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Thursday, Mar 08, 2018 at 1:39 am

UNC Dominates the Paint in 78-59 Win over Syracuse

By Christian De Guzman

BROOKLYN, NY – You might think that Syracuse offense would carry over the offensive momentum after a very good game against Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC Tournament.

Instead, SU fans got the same Orange offense that struggled to break 55 points multiple times this season.

Give credit to UNC’s defense. The Tar Heels (23-9) limited Syracuse (20-13) to 14 free throw attempts and 22 points in the paint. Meanwhile, North Carolina scored 36 points in the paint and attempted 28 free throws as they defeated the Orange, 78-59, in the Barclays Center.

“I though their defense was really good in the half-court,” said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. “We couldn’t get penetration against them.”

Syracuse received great performances from Marek Dolezaj and Paschal Chukwu against Wake Forest. The duo found much success on slam dunks and alley-oops. Against UNC, those two were held mostly quiet – combining for eight points. Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett, and Frank Howard had 47 of SU’s points, but most of them came at least 12 feet away from the basket.

“They did a great job flooding the paint and staying in front of us,” said Howard. “They played the ball screen very well and made it difficult for us.”

While Syracuse struggled to find chances underneath the basket, the same could not be said for the Tar Heels. 16 points from Theo Pinson and 13 points from Luke Maye helped North Carolina gain an advantage in the paint.

“They’re a very good passing team,” said Boeheim. “They’ve got guys that can finish around the basket.”

Getting Syracuse into fouled trouble helped UNC continue its domination underneath the basket. Chukwu fouled out of the game with 16:26 left in the second half. Bourama Sidibe had three fouls at the end of the first half and, mixed in with nagging knee problems, couldn’t always stand strong for the Orange underneath the hoop.

Brissett served as Syracuse’s lone bright spot. The freshman made five three-pointers, showing a much more improved offensive game compared to his performance against Wake Forest on Tuesday. He led all scorers with 20 points – marking the fifth time he has reached at least 20 points in a game this season.

“He’s shot the ball well from the three-point line the last half/three-quarters of the year,” said Boeheim. “He’s our best three-point shooter.”

Syracuse now awaits its fate on Selection Sunday. Much like the past two seasons, there is a large debate whether the Orange is worthy of a spot in the NCAA Tournament. When asked, Boeheim chose to exude confidence only in a way he can.

“Every coach thinks his team is a tournament team,” Boeheim said.