Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Syracuse (ACC Tournament – 2nd Round)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 81-53 loss to Syracuse on Wednesday night in the ACC Tournament 2nd Round.

Highlights:

Condensed Game:

  • Tonight was a fitting end to one of the most confounding seasons in Carolina basketball history. The Heels turned in a lackluster performance, reminiscent of the Wake Forest game earlier in the season, and consequently faced their biggest deficit (30) in a season full of them. Syracuse jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never looked back.
  • Carolina has played Syracuse 10 times since the Orange joined the ACC. The Heels’ assist totals in those 10 games are: 25, 19, 20, 25, 22, 18, 17, 24, 22, and 13 (the lone loss). In wins, Carolina has averaged 21.3 assists per game. In the lone loss, the total was 13 assists. With that in mind, the threshold of assists we were looking for tonight was around 15. Unfortunately, Carolina only managed nine.
  • After a nine game stretch in which Christian Keeling scored nine or more points in every outing, his career ends with just six points over his final three contests. In those three games he shot a combined 2-for-15, including 0-for-4 and zero points tonight. While it didn’t affect his performance in each of those three games, the ankle injury Keeling suffered yesterday certainly played a role in tonight’s scoreless effort.
  • After shooting so well during Carolina’s three-game winning streak, Cole Anthony went 9-for-34 (26.5%) in his final three collegiate games. In that same span he tallied 10 assists and 16 turnovers.
  • Carolina turned the ball over on two of their first three possessions and finished with 18 for the game. That number is exactly double their assist total (18 to nine) and just two shy of having as many turnovers as made baskets (18 to 20).
  • Carolina has often struggled from the free throw line this season, but thankfully ended on a high note, making 11 of 13 (84.6%).
  • Garrison Brooks’ streak of scoring 20 or more points ends at seven games. Brooks finished with a Carolina high 18 points tonight. The junior was in tears on the bench after checking out for the last time. You have to believe he will do everything he possibly can to ensure that next season is not a repeat of this one. Here’s an example of what we hope to see a lot of in 2020-21:

  • Armando Bacot was a couple points and rebounds shy of notching his third straight double-double (eight points, seven rebounds). He finishes his freshman campaign second all-time in Carolina history for double-doubles in a freshman season (11 to Antawn Jamison’s 13 in 1995-96).
  • Three point shooting had been a boon for Carolina over the last several games. Not so tonight. The Heels were 0-for-7 from deep in the first half and managed just two in the second half (one each from Black and Anthony) to finish 2-for-16.
  • The Heels suffered from several mental lapses. On three separate occasions in the game, Carolina fouled a three-point shooter. Twice in the first half, Carolina goaltended balls that weren’t going anywhere near falling through the hoop (Anthony and Black). You just can’t make mental mistakes like that and expect to win.
  • An early inauspicious sign for Carolina was Leaky Black and Brandon Robinson each picking up two fouls within the first four minutes of the game. Black picked up his third foul later in the first half. Unlike last night’s explosion, Robinson was never able to get on track and finished his final collegiate game scoring just four points, not hitting a three, not getting any assists, and committing four turnovers. Thankfully, Robinson has a career full of great memories, which will trump this one.
  • With 6:47 remaining in the first half, Leaky Black hit two free throws to cut the Syracuse lead down to four. From there Syracuse went on a 19-2 run (including a flagrant foul on Cole Anthony) to essentially put the game out of reach. From that 21-point halftime lead, Carolina never got closer than 16 points in the second half.
  • One of the few highlights of the night: With 7:15 remaining in the first half, Cole Anthony had a really nice spin move and lay-up to bring Carolina within six points of Syracuse. Unfortunately, the bad-decision making version of Anthony showed up on several occasions tonight as well. He hoisted several early shot clock threes as the game was getting out of hand, rather than working for the correct shot.
  • Carolina scored 22 points in the first half. Literally none of them were outside the paint (16 points in the paint, six free throws).
  • One thing I won’t miss about Cole Anthony is how often (and how demonstratively) he complains after being called for a foul. That’s just not a good way to ingratiate yourself to referees, especially when you have not yet earned the cache to do so.
  • In a shock to no one, Armando Bacot twisted his ankle late in the first half. Thankfully he was able to come back out and play the second half, but clearly wasn’t up to his usual level of play.
  • Syracuse just plain and simple out-hustled Carolina throughout the game. The Heels had nowhere near their usual crisp passing and effort displayed against Syracuse.
  • After scoring just two first half points, Leaky Black poured in 12 in the second half for a career high 14 total points.
  • Always hard to see seniors play their last game; especially those who have been a Tar Heel for four years (and contributed to a National Champion team). So first, a big thanks to Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce for coming to play their final collegiate season in Chapel Hill. It obviously didn’t turn out the way either player was hoping, but such is sports. Thanks to Robbie O’Han and Caleb Ellis for the hard work they put in to prepare the rotation regulars for games. Thanks to Shea Rush for four years of commitment and dedication to being part of this program. And finally, thanks to Brandon Robinson for a memorable Carolina career. He started out a national champion and finished with an up and down senior season, thanks in large part to the injury bug, which just would not leave the senior alone.

Roy Williams, Garrison Brooks, and Leaky Black postgame press conference:

This loss ends Carolina’s 2019-20 season since they won’t have any postseason opportunities. Stay tuned to the Tar Heel Hoops Blog throughout the offseason for updates on NBA Draft declarations, incoming freshmen, and more.

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