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January 11, 2014

What Went Wrong: Syracuse

After defeating three ranked teams earlier in the season, it has turned into troubling times for the University of North Carolina basketball program---the kind of troubling times that Roy Williams has never had to face before.

UNC is now on a three game losing streak, all of them coming in the ACC, and sits at 10-6 overall with a bevy of challenging games remaining on the regular season slate.

To say this team is a 'Bubble' team might be a fair statement, but if the last week is any indication, this team will be lucky to even be in the NCAA Tournament conversation come mid-March.

Saturday afternoon the Tar Heels had a tough task of taking on the 15-0, second-ranked Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome, one of the best teams in the country and a team that could certainly be looked at as a Final Four contender at the end of the year.

The Tar Heels started out strong but ended up falling 57-45. In doing so, UNC scored its fewest points in a single game since 1997, when it scored 45 points in a win at N.C. State.

The last previous time UNC scored 45 or fewer points was in 1979, when head coach Dean Smith stalled out the first half against Duke, and the Tar Heels managed to score 40 second half points in a 47-40 defeat to the Blue Devils.

Take a look at some of the things that didn't go the Tar Heels' way against the Orange.


The Tar Heels have struggled lately offensively but Saturday afternoon took the cake, as the Tar Heels scored their fewest point in a game since Roy Williams returned to North Carolina.

In the beginning, James Michael McAdoo started off the game strong, as the Tar Heels looked crisp early in the game in taking an early 8-2 lead.

But Syracuse's stifling zone defense took its effect as the minutes ticked on, as Carolina's lack of offensive firepower that they are so used to in years past was glaringly exposed once again on the national stage.

The Tar Heels severely lack outside shooting, something that they have been bitten by all year long, as they didn't hit a three until the second half (going 0-of-8 in the first half) and finishing 2-of-12 on the day from long range.

McAdoo finished with 15 points in the game, while Marcus Paige came on late to finish with 17 points in the game.

However, the rest of the Tar Heels scored a total of 13 points, shooting 6 of 24 from the floor.

And in a repeat of other struggles earlier in the year, the Tar Heels only shot 3-of-9 from the free throw line all game long.

Multiple times Saturday the Tar Heels went on droughts of four, five, and six minutes, something that can't be done against top teams such as Syracuse.

The Orange took advantage of those droughts and put on runs of their own, including a 32-14 run to close out the first half and a 40-16 run combined over the late first and early second halves to secure the win and eliminate any chance of a Carolina comeback.


Rebounding has always been a heavy point of emphasis with Williams, and his UNC teams have typically been near the top of the country in those statistics.

However, this year seems a little different, even though UNC is still in the upper half in rebounding on the season.

Several times this year the Tar Heels have lacked the basic ability to rebound the ball and box out, giving several second chances to their opponents.

This was the case again in Saturday's game, as the Orange managed 16 offensive rebounds in the game, with many of them coming in back to back possessions, giving Syracuse two, three, even four chances at the basket.

With the Tar Heels being down double digits throughout the second half, North Carolina needed stops to get back in the game.

But that didn't happen of course, as the Tar Heels were out rebounded 40-35 and allowed the Orange to hold a significant advantage on the offensive boards, something one can't do against a large and talented team like Syracuse.


This section can almost be accounted for the entire year, or at least the last month, for game in and game out, North Carolina hasn't been able to put it all together for 40 minutes.

Whether it is defense, offense, rebounds, free throws, etc., the Tar Heels have struggled to find chemistry on the court.

A perfect example is the fact that UNC played 10 players, compared to just seven for Syracuse, and only two Tar Heels were in double figures in scoring. Four Orange managed to score 10 or more points, with just two guys coming off the bench.

Despite all of UNC's perceived depth, they're just not getting the production off the bench that they need.

Saturday, the Tar Heels limited the Orange to 35 percent from the floor, four-of-19 shooting from beyond the three-point line, and only 57 points in the game.

However, the lack of hustle and production did Carolina in yet again, as it did against Texas, Wake Forest, and others.

The Tar Heels will now have a week off to try to get back on track and to look for their first win against Boston College, as the Tar Heels won't play until next Saturday.

However, the Tar Heels certainly can take this game, along with the other two ACC games, learn from them and see if they can change things around in a hurry.

If not, what could have been a promising season could completely flip on North Carolina, as they could be looking on the outside of the tournament.


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