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Malachi Richardson took over the 2nd half.
Unbelievable. Improbable. Ridiculous. Amazing. These are just some of the words that scratch the surface in one of the biggest comebacks in NCAA Tournament history. Virginia held a 15 point lead with about 9:30 to go. Syracuse then went on a 25-4 run to take the lead, and they didn't relinquish it. Syracuse ended up winning, and earning a trip to the Final 4, beating Virginia 68 to 62.

  • Malachi Richardson had 2 points in the first half. He then EXPLODED, finishing with 23 points on some monster plays in the 2nd half, including a couple step back 3s, and a couple insane drives to the basket. He also had 7 boards, and one of the most impressive steals during the run by grabbing the inbound pass and throwing it off of Virginia on the sideline to get the ball.
  • Michael Gbinije and Tyler Lydon each finished with 11 points. Lydon also had 5 blocks and 6 rebounds. Lydon now has 18 blocks in the Tournament. Lydon became legendary when his shoe came off, and then almost immediately drilled a 3. Notice the stats in the photo.
  • Tyler Roberson was a monster on the glass, pulling down 8 rebounds, 4 were offensive. He picked up 10 points on a few tip ins and dunks. A pretty good game before fouling out.
  • Trevor Cooney didn't get much going on the offensive end. He finished with 8 points. But while not many of his shots went in, he limited his 3 point attempts, only taking 1. Instead he drove to the basket, which in tern either let Roberson clean up on the glass, or at least get the defense moving. Cooney was also again very solid on defense himself. Not a great offensive game, but a pretty solid game overall from Cooney.
  • This was by far one of the best single game coaching jobs I have seen from Boeheim, or honesty from anyone. The decision on when to press, how to press, and other offensive calls were masterful and the culmination of 40 years experience. Just unbelievably perfect.
  • Even after all that, Virginia shot better in the game than Syracuse, 41.5% to 36.8%.
  • Syracuse was 20-25 from the line. Virginia only attempted 12 and made 10.
  • SU outrebounded UVA 36 to 34.
  • The key stat however, was SU forced 13 turnovers, and only had 8 themselves.
  • Here is video of the insane run SU made:
Syracuse staged an unbelievable comeback and thus earned the trip to Houston for the Final 4 to take on North Carolina. Either way, this week SU fans are riding high as no one really thought a 13 loss team who finished 1-5 in their last 6 would make this Final 4 run. But for now, Syracuse managed to beat Virginia, a team they have never managed to beat since joining the ACC. And it was spectacular.

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Syracuse - Virginia NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Preview

Syracuse students agree: Being Elite is great. A Final 4 is better.
Syracuse did what not many people thought they would do this year. They made it to the Elite 8. And they did it by advancing from the Sweet 16 by beating a pretty good Gonzaga team. Syracuse will now have to beat a very good Virginia team if they want to head to Houston for the Final 4. And honestly, it's a pretty similar matchup Syracuse had with Gonzaga. Virginia has 7 footer Mike Tobey, who went off on Syracuse in their game in Virginia with 18 points, a season high for him. It's no secret that one of SU's weaknesses is interior defense. However, Syracuse did just enough against Gonzaga's Sabonis to win the game. Syracuse can do the same in this one. If Syracuse can get some stops and blocks, forcing turnovers, and guard the Virginia shooters, Syracuse will keep the game close and have a chance to win, just like against Gonzaga. Syracuse is obviously playing much better defense these last 3 games than during their tough stretch in the ACC. If Syracuse can limit the Virginia shooters, including Anthony Gil and London Perrantes, not to mention ACC PoY Malcolm Brogdon, just like they limited Gonzaga's Wiltjer. Despite early game success, Syracuse was able to adjust to the 'Zags shooters and shut them down late in the 2nd half. But really, Syracuse had a shot against Virginia earlier in the year with close to 5 minutes having the game tied. Syracuse faded and Cooney, who was 3-13 from 3 at Virginia, shot SU out of it. Cooney has been making much better decisions as of late. If Roberson is rebounding well, and Syracuse is actually hitting shots, even if Lydon or Richardson isn't contributing with a ton of points, they should still be in this game. I never thought I'd be picking Syracuse to go to a Final 4 this season, but I think Syracuse actually has a good matchup here, especially after the Gonzaga results. I'm taking the Orange by 4 against the Cavs. This game will be broadcast nationally on TBS at approximately 6:09pm Eastern. With a trip to the Final 4 on the line, as well as a little payback for Syracuse not having beaten UVA in ACC play, this should be a fun one.

