A quick take on Syracuse’s 57-45 win in front of an electric crowd of 32,121 in the Carrier Dome on Saturday afternoon:
WHAT HAPPENED: The Orange came out slow, and a fired-up UNC team jumped out to a quick lead behind uncharacteristic SU turnovers and excellent high post play from junior forward James Michael McAdoo. Once the Orange woke up and adjusted its defense, the Orange’s superior talent and athleticism took over as Tyler Ennis, CJ Fair, Jerami Grant all turned in strong performances.
ANALYSIS: Trevor Cooney’s stat line: 4-17 from the field, 2-12 from 3, 10 points. With its best shooter and second-leading scorer laying bricks for most of the game, the Orange still won going away.
Syracuse’s swarming defense challenged every shot close to the rim (a season-high 9 blocks, including 4 from Rakeem Christmas), disrupted passing lanes and left the Tar Heels bombing ineffectually away from outside. UNC actually shot slightly better from the field, but the Orange, led by an aggressive Jerami Grant, owned the glass to the tune of 41-35, a margin that understates SU’s dominance.
In front of a national TV audience, the Orange once again proved that it’s one of the best teams in the country. When Syracuse is playing this well, it’s going to be very, very tough to beat.
HERO: Jerami Grant put on a show for the assembled NBA scouts, showcasing his explosive athleticism as he pulled down contested rebounds and seemed to block everything UNC put up close to the rim. Grant finished with 12 points, a career-high 11 boards, and. It was the kind of performance that could propel him up the draft boards this summer.
It was top-to-bottom effort from the Orange, however. CJ Fair quietly led all scorers with 20 points. Tyler Ennis turned in another reliably stellar performance, and Michael Gbinije did an excellent job running the offense off the bench.
UNC’s McAdoo finished with 15 points on 7-11 shooting, but after 10 quick points early had trouble getting anything going.
ZERO: Trevor Cooney’s struggles from long range continued. His ghastly shooting kept what could have been a laugher at least mildly close. Still, the fact that the Orange can dominate a game with him turning in this type of performance will have teams very, very worried about facing them in March.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse heads to Boston College to play the Eagles on Monday, Jan. 13 at 9 p.m. TV: ESPNU.