UNC gets hot from long range, beats Syracuse

UNC forward Garrison Brooks is the preseason pick as ACC Player of the Year (Adrian Kraus / AP Photo)

SYRACUSE — Cole Anthony says it’s simple to excel from long range — “just choose the right spots.”

Anthony and his North Carolina teammates did just that on Saturday, hitting 11 of 26 tries from behind the arc in a 92-79 victory over Syracuse.

Not bad for the worst long-range shooting team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which entered the game hitting 28.8% from 3.

“We have dudes that can shoot,” said Anthony, a freshman guard who scored 25 points, hit a season-high seven 3s, and led the second-half barrage that sank the Orange. “Tonight we all chose the right spots. My teammates were hitting shots, so because of that I was able to get open and hit my shots, too. All the credit goes to them.”

Garrison Brooks added 26 points and a career-high 14 rebounds and reserve Christian Keeling continued his recent strong play with 18 points for UNC, which hit 9 of 14 from the arc in the second half after going 2 of 12 in the first. And the trio of Anthony, Brandon Robinson and Keeling did all the damage.

“Everything looks a lot better when the ball goes in the basket, and I think that was the key to the game, to say the least,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “We made shots and everything looked a lot better.”

The victory for the Tar Heels (12-17, 5-13 Atlantic Coast Conference) snapped a modest two-game winning streak by the Orange (16-13, 9-9) and put a serious damper on their postseason chances.

“We just need to regroup, get ready, and go out and play well in our last two games,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.

The Tar Heels, who ended a seven-game losing streak on Tuesday night with an 85-79 victory over NC State after an awful start, broke open a tight game by hitting six 3s in the first six minutes of the second half.

Anthony hit three of them, Robinson had two and Keeling’s at 14:00 boosted the lead to 64-48. North Carolina also outscored the Orange 22-10 on second-chance points.

Bourama Sidibe had 17 points and 15 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season, and Buddy Boeheim had 22 points to lead Syracuse. Elijah Hughes, the ACC’s leading scorer, finished with 19 points on 5-of-16 shooting and freshman point guard Joe Girard had nine points on 3-of-12 shooting for the Orange.

“We battled as hard as we can,” coach Boeheim said. “I just thought they played the way they’re capable of. They’ve had a lot of injuries, but they have everybody back now, healthy.”

Ten Tar Heels have combined to miss 88 games this season with injuries, the most in Williams’ tenure as head coach.

In his previous five games, Buddy Boeheim had shot 6 of 28 from deep and had been held scoreless twice in 47 minutes of play in two of the previous four games. Boeheim, who was dealing with an ankle sprain suffered in a win at Pitt on Wednesday night, was 9 of 17 from the field, 2 of 7 on 3s.

It was the men’s final game of the season in the Carrier Dome, which will close for renovations after Sunday’s women’s basketball game.

Big Runs

North Carolina scored 16 straight points after Sidibe’s slam tied the game at 17-all midway through the first half. Brooks started the spurt by converting a lob, Keeling and Anthony each scored six, and Keeling’s jumper gave the Tar Heels a 33-17 lead with 5:17 left.

Held scoreless for just over six minutes, Syracuse responded with an 11-0 run. Buddy Boeheim scored seven points, and a pair of free throws by Hughes narrowed the deficit to 33-28 with 2:37 left as the Tar Heels went to the break with a 40-35 lead.

Wallace Honored

The No. 44 jersey of former Syracuse star John Wallace was retired during a halftime ceremony. He joins 14 other players to be so honored. Wallace, who led the Orange in scoring (22.2) and rebounding (8.4) as a senior in 1995-96, led the team to the national championship game against Kentucky, but the Wildcats prevailed 76-67. He finished his career with 2,119 points, third all-time at the school.

“Today’s not just about me,” Wallace said. “It’s about the people who helped me get here.”

Special Guests

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, teammate Julian Edelman and comedian Jimmy Fallon were seated courtside next to the Syracuse bench.

Afterward, Brady gave the Orange a pep talk in the locker room before departing.

“He said just keep playing no matter what, try to be the best we can be,” Buddy Boeheim said.

Big Picture

North Carolina: The Tar Heels aren’t going to the NCAA Tournament if they don’t win the conference tournament. In his 17 seasons as head coach, Roy Williams’ longest losing streak before this year’s seven-game skid was four games in 2009-10.

Syracuse: The Orange entered the game tied for fifth in the ACC with Notre Dame and have two regular-season games left, both on the road, but the loss to the Tar Heels was critical to any postseason chances. The Orange had been pointed in the right direction after a five-game winning streak, but they followed that January surge with six losses in seven games, three by five points or fewer and the lone win by two points before winning the previous two.

Up Next

North Carolina: The Tar Heels host Wake Forest on Tuesday night and finish the regular season next Saturday at No. 7 Duke.

Syracuse: The Orange close the regular season with road games against Boston College on Tuesday night and Miami next Saturday.