Theo Pinson scored a career-high 23 points and grabbed a key rebound late in the game as No. 10 North Carolina continued its late-season surge with a narrow 78-74 victory over Syracuse on Wednesday night.
The game drew 27,165 fans to the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y. — the largest on-campus crowd of the college basketball season.
Trailing 74-66, the Orange went on an 8-0 run to tie the score with 3:07 remaining, as Tyus Battle scored the final six points of that spurt. North Carolina regained the lead on Joel Berry II’s steal and layup, and after the teams traded missed shots, Pinson grabbed the rebound on Frank Howard’s missed 3-pointer, leading to Berry’s two free throws that sealed the win.
The Tar Heels (22-7, 11-5 ACC) have won six consecutive games, the best current streak in the Atlantic Coast Conference. North Carolina, which has also won six consecutive games against Syracuse, closes its regular season at home against Miami on Tuesday and on the road at No. 5 Duke on March 3.
Pinson shot 9-for-12 overall and 2-for-2 from beyond the arc. He also notched seven assists and six rebounds. Berry scored 18 points, and reserve Sterling Manley added 12 as the Tar Heels’ bench held a 17-2 scoring edge over the Orange’s reserves.
Syracuse (18-10, 7-8) remains on the edge of the NCAA Tournament bubble, as the Orange are still looking for their first win against a nationally ranked team. With games at Duke on Saturday and at home against No. 15 Clemson on March 3, the Orange have two more chances to record that signature victory.
Battle paced the Orange with 26 points, although he shot only 9-for-23 (0-for-5 from 3-point range). Howard scored 23 points and Oshae Brissett recorded his 11th double-double with 17 points and 10 boards.
Howard’s 3-pointer as the shot clock expired highlighted a 12-6 run that pulled Syracuse within three early in the second half. However, Berry’s floater sparked a 14-5 surge that stretched the Tar Heels’ lead back to 63-51 midway through the second half. The Orange fought back with a 13-5 run.
Kenny Williams and Andrew Platek each sank a 3-pointer and Manley completed a three-point play in a 15-4 run that gave the Tar Heels their largest lead of the first half, 19-7. Battle scored six points in an 11-2 Syracuse spurt that pulled the Orange within 21-18.
North Carolina responded with a 13-5 run. Brissett drilled a 3-pointer from the corner with one second remaining in the first half to cut the Orange’s deficit at the break to 41-32.