Changing conferences hasn’t made Syracuse any less dominant with the same brand of basketball that’s been so successful in the past. Defense from top to bottom and the help of a packer Carrier Dome, while North Carolina try to figure out what’s not working for them so far.
If you listen to head coaches talk after the game, it’s all about effort and hustle, but obviously there’s more to it. Syracuse held the Tar Heels to only 22 first half points in the 57-45 win, and scored only 10 points in the final 11 minutes or an even worse 2 points in the final 6:40 and still won this game comfortably without really being challenged past a certain point in the first half. Even though they are the number #2 team in the nation according to the polls, it shouldn’t be this easy, right?
This was a defensive-effort game. We got loose balls. We made a lot of really good hustle plays. We got on the floor. That was the difference. We defended the paint, and did not give easy points for them. We were quick on our feet. We basically controlled the game.
Their shooting was good enough early on, and that was enough. C.J. Fair finished the game scoring 20 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. Syracuse shot only 35% from the field and 21.1% from beyond the arc, but they grabbed 17 offensive rebounds (big performances from Rakeem Christmas, Jerami Grant and Tyler Ennis). The Tar Heels? They got absolutely nothing from anyone not named James Michael McAdoo or Marcus Paige, combining to score 32 of the Tar Heels’ 45 points.
North Carolina have now fallen to 0-3 in conference play, losing to Wake Forest, Miami and the Orange without scoring more than 67 points in each of these games. The Tar Heels are supposed to be an offensive team, but their offense has been looking confused and shaky since the beginning of conference play, unable to reach the heights of their wins against Michigan State, Louisville and Kentucky.
They got by and won a game shooting 35 percent. The first six or eight or 10 minutes, I thought we were aggressive. We were involved. I thought after that point they were just so much more aggressive than we were. It ends up a 12-point game, but it really was more than a 12-point game. They had so much more intensity than we did. They are a great team. They’re physical. A lot of times the ball just went their way, and that’s the sign of a great team. There were times when the ball was on the ground and the better team is going to come up with it.
Syracuse are still undefeated, going 3-0 in the ACC, which is quite welcoming to them so far. They’ve been keeping teams at no more than 52 points and their two wins over ranked teams this season: Villanova and Baylor, came with a defense that kept them both under 78 points. Syracuse are going to struggle, obviously, later on in road games especially. However, transferring to a different conference that might usually push teams into a different brand of basketball hasn’t really dented anything in their style and strength up to this point.