On Saturday, the Syracuse Orange defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels 57-45. The Orange were much more dominant than that score would indicate as the Tar Heels scored a couple of garbage time baskets in the final two minutes.
The Orange took control of this one thanks to their signature zone defense. North Carolina consistently had good, long possessions, but they could not penetrate against Syracuse’s defense. Even when they were able to penetrate, Rakeem Christmas didn’t allow much in the middle as he had four blocks.
On the offensive end, C.J. Fair led the way for the Orange with 20 points, but perhaps the biggest story on that end was Syracuse’s rebounding. Syracuse had 16 offensive rebounds and capitalized on them with 12 second-chance points.
This was a much-hyped coaching battle as North Carolina’s Roy Williams was matched up with Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, two of the greatest coaches in basketball history. This was also the first time that these two teams met as ACC opponents as this is Syracuse’s first year in the conference.
This was a big game for the Orange. They didn’t just need to win; they needed to dominate. The in-conference schedule is very important in college basketball, and they struggled in their first two conference games despite coming away with wins. Boeheim and Syracuse should feel good about this game as it officially put the “ACC favorite” crown on their head. However, as good as it should feel, it’s only the third conference game. In the next week, the Orange take on the Boston College Eagles and the Pittsburgh Panthers, two teams the Orange can’t look past as the Duke Blue Devils loom in the distance.
After their first two attempts in the ACC, the Orange should feel good about this game. But they have a long road ahead of them if they want to win the ACC, and eventually, a National Championship.