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Heel Tough Blog: Syracuse Recap

Updated: Jan 13


Bob Donnan - USA TODAY Sports

After three straight road games to open up 2024, the Tar Heels returned home, and put together arguably their best performance of the season, routing Syracuse 103-67, to improve to 13-3 on the season, and 5-0 in the ACC, their best conference start since 2015-16. Carolina led 13-7 at the first media timeout, which was as close as the rest of the way, as UNC went on an 11-0 run, to effectively put the game away before the under-12 timeout in the first half. By the end of the first half, Carolina built a 52-30 lead, their largest lead at the half against an ACC opponent, since they led Florida State by 28 at the half in 2022. R.J. Davis powered Carolina’s first-half attack, scoring 15 points on 3-5 shooting from behind the arc. 


Syracuse opened the second half on a 9-2 run and threatened to make it a game again, but Carolina responded with an 8-0 run of their own, and never looked back, on their way to giving the Orange, their worst margin of defeat since joining the ACC. Carolina shot 48% for the game, on 37 made field goals. Even though Davis was 4-6 from deep, UNC as a team was just 7-26, still needing improvement in their consistent perimeter shooting. While Syracuse may have scored more than 60 points today, they only shot 37% from the field, and 21% from behind the arc, as Carolina’s defense continues to overwhelm opponents in ACC play. Behind double-doubles from both Armando Bacot and Harrison Ingram, UNC pummeled the Orange on the glass, 53-30, the fifth straight game Carolina has outrebounded their opponent and the fourth time they’ve done so by double digits. 


Syracuse arrived in Chapel Hill looking to upset the Tar Heels, as they are in desperate need of big wins if they want to start building an NCAA Tournament resume, Instead, they were blown out once again on the road, as Adrian Autry’s team is having the same struggles that Hubert Davis’s team had during his first season on the sidelines at UNC. Here’s what to take away from Carolina’s most impressive win of the 2023-24 season so far.


  1. Paint Dominance: Carolina outscored Syracuse 58-32 in the paint, as the Orange had little resistance on the interior. Armando Bacot recorded his 76th double-double, scoring 16 points, on 6-8 shooting. Bacot got a position inside, and Carolina did a good job of feeding him in the post. But it wasn’t just Bacot, the guards were relentless putting pressure on the rim, and whenever there were misses, Bacot, Ingram or Jalen Washington corralled an offensive rebound, for an easy put-back. After three subpar games offensively, Carolina got back to the basics and was rewarded with their best offensive performance against a power conference opponent this season. 

  2. Defense: The streak of holding teams to under 60 points may have come to an end, but Carolina still dominated the game on that end of the floor. Judah Mintz, who entered the game averaging over 18 points per game, may have scored 21, but did so on 7-17 shooting, as he never got into a rhythm on that end of the floor. The Orange only shot 37% from the field, 21% from three, and committed 17 turnovers, which led to 23 UNC points. Carolina recorded a season-high 13 steals, as they never let the score dictate their energy and effort defensively.

  3. Rebounding: In years past Carolina has dominated Syracuse on the glass, but that wasn’t a given entering today’s game, given UNC’s shortcomings in that area of the game. Well, it was like old times, as Carolina outrebounded Syracuse 53-30, behind double-digit rebounding games from Armando Bacot (11), and Harrison Ingram (10). UNC grabbed 19 offensive rebounds, and converted them into 22 second-chance points, helping Carolina’s offense turn back the clock, and turn in a performance we saw many times against the Orange under Roy Williams. Not only did Carolina get to the offensive glass, but they limited second-chance opportunities for Syracuse, as they grabbed just 7 offensive rebounds, and scored 6 second chance points. 

  4. Bench Production: Virtually every member off the bench produced in some form or fashion, as Carolina’s bench outscored Syracuse’s 39-19. Jalen Washington (11), and Jae’Lyn Withers both scored in double figures, and Seth Trimble nearly joined them scoring 9. Washington and Withers both grabbed 6 rebounds to help UNC dominate the glass. Even though the score played a role, no starter played more than 27 minutes today, and four bench players played at least 10. It may have taken three years, but Hubert Davis has himself an ACC quality bench, that is going to pay dividends as the season moves along. 

  5. Ball Movement: Carolina assisted on 17 of their 37 made baskets, as five different Tar Heels recorded 2 assists or more. The ball movement was constant no matter if Syracuse was playing man-to-man defense, or even when they’d play 2-3 zone. 

  6. Biscuits: Carolina scored over 100 points for the third time at home this season, meaning free biscuits at Bojangles tomorrow. Carolina is now 7-0 at home, and they are averaging 91 points per game inside the Dean Dome. 


Up Next: Carolina is back at home on Wednesday night when they host Louisville. That game is set to tip at 9 PM on the ACC Network.


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