Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 81-75 home win over Syracuse on Tuesday night.
- After an 0-2 start to ACC play, Carolina has now won three straight (by a total of nine points). The Tar Heels hit 80 points for just the second time this season, and the first in a victory. This team is showing an ability to do what last year’s team struggled with – win close games.
- The final margin of each of Carolina's five ACC games has been six points or fewer:
- UNC had won nine straight against Syracuse before losing in the ACC Tournament last year. A new win streak started tonight. Let’s make it 10 in a row this time.
- As a reminder, this game was initially scheduled for January 2 and was added in this slot when the Clemson game from Saturday was postponed since Carolina didn’t play again until next Saturday at Florida State.
- Anthony Harris was dressed out for the first time this season. He didn’t play though, as the coaching staff undoubtedly wants to be cautious in their approach to working him back in.
- Garrison Brooks and Caleb Love were back in the starting lineup, along with Kerwin Walton, Leaky Black, and Armando Bacot.
- The most important sequence of the game occurred when Syracuse took their biggest lead (56-51) with 11:15 remaining. The Orange had all the momentum and looked capable of expanding the lead. But then RJ Davis happened. The freshman changed the game over the course of 60 seconds. He hit a three with 10:47 to go, then grabbed a steal on the ensuing Syracuse possession. An Orange player intentionally fouled Davis, who calmly made both free throws. Carolina had possession after the free throws and Davis missed a three, but Platek corralled the rebound and passed inside to Sharpe for a basket. Davis then got another steal on Syracuse’s next possession, leading to a run-out lay-up. 60 seconds. Nine points for Carolina, seven of which belonged to RJ Davis. In that one minute, a five-point deficit turned into a four-point lead.
- As per usual, the rebounding numbers were astounding against Syracuse. Exactly half of the Tar Heels’ rebounds were offensive (24 of 48). Carolina translated those into 24 second-chance points, while the Orange had exactly two of that variety. The 24 offensive rebounds were more than Syracuse’s defensive rebounds (21).
- Carolina finished with its best offensive rebounding percentages of the season. The team grabbed 53.3 percent of all potential offensive rebounds and 52.3 percent of missed field goals (23 offensive rebounds on 44 misses) – the first time this season they’ve exceeded 50 percent in both categories.
- The Tar Heels have now outrebounded 11 of their 12 opponents, nine of which have been by double-digits.
- UNC surrendered a season-high nine blocks.
- Carolina committed a respectable 11 turnovers. You would always rather have as few as possible, but 11 is tolerable. The Heels only turned the ball over three times in the first 13:00.
- When Carolina beats Syracuse, it’s usually due to a high percentage of made baskets coming off assists. The Heels were credited with 18 assists on 29 made baskets. Leaky Black was the big winner, dishing out seven assists (and having just one turnover in the process). Here's one for Walker Kessler, immediately after checking in the game for the first time:
- Free throw shooting continues to improve. In total, UNC made 18 of 23. Perhaps most importantly, the Heels went 8-9 in the final four minutes. That one missed free throw even turned into points; a lay-up for Day’Ron Sharpe off a Platek offensive rebound.
- Sharpe and Brooks each converted both ends of a 1-and-1 in those closing minutes. It can’t be overlooked how important those conversions were.
- The second half was a story of runs. Carolina started off with a 9-0 run. Syracuse answered immediately with their own 13-0 run (16-2 extended). Then the Heels rattled off their own 13-0 run (their third run of 9-0 or more in the game).
- UNC dominated the bench scoring, outpacing the Orange in that category 29-6. Three different bench players had at least seven points (Platek – 7, Sharpe – 8, and Davis – 12).
- The beginning of the game was a flurry of offensive activity. The teams combined to score on each of the first seven possessions and had both tallied double-digit points by the under-16:00 media timeout.
- Each team had pivotal frontcourt players in foul trouble in the first half. Marek Dolezaj had two fouls before the first media timeout. Day’Ron Sharpe checked in for Carolina at 14:21 of the first half and picked up his second foul with 12:57 remaining before halftime.
- Carolina led 36-26 at the final media timeout of the first half. The Orange outscored the Heels 14-4 in the final 4:00 to tie the game at 40 going into halftime. Buddy Boeheim and Quincy Guerrier combined to score all 14 of Syracuse’s points in that stretch.
- Speaking of Boeheim, he had 18 first half points and seemed invincible heading into halftime. In the second half, however, he failed to record a single point. Credit Leaky Black with the lion's share of the work of eliminating Boeheim's scoring in the second half. The second half shut down started with this block:
- Despite the RJ Davis heroics mentioned earlier, Syracuse cut the lead to one just before the under-4:00 timeout. After some free throws on the other side of the break, Syracuse claimed a one-point lead (68-67). How would the Tar Heels respond? They made the plays they needed to to win the game. You already know about the free throw parade. Add in a few timely steals and some missed shots by Syracuse, and the Tar Heels were winners once again.
- Other than the clutch free throw shooting, the most impressive play in that final 4:00 minutes took place over the course of six seconds. From 1:28 to 1:22 of the first half, all five Carolina players touched the ball, culminating in a Bacot finish. Davis passed from the top of the key to Platek on the left wing. Platek found Brooks in the middle. Brooks immediately threw a bounce pass to Black cutting baseline. Black’s drive drew Bacot’s defender which allowed Black to dump the ball to Bacot for the finish, plus a free throw (which he missed). 73-70 Heels. Guerrier was the player of the game for Syracuse but fouled out on this play. Here's video:
- In the final minute, the refs awarded a rather questionable 10-second backcourt violation to Syracuse. Had the play stood (a Bacot dunk), Carolina would have held a nine-point lead with 24 seconds left. As it turned out, Syracuse immediately hit a three and only trailed by four with 23 seconds left.
- Brooks (16 points / 10 rebounds) and Bacot (15 points / 12 rebounds) each finished with a double-double. Interestingly enough, it was Brooks’ first such accomplishment this season. Bacot, on the other hand, tallies his third double-double of the season.
Roy Williams postgame press conference
Players postgame press conference
Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game against Florida State on Saturday, January 16. Tip is at noon ET on ESPN.
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