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UNC holds on late against Syracuse behind Pete Nance

It was good, it was bad, and then it was good again.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Things looked a little bleak for UNC late in the game against Syracuse on Tuesday night. The Tar Heels found themselves down by two points with less than 90 seconds remaining following a quick 5-0 run for Syracuse. Pete Nance got to the line and made the first of his two free throws to make it a one-point game. He then missed the second one.

Fortunately, Syracuse’s Joe Girard batted the ball back in bounds, almost right to Nance, and Nance laid it in to give Carolina a one-point lead with 19 seconds remaining. As the Tar Heels got back on defense to try and fend off a buzzer-beater from the Orange, freshman Judah Mintz bulldozed RJ Davis. Davis did not get up after the play, and video showed that Mintz led with his elbow on the play. It was ruled a Flagrant 1. A few Caleb Love free throws later, UNC grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat.

Just looking at a majority of the statistics of the game, it’s kind of shocking that Carolina found a way to win this one. They shot worse from the field than Syracuse, 45% to 51%. The Orange made two more three-pointers than the Tar Heels, out-rebounded the Tar Heels 35-30, and yet they only held a lead for less than two minutes of game time.

As was the case in UNC’s win over NC State on Saturday, the Tar Heels showed their ability to get to the free throw line, and that was easily the difference in the game. Carolina made 14 of their 23 free throw attempts while Syracuse only attempted three free throws all game. Teams are very willing to send the Tar Heels to the line, and the Tar Heels are very willing to win the game there. UNC also turned the ball over ten times to the Orange’s 17. UNC scored 21 points off those turnovers.

Pete Nance led all scorers with 21 points with eight of those points coming from the free throw line. Armando Bacot just missed out on another double-double, but finished the game with 18 points and eight rebounds. Love started the game on fire from deep, and was a perfect 3-3 at halftime. He finished the game with 15 points. The Tar Heels assisted on 20 of their 26 made field goals.

So, another game where a foul call is probably going to be beaten to death. In that particular game situation, referees often go out of their way to not make that call. In this case, they couldn’t not make the call with Davis on the ground bleeding from his face. So it goes.

UNC will have a week and a day off before they try to get revenge against Pitt in Chapel Hill next Wednesday.