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Off the cuff: When Carolina destroyed Syracuse at home back in January, 103-67, the Orange shot 37 percent. No one could have predicted that they'd shoot better than 62 percent this time.

In a game that had a mere four-point difference with two minutes left, it would have been wild if the heavily-favored Tar Heels could have pulled it off.

But that very well could have happened if the Tar Heels hadn't turned the ball over four times down the stretch (they had turned it over just seven times over the first 38 minutes of the game). One turnover came on an out-of-bounds call that had gone to the Tar Heels before it was overturned by video replay. Officials went to the monitor four times over the last two minutes.

The second review resulted in officials saying the ball went off Harrison Ingram's fingers when it was virtually impossible to tell on replay. That call shouild not have been overtuned. A basket on that possession would have made it a one-possession game with 1:24 still left.

Instead, Syracuse held on by hitting nine free throws from that point on.

Cormac Ryan, despite scoring 18 points - including 13 in the first half, became a liability in the second half as he turned the ball over four of his game-high five times. It was mostly bad passes and an inability to hang on to the ball.

Carolina didn't shoot the ball poorly. In fact they shot it better than they have recently at 47.5 percent (including 55.5 percent in the first half). But that's well below Syracuse's consistent effort - 63 percent in the first half and 62 percent in the second half.

Despite scoring 79 points, the Heels had to work hard for their points against the Syracuse zone defense. The Orange slowed the game on offense and hit shots or got fouled at the end of the shot clock several times, frustrating Carolina's comebacks.

Also thwarting the comeback was the fact that Carolina only shot 11 free throws while Syracuse shot 25 free throws - outscoring the Heels 18-9 from the line. The Heels have been averaging 25 free throws a game themselves.

It's certainly concerning that Carolina has lost three of four games and that the team fell apart at the end but the Tar Heels played well enough to beat most teams. It appears to be a case of running into a team that simply hit tough shots.

Syracuse 86, Carolina 79
Hot Orange throw Tar Heels a lemon

(Photo by UNC Sports Information)

Syracuse came out hot and stayed hot, shooting better than any team against North Carolina in nine years and the second best in 39 years, to beat the Tar Heels 86-79. (2/13)

Carolina managed to erase a nine-point second-half deficit to take a 65-64 lead with just over seven minutes to go after RJ Davis Euro-stepped through the lane for a bucket.

After a Syracuse timeout, the Orange had a tough time getting a shot off but J.J. Starling managed to throw up a 30-footer that banked in at the end of the shot clock to put the home team up 67-65. Carolina never caught up again.

"You're not going to beat any team in the nation when they shoot 62 percent from the floor," UNC coach Hubert Davis said. "Our defense didn't play well enough to win the game."

The Carolina defense wasn't exactly bad but every Syracuse player on the floor was hitting contested shots. As a result, the Tar Heels led for only four minutes of the game.

"We just weren't able to guard them one-on-one," Coach Davis said. "In the first half we forced them to shoot contested twos but they were hitting them."

Syracuse got the lead up to 10 in the first seven minutes of the game by hitting eight of their first 11 shots. They got leads up to 10 four different times in the first half before Carolina made a run.

Harrison Ingram, who was in foul trouble early, came back in late in the first half to hit back-to-back threes to put the Heels up 37-34. With less than three minutes left in the first half, Cormac Ryan drilled an open three from the left side to give the Heels their biggest lead at 40-36.

Starling, who later hit that wild 30-foot bank shot, scored twice in a row to provide Syracuse with a 42-all tie at the half.

Considering that Syracuse hit 63 percent in the first half - even better than the Orange did in the second half - the Heels were in a good spot with the score tied.

But, as it turned out, the Tar Heels lost the game in the first four minutes of the second half as Carolina failed to hit a field goal and were outscored 10-1. During the stretch, both Armando Bacot and Elliot Cadeau missed time after getting banged up on separate plays.

Syracuse, now 16-9 and 7-7 in the ACC, were led by Judah Mintz, who scored 25, and J.J. Starling, who scored 23.

The Tar Heels, who were led by Davis' 19 points and Ryan's 18 points, fall to 19-6 and 11-3 in the ACC with a game at home against Virginia Tech Saturday at 2 p.m.

Box score

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