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Syracuse survived and advanced. But it was close.
It took some luck, some scoring, but more importantly some solid defense. It looked a little suspect there, but Syracuse mounted a major comeback, finishing the game on a 9-2 run, that sealed the win for Syracuse. A game that no one thought Syracuse would be in, let alone want Syracuse to win. But they did it. And Syracuse advances to the Elite 8 over Gonzaga 63 to 60.
  • The leading scorer for Syracuse was again Michael Gbinije, who finished with 20 points. He really got going in the 2nd half for Syracuse, taking over the game. He missed the go ahead basket, but thanks to a tip from Tyler Roberson, Gbinije was able to get the ball and make the go ahead layup with about 21 seconds to go.
  • Trevor Cooney had one of his best games in a long time. He finished with 15 points, going 5-9, 1-2 from the floor, and 4-4 at the free throw line. He also had 2 steals (but really should have been 3 [more on this later]), all within the last 2 minutes of the game to help take the lead and win the game for Syracuse. I've been down on Trevor for a long time, but this was a very well played game for Trevor. He drove the ball to the basket, didn't take too many bad shots, and played excellent defense.
  • Malachi Richardson didn't really ever get going in this game, but he did finish with 10 points, and made a huge 3 to shift the momentum with 3:28 to go in the game.
  • Tyler Lydon didn't have a great offensive game either, but he had 6 blocks, one of which was the true game sealing block. He then actually grabbed the ball and was fouled, making both free throws to put Syracuse up 3 with under 2 seconds to play.
  • Tyler Roberson had 9 points in the game, but more importantly he had 12 rebounds. A huge effort against maybe the best center Syracuse has faced all season.
  • Frank Howard had an impressive showing at the point guard position in this game. He had a huge 3 pointer, and made some great passes to facilitate the offense.\
  • This game should have been over with 12 seconds to go. Cooney made a steal in the corner but Doug Sirmons, the official 20 feet away on the sideline (in the Center position), and not the baseline official, blew the whistle and determined that he was out of bounds. This was the official on the baseline's call (the Lead position), and while the center official can make that call, it needs to be 100% and everyone in the building should know it, if the lead isn't going to call it. This was not the time to make that call. And because of it it almost cost Syracuse the chance to win the game. The play was not reviewable. I have a feeling Doug Sirmonds is done for this season and that the NCAA will look to make if a player steps out of bounds reviewable next season.
  • Gonzaga shot the ball better in this game than Syracuse, both overall and inside the arc. But Syracuse made the shots when it mattered the most.
  • Syracuse kept the rebounding numbers close, but despite a hell of an effort from Roberson, Gonzaga lead in rebound 37 to 33.
  • Syracuse forced 17 Gonzaga turnovers, several in the critical stretch at the end of the game. SU only had 9 themselves.
  • Gonzaga only attempted 5 free throws, making 4. Syracuse made 14-16 (87.5%).
Syracuse outlasted Gonzaga to match up against Virginia, a team that Syracuse knows well. This game should be interesting, but for now Syracuse is in the Elite 8. All you can do is win the games you have on the schedule, and Syracuse has done that. To the benefit of Orange fans everywhere.

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Gonzaga - Syracuse NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview

