Syracuse drops Heels to 0-3 in ACC for first time since 1996-97 season
North Carolina’s first chance to face Syracuse’s trademark zone defense as part of the expanded ACC couldn’t have gone much worse.
The Tar Heels matched the fewest points they’ve ever scored in the shot clock era, falling 57-45 to the undefeated Orange in front of 32,171 at the Carrier Dome.
Sophomore guard Marcus Paige scored 17 points and junior forward James Michael McAdoo added 15, but they were the only two players who scored more than four points for UNC (10-6, 0-3), which has lost its first three conference games for only the second time.
No. 2 Syracuse (16-0, 3-0) shot just 35 percent but led by double-digits the entire second half by outrebounding the Tar Heels by six and winning practically every 50/50 ball to secure extra possessions.
“It just looked like they were more alert, more assertive, more intense,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “It seemed like every loose ball didn’t just bounce their way, but they went and got it. … I don’t think (Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim) is going to say it was a great game for them. They didn’t shoot the ball well and still beat us easily.”
ACC preseason player of the year C.J. Fair had 20 points and sophomore Jerami Grant had 12 points and a career-high 12 rebounds for the Orange, who entered the day as one of five unbeaten teams in Division I.
The Tar Heels, who were 3-0 over ranked teams after knocking off No. 1 Michigan State, No. 3 Louisville and No. 11 Kentucky, made just 39.2 percent of their shots from the field and have yet to shoot 40 percent in ACC play. The 45 points — helped by Paige’s 3 with one second left — matched UNC’s lowest total since a one-point win over N.C. State in 1997.
Syracuse’s size in the post was a major factor. The Orange blocked nine shots and held UNC centers Joel James, Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson and Jackson Simmons to a combined four points in 45 minutes.
“Their size and length bothered us inside, and that controlled the entire game, honestly,” Paige said. “We couldn’t get anything inside and they dominated us on the backboards too. You can only prepare so much for that kind of length and athleticism, and obviously we couldn’t respond to how big they were.”
The Tar Heels actually made their first four shots and McAdoo had 10 points in the first eight minutes as UNC led 15-11. But Syracuse then started pressuring McAdoo in the high post, where he likes to operate.
With top shooters Paige and Leslie McDonald missing six 3-pointers and the Orange not allowing transition opportunities, the Tar Heels made just one field goal in the next 11 minutes, on a goaltending call by Fair. As a result, Syracuse went into the break up by 12 and led by as many as 19 with 6:45 to play.
“You have to play with your brain and your heart both, and we didn’t do either of those things as well as we wanted to,” Williams said. “And I didn’t coach as well as I needed to.”
The only other time UNC started 0-3 was in 1996-97, the final season under Dean Smith. The Tar Heels were 3-5 midway through ACC play before going on a 16-game winning streak and advancing to the Final Four.
A long postseason run seems a long way away at this point, though their earlier marquee wins have shown what the Tar Heels are capable of. UNC will now have a week off before hosting Boston College, the only ACC team with a losing record.
“Right now it’s a tough time in that locker room,” Williams said. “Kids are feeling it, they feel some stress. We just have to be tough enough to mentally put that stuff aside.”
NOTES — This was only the second meeting between two of the sport’s five winningest programs in 26 years, and only the second time UNC had faced Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. … Tar Heel backup center Desmond Hubert was unavailable after suffering a concussion at practice on Friday.
|No. 2 Syracuse 57, NORTH CAROLINA 45|
Percentages: FG .392, FT .333.
3-Point Goals: 2-12, .167 (Paige 2-6, Tokoto 0-1, Hicks 0-1, Britt 0-1, McDonald 0-3).
Team Rebounds: 3.
Blocked Shots: 3 (McAdoo, Hicks, Johnson).
Turnovers: 14 (Britt 4, Johnson 2, Tokoto 2, Paige, Hicks, Meeks, McDonald, James, McAdoo).
Steals: 8 (McAdoo 3, Tokoto 2, Britt, McDonald, Paige).
Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .350, FT .733.
3-Point Goals: 4-19, .211 (Cooney 2-12, Gbinije 1-2, Fair 1-3, Ennis 0-2).
Team Rebounds: 3.
Blocked Shots: 9 (Christmas 4, Grant 2, Fair 2, Ennis).
Turnovers: 10 (Fair 4, Ennis 4, Cooney).
Steals: 9 (Cooney 5, Ennis 2, Fair, Christmas).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials_Roger Ayers, Tony Greene, Ed Corbett.