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UNC win vs. Syracuse: Three things we learned

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Roy Williams’ 800th win was another solid performance from North Carolina.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina continued their winning streak with an 85-68 win over Syracuse on Monday night. It was a game that allowed us to see UNC face a zone defense, and the resulting 17-point win told us some things.

The Georgia Tech game looks more and more like an aberration

People came away rightly disappointed in UNC’s loss in Atlanta to open the conference season. Since that game, the Tar Heels have almost been unimpeachably good. There were periods against Clemson and Wake Forest that weren’t pretty. That’s partially down to UNC struggling, but that also had a lot do with the borderline NCAA tournament teams they played stepping up at home. After beating Syracuse, North Carolina is now 5-1 in the toughest conference in the country.

Against Syracuse, there were times when the Orange made it close and it looked shaky, but Carolina always had an answer and eventually pulled away. Also, the trouble against the zone (albeit a different zone) against Georgia Tech did not reappear as much against Syracuse. The Tar Heels were able to consistently attack the zone, as evidenced by the 46 points in the paint and the 51% they shot from the floor.

Carolina continues to win in a variety of ways

One of the recurring themes for the past couple games was the consistent scoring of Joel Berry and Justin Jackson. A lot of that has come because they are capable of knocking down threes. Against Syracuse, the three-point shooting wasn’t there. Jackson still went for 19, but shot just 2-8 from three. Berry only went for 10 points, and as a team, the Tar Heels shot 29% from three. Yet North Carolina still won by 17 points.

They won this game by rebounding and scoring inside. Against Florida State, they won in large part to defense and Jackson and Berry both going for 20+. The Tar Heels have several ways to score on the offensive end, and North Carolina looks more and more like a well-rounded team every game.

Roy Williams is a really good coach

The win on Monday night was Roy Williams’ 800th career victory. Only one other coach, Adolph Rupp, reached that total faster than Roy. That serves as more evidence North Carolina are extremely lucky to have had Roy as head coach for 14 years and counting.

His record as a coach is not without flaw, but whose is? Say whatever criticism you want, you don’t get to 800 wins without being good. College basketball has changed a lot since Roy took over at UNC. (Syracuse being a conference opponent is a case in point.) Roy Williams is still winning games.