Syracuse students agree: Making the Elite 8 would be amazing.
After taking out Dayton (a really good 7 seed turned horrible as soon as Syracuse won), and unexpectedly facing Middle Tennessee State (the best Cinderella ever turned horrible team as soon as Syracuse won), Syracuse finds themselves in the Sweet 16. And after a lot of thought about this game and the matchup and the Xs and Os of it all, there is really only 1 factor that will decide if Syracuse advances to the Elite 8. That would be defense. A lot has been talked about from a lot of areas about the 2-3 Zone, if Gonzaga can be zoned, if they can break the zone, and so on and so on. But as they say, the game isn't played on paper. If Syracuse can defend the 3 point line, without making it so easy for Gonzaga inside, Syracuse has a shot at winning this game. I don't think Gonzaga will be shell shocked when they play Syracuse, but let's be honest, Seton Hall and Utah aren't exactly top tier teams, and we know the WCC isn't exactly a hotbed of hoops. All that said however, it doesn't matter where you come from in the Tournament. My only point with that is, Syracuse is a talented team, and despite having a down year, is a better team than the majority of what Gonzaga faces on a regular basis in their conference. Despite being an ideal matchup against a zone defense with Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga will not have faced a team that only practices Zone, is long, and can also block shots and force turnovers. If Syracuse can contain Kyle Wiltjer, like they did against MTSU's shooters, Syracuse should keep the game close, or take a nice lead. Since Michael Gbinije will be covered by the WCC's best defense, Malachi Richardson will again have to step up and make shots, like he did against Dayton. Cooney continuing his good shooting in the playoffs will also be necessary. Finally, making good use of fouls and staying out of foul trouble will be necessary for Syracuse. Look for the back line of the zone to stay extra active and watch for passes from Sabonis from the foul line area to cutting players. If Syracuse can create turnovers, this will be a very pleasant game for Orange fans. If Syracuse loses, well... we weren't even suppose to be here were we? But I actually think Syracuse's defense will show up, just like it did all last weekend. Syracuse is playing their best defense right now, and even if they don't play their best offense, playing better defense can make up for that. I'll take Syracuse by 6 to make the Elite 8. This game is available nationally on CBS at the conclusion of the Iowa St.-Virginia, around 9:40pm. John and I will be in the home offices. GO ORANGE!

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Michael Gbinije took over the game and dominated.
Syracuse was supposed to lose. Despite the fact that MTSU was a 15 seed, Syracuse was just supposed to roll over and let the Cinderella train keep a rolling. Well Syracuse demolished MTSU, who shot lights out against Michigan State in their previous game. Syracuse earned a trip to the Sweet 16, beating MTSU 75 to 50.

  • Michael Gbinije stepped up at the biggest time on the biggest state. He finished with 23 points on 10-14, 3-7 shooting. That means he didn't miss a 2 point FG attempt.
  • Tyler Lydon was next with 14 off the bench. He finished 4-8 from the floor, and 6-10 from the free throw line. He also had 7 rebounds.
  • Tyler Roberson again lead the rebounding for SU with 8, but he also had 12 points. A solid night.
  • It was all Syracuse in the second half. Syracuse choked MTSU with their Zone Defense, holding MTSU to 29.7% from the floor in the game. MTSU was also 8-24 from 3.
  • Syracuse shot the ball very well, finishing 55.1% from the floor and 8-20 on 3s.
  • SU outrebounded MTSU 37-35, but because SU shot the ball so well, the close stats didn't matter much in the game.
  • Both teams had 10 turnovers for the game.
Syracuse is in the Sweet 16. Quite the accomplishment considering they squeaked into the field. With a little luck, and some solid basketball, SU is still dancing. An unexpected treat. And when that happens, it's probably the sweetest feeling you can have in the month of March.

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Syracuse students agree: Winning this game would be sweet.
Syracuse did their job. They beat Dayton in a pretty impressive 2nd half showing. However, the team everyone thought Syracuse would play, Michigan State, was undone by a stellar performance by Middle Tennessee State shooting the basketball and crashing a lot of brackets. Now, with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line, Syracuse needs to take out the team that took one one of the favorites to advance a long way in this tournament. The Blue Raiders hit 11 three pointers against Michigan State. However, this actually plays into Syracuse's favor. While MTSU is the 14th best 3 point shooting team in the nation, surprisingly Syracuse is the 9th best in the country at 3 point defense. You have to think MTSU can't replicate their astounding almost 60% shooting feat they had on Friday. But it is imperative that Syracuse finds MTSU's Giddy Potts, who's made 50.3% of his 3 point attempts. And some from very deep. Harassing him will be a key to Syracuse's effectiveness on defense. Syracuse demolished Dayton on the boards on Friday. SU should have a chance to do that in this game as well, as the leading rebounder for MTSU is 6'7". Syracuse should have plenty of rebounds if they put in the effort. I think Syracuse will also be able to force some turnovers as, despite MTSU playing a bit of zone defense of their own, can't possibly replicate the effectiveness of the Syracuse Zone in their practices. Syracuse should be able to turn the ball over and get points off those turnovers. Look for Gbinije to get going for Syracuse, and also Tyler Lydon and Tyler Roberson to get some solid offensive rebounds and put backs. Syracuse had a pretty balanced scoring attack outside of the clear MVP Malachi Richardson on Friday. I think Syracuse will do the same in this game. A balanced scoring day from the folks on the floor, with Gbinije being the star as he should be able to drive and get good looks at the basket. If not, Syracuse will look to kick for open shots. If Syracuse is forcing turnovers and making most of their shots, the rebounds will carry SU the rest of the way. I like Syracuse to advance and become the 6th ACC team in the Sweet 16, which would be a record for one conference. I'll take the Orange by 11. This game will be available on TNT with the game tipping at around 6:10pm. John and I will be in the home office. For the unexpected chance of Syracuse heading to the Sweet 16, let's GO ORANGE!

