After offense goes dormant, Syracuse awaits its postseason destination

Tyus Battle
Syracuse Orange guard Tyus Battle (25) reacts during the first half of a second round game of the 2018 ACC tournament against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

One night after their most balanced offensive performance of the evening, Syracuse played a game at their established level, getting run out of Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York in an ACC Tournament second round game by #12 North Carolina, 78-59. The loss drops the Orange to 20-13 and leaves their postseason fate in the hands of the NCAA Tournament committee.

The Tar Heels (22-9) simply stifled the SU offense, holding them to 31.7 percent shooting on the night, including 30 percent on two-point tries. While shooting just under 44 percent in the game, UNC got 20 assists on their 25 field goals, rolled up 36 points in the paint, and enjoyed a 15-0 edge in fast break points. Carolina also had a healthy advantage at the charity stripe, going 22-of-28 from the line while Syracuse only attempted 14 free throws, making 11.

North Carolina jumped out to an early 7-2 lead, but the Orange got two triples from Tyus Battle to take their first lead at 8-7. After the Heels regained the lead, Battle set up his teammates to get SU back in front. First, Battle dished off a drive to Marek Dolezaj, who dunked, then zipped a pass to Frank Howard on the left wing for a three and a 13-11 lead.

UNC then went on top once more, but Oshae Brissett did his best to keep Syracuse in the game. Brissett hit a stepback three from the left wing for a 16-15 lead, then added another that cut a Tar Heel lead to 20-19 just before the midpoint of the opening half.

Carolina then exploded for 11 straight points to take a 12-point lead. Battle drained a floater in the paint to stop the streak, but a UNC three at the four-minute mark pushed their lead out to 34-21.

» Related: Marek Dolezaj’s dunk sets tone for Syracuse

Brissett continued his hot outside shooting with his third and fourth threes of the first half, the latter coming with just a couple seconds left to bring the Orange within 39-29 at intermission.

Carolina kept the pressure on, scoring the first five points out of the locker room to balloon their lead to 15. They would tack on a 10-2 run shortly after that to grab a 56-35 lead just over seven minutes into the second half.

SU would not give up, posting a 9-1 run. Frank Howard, who struggled for most of the night, started the run with a three-point play and tacked on a floater. After a Carolina foul shot, Bourama Sidibe had a putback and Howard finished the burst with a pair of free throws that drew Syracuse within 60-48 with under seven minutes remaining.

The squads played evenly for a couple minutes until consecutive scores from the Orange got them within 66-57, but an 8-0 UNC run effectively finished the matter with under three minutes on the clock.

Oshae Brissett sizzled from outside, hitting 5-of-7 three-pointers as he rolled up a 20-point, ten-rebound double-double. Tyus Battle never found his rhythm, shooting 4-for-21 from the field en route to 15 points, including ten in the first half. His backcourt mate, Frank Howard, also struggled, going only 4-for-18 from the floor with seven turnovers as he added a dozen points. Bourama Sidibe had ten rebounds before fouling out.

Four different North Carolina players reached double figures, led by Kenny Williams’ 17 points. Theo Pinson, who had a career high in the regular season matchup in Syracuse, added 16 points to go with his game highs of 11 rebounds and six assists. Cameron Johnson and Luke Maye both added 13 points, the latter also grabbing nine boards.

The Orange now wait for Sunday to find out their postseason destiny.

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Jim Stechschulte
About Jim Stechschulte 500 Articles
A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade, where he currently resides. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSafetyGuy.