If you told me a week ago that the Tar Heels would go into the Carrier Dome and beat Syracuse by 13 points, I probably would ask you if everything was ok and if I needed to rush you to the hospital. However, that’s exactly what happened this afternoon, as UNC squeezed the Orange to spark a two-game win streak with two more games left in the regular season.
This game started on a very interesting note, as both teams went blow-for-blow for the first 10 minutes of the game. However, the Heels went on a big 20-2 run before it was ended by Buddy Boeheim. From there Syracuse would go on a big run of their own, cutting UNC’s lead down to as few as four points. The team stood their ground, however, and UNC went into the locker room with a 40-35 lead.
If you thought this game was somehow going to be injury-free, then the level of disappointment ran high in this half. Armando Bacot ended up going down with an injury that would keep him from returning, which further highlights just how this season has gone for the Tar Heels. Amazingly it got a little worse, as Christian Keeling also went down late in the second half. The Tar Heels have officially had each scholarship player miss some amount of action this year, which is a statistic that is extremely hard to process. While it’d be easy to look back at the flaws of this season, it’s extremely difficult to ignore the primary issue as to why things have gone the way they have.
Getting back to the game, the Tar Heels blew the door open in the second half. Remember how everyone was really bad at shooting three-pointers? That very much wasn’t the case in the final 20 minutes of this game, as UNC was able to finish the game shooting 42.3% from three. Cole Anthony had himself an exceptional game in his return to New York, scoring 25 points off 8-13 shooting. His seven three-point makes was a career high, and got him dangerously close to breaking the record of that one guy that played for the 2005 national championship team. Throw in his pair of rebounds and his seven assists, and we see more and more why this guy should have no problem getting drafted this spring.
Two other players that had a monster game are Garrison Brooks and Christian Keeling. Brooks did a great job attacking Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, finishing the game with a team-high 26 points and 14 rebounds. His ability to slip under defenders to get to the rim and hit mid-range jumpers from anywhere on the floor is a recipe for disaster when it comes to teams like Jim Boeheim’s, and it was a lot of fun to see him continue his dominance in the paint.
Christian Keeling continued his mid-range destruction as well, finishing the game making 7 of his 11 field goal attempts. He only attempted four three-pointers, but knocked down a pair of them. It’s exciting to see Keeling play like we expected him to play all season long, and if he can keep this up (and hopefully return to action Tuesday), the Heels will be a very dangerous team to go against in the ACC Tournament.
If you're like me, you were impressed with the way UNC took down NC State but knew that they’d have to show us more to really develop faith that this team can make a deep run in the ACC Tournament. The team that showed up at the Carrier Dome is definitely a team that could beat any team in the ACC, but whether or not they will be able to win the tournament is a whole other question. On one hand, everyone is playing more like the team that took down Oregon. On another hand, seeing two more players get injured was a very deflating experience and it’s unreal how much sleep Roy Williams has had to lose over who he’s going to have for any given game. Either way, it’s good to see the Heels on a two-game win streak, and now it’s time to see if they can make it three Tuesday night against Wake Forest.