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The freshman put on a show in his first NCAA Tournament game.
In a funny joke the Selection Committee likes to make now and then, Syracuse was set to play the Dayton Flyers. The last team to knock Syracuse out of the Tournament 2 years ago, Syracuse then sat out a self-imposed postseason ban. So then the committee decided, might as well give them Dayton again. Sure. We'll play your game, your rogue. Syracuse ended up on a 2nd half romp, giving SU the win over Dayton 70 to 51. They didn't deserve to be in huh?
  • Malachi Richardson, with a favorable matchup and the majority of the defense concentrating on Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney, went off for a game high 21 points. He kept Syracuse in the first half and kept going. He was 3-8 from 3, but 8-9 from the free throw line.
  • Tyler Lydon was next on the scoring list with 14 points off the bench. He was 4-7, 1-4 from the floor, and 5-6 from the free throw line. He also had a solid 7 rebounds.
  • Trevor Cooney finished with a surprising 13 points on 4-10, 2-5 shooting. He played just well enough to be effective in the game, and take the attention of the defense to allow Richardson to score.
  • Tyler Roberson scored 10 points, going 4-8 from the floor, and 2-2 on free throws. But he had the 2nd best rebounding performance ever for Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament with 18 rebound. Just an unbelievable individual performance and one of the most important times.
  • Syracuse had 48 rebounds to Dayton's 28. Syracuse was able to contain Dayton's big men and absolutely crush them on the boards.
  • Syracuse was able to stay in the first half, and pull away due in part to Dayton missing 15 layups or dunks in the game. One of the biggest fails in terms of bunnies I've ever seen.
  • Both teams were pretty close from behind the arc. Syracuse was slightly better shooting 8-22 from distance, to Dayton's 6-22.
  • Syracuse also benefited from going 20-23 (87%) from the free throw line. Dayton only made 9-19 (47.4%).
  • Syracuse had 15 turnovers to Dayton's 9. That is part of the reason the game was so close in the first half. Syracuse tightened up in the 2nd half and pulled away.
  • Here's the chart for the scoring in the game. As you can see, the 2nd half was all Orange and Syracuse was really never in danger of losing in the final 20 minutes.
  • Syracuse held Dayton to 32.1% shooting.
Syracuse now advances to play Middle Tennessee State, who had the big upset of 2 Seed Michigan State. Syracuse need to take care of business in much the say way and they'll head to the Sweet 16. Who would have thought?

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Syracuse - Dayton NCAA Tournament Round 1 Preview

