Going into the game tonight against Syracuse, it was easy to understand why anybody would wonder whether or not UNC could take them down. The Orange made a run in their last matchup that almost cost UNC the game, it was basically a home game tonight for Syracuse, and against Duke UNC looked as lost as they’d looked all year against the 2-3 zone.
Thankfully, what really happened is that UNC managed to put away the Orange after going on a 12-2 run in the final minutes of the second half to win their first game of the ACC Tournament. The Heels looked cohesive for most of the game, locked down on defense when they needed it the most, and managed to put Syracuse in a lot of foul trouble. Also, as last time, Theo Pinson showed us all that he dominates the 2-3 zone.
In the first half Syracuse had a hard time missing in the opening minutes. As one would predict at this stage of the season, they shot lights out from three-point range to moans by UNC fans that were washed out by the roars of Syracuse fans. UNC had a hard time getting anything going from the field, having made 4 of their 14 field goal attempts. The Heels then turned things around by going on a 7-0 run midway through the half.
From there, UNC managed to put everything together on offense, as well as on defense. In regards to their defensive performance specifically, the Heels managed to cause more shot-clock violations than I think I’ve witnessed from any team this year that didn’t have “Virginia” on the front of their jersey. Syracuse was visibly frustrated by the heightened intensity of UNC’s on-ball defense. The end result was the ‘Cuse finishing the game shooting 32% from the field, and their three-point efficiency dropped to 34%.
As for the offense, Theo Pinson finished the game with 16 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists. He tore apart their defense just about as well as he managed to in the Carrier Dome, and also got a lot of open looks for his teammates. The only blemish on his night is the fact that he forced Roy Williams to attempt the never-before-seen jacket rip.
When asked if he was trying to rip his jacket, Roy Williams had this to say during his post-game press conference:
“I talked to the guys about how to rip a jacket in half and I didn’t do it properly. I started around the collar where it’s folded over, so the material is twice is strong. If you really want to rip a jacket in half, start at the back of the bottom where it’s already split.”
Another notable performance was Kenny Williams, who scored a team-high 17 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. He went 7-11 from the field, and knocked down 2 of his 5 three-point attempts.
Perhaps one of the most important factors to this game was how much Syracuse managed to foul UNC. The Heels shot 28 free-throw attempts to their 14, with their number of attempts being significantly lower at the beginning of the second half. It was impressive seeing the Heels get to the line as much as they did, given that lately they struggled achieving such a feat. It is a good sign going forward, as they’re going to need to have that attack mentality when they take on Miami tomorrow night.