Heel Tough Blog: Syracuse Recap
It was Senior Night last night in the Smith Center, as Carolina earned a 88-79 overtime win over Syracuse, to earn a double-bye in the ACC Tournament next week. The win improved UNC’s record to 22-8, and 14-5 in the ACC, as they keep marching their way to the NCAA Tournament. Carolina was led by Brady Manek’s 22 points, on 9-18 shooting, including knocking down 3-6 triples. Caleb Love added 21 points, on 6-19 shooting, but made big plays at the end of regulation and in overtime. Armando Bacot recorded his 23rd double-double, which ties Brice Johnson for the most in a single season in UNC history. The Heels managed to win, despite shooting only 41% from the field, as they made up for it, going 14-36 from behind the three-point line. They also pounded the offensive glass, to the tune of 16 offensive rebounds, which were converted into 18 second-chance points, as Syracuse’s zone couldn’t keep them off the backboards.
Carolina survived a career night from Cole Swider, as he scored a game-best 36 points, on 14-21 shooting, including 7-11 from deep. Swider would foul out in the overtime session, really clamping down the Orange’s offense. Syracuse shot 49% for the game, and 40% from behind the arc, but didn’t make the winning plays in overtime, and as a result, lost the game.
The win keeps Carolina on track for the NCAA Tournament, as they entered last night among the few teams still receiving a bye into the field of 68. A win on Saturday, would all but lock themselves into the tournament, but last night it was about sending seniors Leaky Black, Brady Manek, and Ryan McAdoo out with a win, and they did just that:
3 Point Barrage: UNC wasn’t afraid to let the three-ball last night, as they were 14-36 (39%) from behind the arc. R.J. Davis led the way, going 5-11, while Caleb Love was 4-12. The 2-3 zone Syracuse employs, lures you into settling for perimeter shots, luckily Carolina made enough of them to make them count. ‘
Turnovers: Just 8 turnovers for UNC last night, as they protected the basketball as well as they would like to on a nightly basis. Conversely, they had 21 assists on their 29 made baskets, as their ball movement was crisp all night long.
Armando Bacot: Another big-time performance for the junior big man, scoring 17 points, and grabbing 18 rebounds. This makes it the 23rd double-double for Bacot on the season, tying him with Brice Johnson for the most in a single season in UNC history. Another big-time performance on Saturday in Durham might be enough to earn Bacot ACC Player of the Year honors.
Closing Out Games: For a team, we didn’t trust a month ago to win away from the Smith Center, has now transformed into a team capable of closing out games in a variety of ways. Their recent wins over Virginia Tech, Louisville, and now Syracuse will pay dividends in tournament play.
Up Next: The regular season comes to a close on Saturday, as Carolina will make the trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium, looking to avenge an earlier season to Duke, and in the process spoil Coach K’s final home game.