 Syracuse students agree: Revenge on Dayton would be sweet.
Two years ago, Syracuse entered the NCAA Tournament ready to play a plucky little school named Dayton. Dayton emerged the victor by 2 points. That was the last game Syracuse played in the NCAA Tournament. It's a new year now however, and Syracuse is looking to advance to play on Sunday. Syracuse will need to do a few things better than they have in their final five games. Syracuse needs to rebound the ball well. Syracuse is 14-2 when they outrebound their opponent. Syracuse has had a tough go in the rebounding department lately, however Dayton is a little undersized compared to Syracuse. I look for Roberson to get back to his rebounding ways, and Tyler Lydon to also find success on the boards. Syracuse will also need to attack the basket. Dayton plays a very aggressive man to man defense. That means that if Syracuse attacks the rim, they should be rewarded with trips to the free throw line and get Dayton in some foul trouble. Finally, Syracuse needs to score and score and score. Dayton is 9-0 when holding opponents to under 60 points. Syracuse will need Michael Gbinije to continue to be the star that he is, Lydon will have to get some points off the bench, and then any combination of Trevor Cooney, Malachi Richardson, and Roberson will need to score. Early on, I'm sure Dayton will either double Gbinije or play him very tight. Which means Syracuse will need to look for the open man, especially if they are near the basket. The X Factors will be if Franklin Howard can help facilitate some offense, or Roberson can put some points on the board with offensive rebounds and easy buckets. This game is probably pretty close to a pick 'em in the brackets. But I'm going to stick with my gut and pick Syracuse by 5. This game is available nationwide on the flagship network of the NCAA Tournament, CBS. Coverage starts at 12:00pm, with tip time approximately 12:15 eastern. Both John and I will be in the home offices, and we'll be chatting at our usual locations. See you out there and Go Orange!

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One senior played well. The other... not so much.
Syracuse had it the closest they could and even had a chance to win it. Of course it didn't work out. Syracuse lost in a grinder to Pittsburgh, that saw major lead changes both ways, and a huge comeback that fell short. SU lost to Pittsburgh 72 to 71.
  • Michael Gbinije lead the way with 24 points. He was 4-6 from distance. He also had 5 rebounds and 3 steals.
  • Malachi Richardson chucked it up a lot, but he finished second with 13 points on 4-12, 2-4 shooting. He made a few big freshman mistakes out there.
  • Speaking of freshman mistakes, Franklin Howard came in off the bench to play 18 minutes. He had five assists, but two turnovers, one of which practically sealed the game for Pittsburgh. Not quite, but close.
  • Cooney was 3-8, 3-6 on the day, finishing with 9 points. He leads the league in missed tying or go ahead at the buzzer shots.
  • Roberson was a non-factor with 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 fouls and 4 points.
  • Syracuse shockingly lead in rebounding 31 to 30.
Despite their best efforts, Syracuse went home. Cooney again failed on the final possession. Syracuse was in major bubble jeoperdy. We know that it didn't matter in the end, save for seeding purposes. But still, Syracuse doesn't have much momentum heading into a tough contest with Dayton, a virtual pick 'em.

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Orange::44 Bracket Extravaganza 2016!

 The NCAA Tournament is back. So are the Orange.
It's the annual tradition of us here at Orange::44 posting our brackets for the worlds to see and rip apart. Both John and I subscribe to the "Sheet of Integrity" method of bracket pooling. That is, we make 1 sheet and that's it. None of this 4 or 5 sheets with changes for each one. If you think you're that good, you should make one sheet and that's that. And that's what we do here. So click the picture above for my bracket. John's bracket is right below. And for fun, John flipped a coin on each game and that one is below. So if you really want to know who's going to win, you should probably check that last one. Enjoy and happy basketball!


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Syracuse - Pittsburgh ACC Tournament 2nd Round Preview

Syracuse students agree: Tournaments are always must win situations.
Syracuse already had one "win and you're in" situation in their last game. Now it's definitely win or you're OUT. Syracuse must find a way to beat Pittsburgh, a team that has beaten Syracuse both at home and on the road this season. Syracuse will again probably not be able to keep the rebounding numbers respectable, but they must do one thing and one thing only for 40 minutes. That is score. Syracuse had kept both games against Pitt fairly close heading into the final media timeout. But then Syracuse managed to either turn the ball over, or just plain not make shots. Syracuse needs to finish that final four minutes this game, or they may be sitting at home next weekend. And that would be tragic for Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney. Tyler Lydon should have another good game against Pittsburgh, but only 19 combined points from Cooney, Gbinije, Richardson, and Roberson in the last outing isn't going to get it done. Syracuse must make their 3 pointers. And 2-10 efforts, or even 3-7, probably won't be enough. Syracuse needs to value possessions and execute high percentage shots. I don't think Syracuse is able to really stop Pittsburgh inside. They haven't proved they can yet at least. Therefore, possessing the ball more than Pitt, and converting those possessions is important. We all know how tough it is to beat a team 3 times in a row. I think Pitt will have a tougher time than the last 2 games against Syracuse. And what will also help is that the Verizon Center will be full of SU fans. DC is a major Syracuse stronghold. Therefore, in a close one, with their backs against the line, I'm taking the Orange by 5. This game is available nationally on ESPN / WatchESPN at 12:00pm. John is life in the arena in DC so say hi if you see him, and since I work for myself, the boss let me out to watch this one. Should be interesting either way. GO ORANGE!

