It was unusual that Syracuse got involved in a shootout Tuesday night, but what was normal was that they just did not have enough offense to win. The Orange (18-10, 9-6 ACC) rolled up a season high number of points, but it was not enough, as they lost as #5 North Carolina, 93-85. The loss dropped SU into a tie for sixth place in the conference with Louisville while the Tar Heels (23-5, 12-3) stepped into sole possession of first place.
Syracuse shot over 48 percent in the game overall and 45 percent from three-point range, connecting on 14 treys, but had some yips at the line, making just 13-of-23 foul shots. UNC, in sharp contrast, had a field day from the free throw stripe, making 34-of-37 charity shots.
Carolina also owned a massive rebounding advantage, beating Syracuse on the glass, 46-25. The Heels converted 18 offensive rebounds into 16 second chance points.
The Orange offense was clicking from the start of the contest, needing just over three minutes to reach the 15-point plateau, including a 10-2 run to get there.
Elijah Hughes hit a left corner three to start the streak and Tyus Battle lobbed to Paschal Chukwu for a fast break lay-up. Following a Tar Heel score, Hughes struck again from long range, this time on a deep straightaway bomb, and Marek Dolezaj cut for a lay-up and a 15-6 lead.
North Carolina charged right back, running off eight straight points to pull within a single point. SU kept the hosts at bay for several minutes, but the Heels eventually grabbed a 25-23 lead with just over nine minutes left in the half.
Syracuse responded with another run, this time outpacing Carolina, 10-3. Frank Howard fed Dolezaj on a slipped screen for a lay-in, then swished a three from the left wing to put the Orange in front. Battle connected on a stepback jumper to offset a UNC score, then after the hosts added a foul shot, Hughes stepped into a long rebound to bury a three-pointer for a 33-28 lead with just over six minutes on the clock.
A little under four minutes later, Hughes would push the lead out to eight points on his fifth three of the first half, but North Carolina closed strong with seven of the last nine points of the half. The brief surge pulled the Tar Heels within 46-43 at halftime.
Carolina did not let off the gas coming out of the locker room. After swapping threes to open the second session, the hosts became inhospitable, ringing up a dozen straight points. That made their overall run 22-5 and gave them a 58-49 lead with less than five minutes off the clock.
SU fought back into the game with seven straight points. Battle made two pairs of foul shots and Buddy Boeheim buried a right wing three, pulling Syracuse within 58-56. Battle’s hot hand kept hitting, as he scored the next seven points for the Orange on a three, a free throw, and another three. The latter triple knotted the score at 63.
The Tar Heels took off again, scoring the next half dozen points to go in front again. Battle kept SU in it, putting together a four-point play to bring them within a deuce, but UNC eventually stitched together seven straight points while holding their guests scoreless for an 83-73 lead with a little over four minutes to go.
Syracuse kept at it, scoring five points to halve the margin with just over two minutes to go. They just could not get any closer than that, missing four straight shots until a Paschal Chukwu dunk drew them within 89-82. Two Carolina foul shots and a breakaway lay-up made the margin 11 and a late Battle three closed the scoring.
Tyus Battle went off in the second half for Syracuse, piling up four threes as he rang up 23 of his 29 points after the break. Elijah Hughes hit five triples for 15 points, all in the first half. Frank Howard had three triples for the bulk of his 11 points and Oshae Brissett added ten points, but missed all five of his free throw attempts.
Coby White was electric for North Carolina, going 9-of-14 from the floor, including 6-of-11 from three-point range, and hitting all ten of his foul shots for 34 points. Cameron Johnson finished with 16 points while Nassir Little contributed 11. Luke Maye chipped in with nine points and a dozen rebounds while Garrison Brooks and Kenny Williams added eight points apiece.
SU will make it two games in a row in the state of North Carolina, as they will have a noon Eastern matinee at Wake Forest on Saturday. The game with the Demon Deacons (11-16, 4-11) will be available on television in certain local markets and that telecast will also be available online at ESPN3.com and through the ESPN app.
Wake, who squeaked out a 76-75 win over Miami on Tuesday evening, has struggled on offense throughout the season, shooting under 40 percent from the field and barely over 30.5 percent from three-point range as a unit. Brandon Childress, who hit the game-winning trey to defeat the Hurricanes, leads the Deacons with 15.0 points per game and 67 triples on the season. Jaylen Hoard averages 13.8 points and a team-leading 8.0 rebounds per outing.