North Carolina Tar Heels: Balance Beats the Syracuse Orange


The North Carolina Tar Heels found the interior sweet spot with rebounding and passing to beat Syracuse.

The North Carolina Tar Heels defeated the Syracuse Orange 85-68 to seal Coach Roy Williams’ 800th victory. Williams was the second fastest coach to reach that mark, only former Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp did it faster. The team and the fans did honor Williams after the game with a small ceremony and Jordan Brand shoes. However, Coach Williams pointed out that this was about win 17, not win 800.

So how did the Tar Heels get win seventeen against the 2-3 defense of Syracuse? They attacked the zone with their big men in the first half. Both Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks went into halftime with double figures. There was a brief period in the second half where the Heels forgot about their bigs and Syracuse made a run, but the Heels managed to figure things out again and eventually break away.

When Hicks (20 points) and Meeks (15 points) were not attacking the basket, they were bringing in offensive rebounds. The Syracuse zone limited the ability of low post defenders to box out the Heels. Therefore missed shots were almost just as good as passes. Other Heels also joined in the rebound party as Justin Jackson had ten rebounds to go with nineteen points.

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Other Tar Heel developments included increased play for Nate Britt at the point guard position in the second unit. Theo Pinson continued his good play with five assists. He also shot a couple of three balls that hindsight would like back. Kenny Williams continued to define hustle on the court.

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Syracuse got strong games from Tyler Lyden and Tyler Roberson. Lyden’s shooting stroke was on fire during the game in the form of twenty-two points. Roberson just showed hustle on the court. Good things would happen for Syracuse when he was out there and they should have played him more.

North Carolina now has another example of good balanced play to work off of. They did it without a Joel Berry scoring bonanza this time. They also did it without Tony Bradley. The ceiling may not have been reached for the Heels, but they are getting close to it. They are still one game back in the ACC Standings behind Notre Dame. They play Boston College on Saturday.