Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 72 -70 road loss to Syracuse on Monday evening.
- The question down the stretch of this season is: How will Carolina handle success? After the Louisville 45-point blowout, the Tar Heels came out flat against Marquette and picked up a Quad 3 loss in the process. After the dramatic comeback against Florida State on Saturday, for one reason or another, the Tar Heels were unable to follow it up with a victory in the Carrier Dome tonight. This is the most up and down team in recent memory.
- Carolina and Syracuse have now played 13 times since the Orange came to the ACC. The Tar Heels have won 10 of those, but Syracuse has now won two of the last three.
- Let’s start out with some pleasant observations (since most won’t be). Carolina was excellent at rebounding the ball, particularly on the offensive glass where they secured exactly double the number of Syracuse’s offensive rebounds (26-13). The total of 26 was a season-high and allowed UNC a 25-10 advantage on second-chance points. Carolina also set a season high with a 56.5 total offensive rebounding percentage and 57.1 field goal offensive rebounding percentage.
- Overall, the Tar Heels out-rebounded Syracuse 53-23. Caleb Love set a career high with eight. In total, four Tar Heels had six or more rebounds.
- Armando Bacot was the standout for the Tar Heels. He led the way with 18 points and 15 rebounds (a season high). This is rather absurd: With 6:06 left in the first half, Syracuse had nine rebounds. So did Armando Bacot.
- Walker Kessler, on the other hand, came back down to earth. He didn’t play or shoot poorly, just took fewer shots and finished 2-for-3 with four points, and added three rebounds, an assist, and a steal.
- While Carolina was busy racking up a sizable rebounding advantage, Syracuse was doing the same from the three point line. The Tar Heels were 0-for-10 in the first 20 minutes, while the Orange were 7-for-17. I don’t care how many rebounds and second chance opportunities you’re getting, it’s hard to overcome a 21-point differential from behind the arc.
- The Tar Heels did end up making four threes (out of 20), but one of them was thanks to a goal tend and the last two were scramble plays off a missed free throw and tap out in the closing minutes. The shooting just isn’t there this year; at least with any consistency.
- Part of the problem tonight was that Kerwin Walton could not find his usual touch. Walton finished 0-for-7 from behind the arc. Even still, he is shooting over 40 percent for the year. He’ll find his way back.
- Prior to not making a three tonight, Walton had connected on at least one in 15 straight games and had made multiple threes in nine straight games. Impressive for a young man called into service more quickly than even he probably imagined.
- Buddy Boeheim picked up where he left off in the first half of the last game. He finished with 26 points, including 17 in the first half. Boeheim drilled five of the seven Syracuse first half threes.
- I’m not sure if the Florida State victory took it out of Carolina or what, but they did not look like a typical Roy Williams-coached team against the Syracuse zone. Brooks made some nice plays from the middle of the zone, but there was not the usual mixture of snap decisions, hard sells on pump fakes to get the zone to shift, or consistent passing out of the soft spot in the zone. The ball seemed to “stick” with regularity.
- Carolina committed 20 turnovers and has now averaged exactly that number over the previous three games, the highest three game average of the season. This means that rather than progressing, the Tar Heels are actually turning the ball over more as the season goes on.
- This goes hand-in-hand with the turnovers, but Carolina has now surrendered 16 and 15 steals in back-to-back games (the two highest totals of the season).
- The Tar Heels were able to avoid their first half double-digit deficit trap that has plagued much of the season. In fact, they had a great start to the game, which is so pivotal on the road. The game started 11-2 in favor of UNC. But then Syracuse went on an 8-0 run to get the deficit to one, and the game was on.
- The box score and official play-by-play says Sterling Manley checked in. Sterling Manley did not check in.
- Curiously, neither team made it to the bonus in the first half. Carolina had five fouls and Syracuse six. It made the game unfold rather quickly.
- Once Syracuse (inexplicably) took a lead late in the first half, it felt like the Tar Heels were never really back in the game. It felt almost inevitable at that moment how the game would turn out.
- The Tar Heels made a strong push in the closing minutes of the game, ultimately losing by just two. At that point, you, as a player, engage in the “what if?” game because there are so many small changes in activity that would have altered the outcome. Maybe there is some good use for that experience that these Tar Heels can take away: being reminded that literally every play (and every part of every play) could ultimately be the difference in winning or losing this basketball game.
- This loss puts Carolina in the precarious position of really needing to win the Duke game to continue to feel safe about their NCAA Tournament inclusion. Keep in mind that Duke will be even more desperate to win that game than will the Tar Heels.
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 Senior Night at home game against Duke on Saturday, March 6. Tip is at 6:00pm ET on ESPN.
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