Let’s be honest: we all saw this coming.
If there is one thing that can be said about this year’s Carolina team, it is that there are elements of predictability that are too strong to be ignored. Following a big win against a ranked opponent, the Heels did what many of us thought they would do: they played sloppy, flat, and at times chaotic basketball against Syracuse.
Amazingly things didn’t start off that way, however. UNC opened the game on an 11-2 run thanks to the bigs penetrating Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. That would prove to be the best stretch of the game, as Syracuse quickly closed the gap, and for the rest of the half blows were traded between the two teams. There were moments when the Heels looked exactly like the talented team we’ve seen at times during the season: aggressive, surgical, and hungry for a win. Then of course, were the predictably bad moments: loads of turnovers, poor shooting from the perimeter, and the failure to stop the other team’s shooter from getting hot. In this case, Buddy Boeheim lit the Heels on fire from three-point land, finishing the game with 26 points and made six of his 13 three-point attempts. Despite his incredible first half performance, UNC went into the locker room only down by six.
The final 20 minutes in UNC’s games this season have treated them much nicer than their first halves have, but in this game that logic didn’t apply. UNC did go on a couple of runs, and at one point even took the lead back, but Boeheim and Quincy Guerrier continued to do a large amount of damage. Things did get weirdly interesting in the final minute of the game, however, when the Heels went on an 8-2 run before time expired. Perhaps the most frustrating thing about that final minute is that they did a lot of the things that would’ve helped a lot in the first 39 minutes of the game: Caleb Love and RJ Davis knocked down a couple of threes, they were able to get some baskets on the fast break, and overall took advantage of the dead-ball pace Syracuse started to play in the final five minutes. To say it was too little too late is an understatement, but unfortunately this is something that we are all familiar with by now.
To beat the dead horse, the biggest problem in this game aside from perimeter shooting was turnovers. Once again UNC found a way to cough up the ball 20 times, which led to 28 points off of turnovers. We’ve reached the point of the season where there’s no fixing this problem, and we will just have to wonder if they feel like taking care of the ball in any given game. Funny enough they did a great job taking care of the ball in the first game against the Orange — in their first matchup, the Heels only turned the ball over 11 times, which is one of their lowest totals of the season. Hopefully they pick Saturday night to take care of the ball better, because Duke would love nothing more than to capitalize on every mistake the Tar Heels make.
Speaking of the Duke game, UNC’s Senior Night will be Saturday night as well. We’ll have to wait and see if this team will send Garrison Brooks and Andrew Platek off in style, or if we’re in for another disappointing performance before the start of the ACC Tournament.