Boeheim ended up finishing with 17 first half points and 26 for the game.
As great as Boeheim was against UNC, there were other player’s that helped SU in this competitive game. Coming off of the bench, Freshmen Kadary Richmond had seven assists and four steals in his first 20 minutes of the game.
Richmond has proven that he has what it takes to play the point guard position and to perhaps even outshine the Orange’s starting guard in Joe Girard III. He ended up finishing with 6 points, 9 assists, 3 rebounds, and 4 steals in 31 minutes of action.
Another standout player in this game was Quincey Guerrier. Coming into the game Guerrier was battling through a knee injury that he aggravated last game against Georgia Tech. Guerrier was the team’s second leading scorer finishing with 18 points and 6 rebounds in 32 minutes on the floor.
Syracuse continued to play well in the second half, holding on to a 14-point lead with 5:18 left in the game. Some sloppy play towards the final five minutes of the game helped UNC get back into the game.
UNC’s forwards Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks played well for UNC, as they have done all season. Bacot finished with a double-double (18 points, 15 rebounds) and Brooks finished with 11 points and 6 rebounds.
UNC kept the game close but Joe Girard III, one of the Orange’s best free throw shooters, knocked down 3/4 at the line to help close out the win for SU. Garrison Brooks knocked down a jumper as time expired, but it was too late as SU held on for the 72-70 victory.
According to Joe “Joey Brackets” Lunardi, the Orange managed to keep their bubble hopes alive after this big home win against UNC. The Orange will look to keep the momentum going as they finish off their regular season at home on Wednesday against the Clemson Tigers. Wednesday’s 5:00 PM game will be Senior Night for the Orange.