In a game filled with runs, North Carolina got the last one, hanging a 10-2 burst in the final three minutes to grab a 77-70 home victory over Syracuse. The Orange (7-3, 1-2 ACC) simply were no match for the Tar Heels (8-4, 3-2) inside, as the hosts held a 42-24 scoring lead in points in the paint.
UNC bullied their way to a 48-31 rebounding advantage, including grabbing 24 offensive boards. Carolina converted them into 24 second chance points while SU had just four points off second shots. All those second shot opportunities gave the hosts a way to salvage shooting just under 40 percent from the field in the game.
Buddy Boeheim was a source of quick offense out of the gate, hitting for eight points in the opening four minutes. The junior guard hit consecutive threes to give SU their first two leads, the second at 10-8.
Carolina struck back midway through the half with the first run of the game, hanging nine straight points for a 25-18 lead, the first time the margin crept out to more than three points. Syracuse missed five field goal attempts and the front end of a one-and-one during that time and added a turnover for good measure.
The Tar Heels kept the guests at bay for the next five minutes, even pushing their lead to 36-26 with just over four minutes in the half, but the Orange surged back into the game with a 14-4 run. Six of seven shots found the bottom of the net in that span with Quincy Guerrier starting things with a pair of lay-ups.
Boeheim then hit consecutive three-pointers again, one from the top of the key and the other a stepback in transition to bring SU within a bucket. Boeheim made it eight straight points with a short pull-up from the right baseline on the next possession, but the hosts matched it to go back on top. Guerrier hit a long two to knot the score again, then snuffed out a dunk attempt in the closing seconds of the half to preserve the 40-40 score.
North Carolina responded quickly out of the locker room, hanging the first nine points of the second half as Syracuse missed their first six shots and added a pair of turnovers. The Orange then reversed roles with the hosts, rolling up 13 straight points.
Alan Griffin and Joe Girard III each hit from beyond the arc to get SU within 49-46. Guerrier got free for an easy dunk off a Griffin pass and Girard set up a short shot from Marek Dolezaj to push Syracuse into the lead at 50-49. Guerrier then added a transition three from the left break for a four-point lead less than seven minutes into the half.
Girard followed a UNC score with a deep triple from the right wing to nudge the Orange lead to five at 56-51. However, the Tar Heels roared right back, ripping off 13 straight points of their own for a 64-56 advantage with just over eight minutes to play.
SU clawed back into the game once more, scoring 12 of the next 15 points, including eight straight markers to grab a 68-67 with just under three-and-a-half minutes remaining. Guerrier was the driving force in that span, tallying seven points, but he would foul out shortly afterward amidst a 10-2 North Carolina burst, the hosts seizing control at 77-70 with 42 seconds remaining.
After an unsuccessful possession, Syracuse forced a ten-second violation and Griffin curled into a right wing three to slice the margin to four, but they would get no closer.
Quincy Guerrier was the top scorer in the game, posting a 23-point, 11-rebound double-double with five blocks for SU. Buddy Boeheim had four triples en route to 18 points, all coming in the first half as Carolina held him to just three shots in the second session. Alan Griffin added 16 points, hitting three treys in the game.
The Tar Heels rolled out a balanced offensive attack, as seven players scored at least seven points. Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot led the way, posting double-doubles. Brooks finished with 16 points and ten rebounds while Bacot had 15 points and a dozen boards. R. J. Davis also cracked double figures with a dozen points.
The Orange return home, looking for a measure of revenge when finishing their season series with Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Panthers (6-1, 2-1) erased a 16-point deficit in the final 11 minutes and change for a 63-60 home victory on January 6. Four different players reached double figures for Pitt, led by Ithiel Horton’s 14 points, most coming via his four three-pointers, and Au’diese Toney’s 12-point, 14-rebound effort.
Pittsburgh has had their last two games postponed, making this back-to-back matchups with Syracuse and the only two games the Panthers have played in a span of nearly four weeks.
Saturday’s game will be shown by regional sports networks and tip-off at 12:00pm Eastern.