Superlatives from Syracuse’s 85-68 loss to No. 9 North Carolina

first_img Published on January 16, 2017 at 9:01 pm CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Every time Syracuse teased that it could pull off an upset of North Carolina, the ninth-ranked team in the country found a window of opportunity. Most often in UNC’s (17-3, 5-1 Atlantic Coast) 85-68 win over Syracuse (11-8, 3-3), that window was in the Carolina blue-colored rectangle under the Tar Heels’ basket. The Orange defense withered down low once again, and SU soiled its chance for a marquee win. Here’s the best and worst of what happened Monday night in the Dean Smith Center.Big MomentWith Syracuse’s hopes of an upset collapsing quickly, John Gillon fed an alley-oop to Andrew White. The 6-foot-7 senior leapt high and quick, but couldn’t handle the quick pass. The ball spit out of his hands and into North Carolina’s. Justin Jackson took possession on the offensive end and was fouled with 3:36 to go, officially putting to bed any comeback aspirations for SU, which faced a 78-64 deficit at the time.Studs: Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah HicksNo two players were more responsible for UNC’s win than its big men. Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks tortured Syracuse in the paint, combining to shoot 15-of-23 and tally 35 points. SU’s frontcourt, largely Tyler Lydon, Tyler Roberson and White, was no match for the 6-foot-10 Meeks and the 6-foot-9 Hicks. As the Orange consistently crept closer to the Tar Heels’ lead, Hicks stalled Syracuse’s brief runs.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textEarly in the first half, Theo Pinson found Meeks sandwiched between Roberson and Lydon. The UNC senior elevated between the two defenders and flushed down Pinson’s feed to make it a 20-14 lead for the hosts. Both Meeks and Hicks also lent a significant hand on the boards, helping North Carolina crush Syraucse, 44-24, in the rebounding column.Dud: Syracuse’s frontcourtBy at least one metric, North Carolina entered Monday night as the best offensive rebounding team in the country. calculated UNC’s offensive rebounding rate at 42.3 entering the game, the highest of any team. The Tar Heels certainly looked the part against Syracuse, outrebounding SU 18-6 on the offensive glass. Combine that with a 46-20 advantage on points in the paint, and the game shaped up to be a nightmare for the Orange’s frontcourt.Roberson was Syracuse’s best — and at times, only — threat to level with North Carolina’s rebounding game. He led SU with eight rebounds. Otherwise, the Orange’s presence in the paint was thin. Meeks and Hicks were paramount in UNC’s assault on Syracuse, who scored six of North Carolina’s first nine points of the game in the paint to set an immediate precedent. UNC finished the first half shooting 60 percent in the paint.Highlight: Tyus Battle’s four minutes of heroicsUndoubtedly, the best stretch for Syracuse was at the start of the second half. The Orange went on a 12-0 run to cut a 15-point deficit to three in about three and a half minutes. Leading the way was Tyus Battle, who paired a couple steals with two buckets to stymie the Tar Heels while SU went on its run.Lowlight: Andrew White’s third turnoverWith SU valiantly trying to catch up in the second half, White’s third turnover significantly halted his team’s run. After Syracuse went on a 12-0 run at the start of the second half to cut the deficit to three with 16:27 remaining, Meeks picked the ball from White almost six minutes later. That began a possession that led to a pair of UNC free throws, putting UNC ahead by 12, and the game away for good. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more