Pete Nance shoots against Syracuse (Picture: Jim Hawkins/Inside Carolina)
SYRACUSE, NY — Through the ups and downs of lead building and lead evaporation, North Carolina did just enough to weather a challenging environment and make Tuesday night a success. The Tar Heels defeated Syracuse 72-68 in the lively JMA Wireless Dome, with Pete Nance and RJ Davis charging in in the dying seconds to deliver this eventful win and escape for UNC.
Nance went to the foul line 21.4 seconds ahead with the Tar Heels two behind. He made the first shot and missed the second, but suddenly had the ball under the basket and scored the go-ahead lay-in after Joseph Girard III made a dive save down the baseline that went straight to Nance. UNC led 69-68 by 17.7 seconds.
Davis then came up with a crucial defensive play that injured him. Syracuse guard Judah Mintz rushed at Davis full force with 10.7 seconds left, a flagrant 1-foul that left Davis on the court in pain.
Nance’s 21 points, Armando Bacot’s 18 points and Caleb Love’s 15 points led the Tar Heels (15-6 overall, 7-3 ACC) as they picked up their second win on the road this season. UNC have four straight and won 10 of their last 12 games.
Girard’s 18 points and Mintz’s 17 points surpassed Syracuse (13-8, 6-4). UNC led by as much as nine in the first half and ten in the second, eventually weathering bad issues that crept up on Bacot, a shaken Davis who spent several stretches in the second half going off the pitch, and the hooliganism of this building.
Caleb Love cheers up in the first half
The struggles of love didn’t follow him here to snowy New York state. He lost a pair of 3-pointers in the first 4½ minutes of the game and might have been on his way to a bigger first half had it not been for two offensive fouls that sent him to the UNC bench for a while.
His early charge from deep helped the Tar Heels open a 13-4 lead out of goal to start the night. He knew the second start was good and confidently stepped into reverse before the shot whizzed through the net.
Love scored nine points in 3-on-3 shooting from 3-point range in the first half. He made all three on catch-and-shoots set up by passes rather than pulling off dribbling. Nance found him wide open for a clean look from the front, and Love buried that shot for a 20-13 lead from Tar Heels.
Got another and another
After just five total assists in the win against NC State three days earlier, UNC had already dished out six assists in the first 5:17 of the game Tuesday night here.
And the dishes piled up more and more. The Tar Heels registered an assist in each of their first 10 buckets against Syracuse. By halftime they had 14 assists spread across their 16 field goals after Leaky Black fed the running Bacot in the transition to a big dunk that UNC in the last minute led 38-32 in the first half. In the second half, generating attacks was more difficult, but the Tar Heels still finished the game with 20 assists on their 26 field goals scored.
Next on the agenda
North Carolina is taking a break in the ACC schedule after Tuesday night’s win and won’t play again until next week on Feb. 1, with Pittsburgh’s visit to Chapel Hill, NC UNC will have seven days off between games in Syracuse and Pitt.
For the Tar Heels, there will be a turnaround next week from Wednesday through Saturday from the Pitt game at the Smith Center to their first clash of the season with rival Duke on February 4 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.