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In their last regular season game, one was a hero, one was a zero.
All Syracuse had to do was win and they were firmly in the NCAA Tournament. They had to beat a team they beat before. They had only lost to eventual ACC Champion by 5 on the road in their last game. So they should have taken care of business. So of course Syracuse didn't. They lost to Florida State 78 to 73.
  • Michael Gbinije was, of course, the leading scorer for Syracuse. He finished with 21 points on 8-13, 2-5 shooting before fouling out. He also had 5 assists and 4 rebounds.
  • Tyler Lydon was next with 16 points off the bench for the Orange. A really solid day for him.
  • Roberson actually got going and contributed on the offensive end with 7 points, but he only pulled down 4 rebounds. SU got crushed on the boards 43 to 26.
  • Malachi Richardson had 15 points, but he did it on 5-11, 2-8 shooting. Not good enough. He also had 4 turnovers, leading SU.
  • What has happened to Trevor Cooney? He finished with 12 points but it was on 4-16, 2-10 shooting. Woof! And he missed the game tying 3 from dead on at the top of the arc. We all knew he wasn't going to do it once Gbinije fouled out.
SU now heads into the ACC Tournament uncertain. A play in game to be sure. Also, even if they make it in without winning they will be in a play in game if they keep losing. Pittsburgh looms. Syracuse needs to get down to business or the season could end sooner than later.

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Syracuse - Florida State Preview

Syracuse students agree: It's nice to finish the season on a win.
Syracuse has one game left (before the ACC Tournamet) to solidify their bid. Winning gives SU 10 ACC wins, and a sure bid into the big dance. Lose, and you may give doubt to the committee, leaving a tournament scenario to make sure they're in. Either way, Syracuse defeated FSU a few weeks ago 85 to 72. They need to do it again. Roberson bounced back rebounding well against UNC. Syracuse was on fire in their last game. And while I don't think that will happen again to the degree they did in the Dome, they should at least be juiced and ready to play. The only question is will Syracuse limit turnovers? SU committed 20 turnovers in their last meeting, and FSU scored 28 off of those turnovers. If Syracuse limits their turnovers and play efficient offense, Syracuse should again cruise to a victory and an NCAA bid. Despite what I think will be a slow start for SU on offense, due to the week off FSU just had, I don't think FSU can shoot massively over the SU zone, nor do I think they can crack it. SU should slowly overtake FSU in the 2nd half and keep the lead to the end. SU over FSU by 11. This game is available nationally on ESPN 2 / WatchESPN at 2:00pm. We'll see you out there. Go Orange!

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The team kept it close, but not enough to win.
Syracuse gave it a good effort. And SU would have benefited immensely from the stretch run victory over UNC. But it was not to be. Syracuse faded in the last minute again. UNC over SU 75 to 70.

  • Michael Gbinije led the way with 17 points for Syracuse. He added 7 assists but also 7 turnovers.
  • Trevor Cooney added 14 points, but it wasn't on a good shooting day. He was 3-11 and 2-7 from distance.
  • Tyler Lydon added 12 points off the bench. He was 3-7 and 1-3 from the floor. He also had 6 rebounds.
  • Malachi Richardson had 10 points on 3-9 1-4 shooting.
  • Roberson, after much ado about Boeheim's comments, responded by pulling down 11 rebounds, leading SU.
  • Syracuse had 4 players in double digit scoring. Normally that probably would have been enough against most ACC teams, but not a top 5 team in the country.
  • Syracuse kept it close with UNC in terms of most stats, but they were outrbounded 40 to 34.
  • Syracuse had it close (within 3), but a missed 2 by Gbinije and a UNC rebound put the game out of reach with under 10 seconds left.
Syracuse has one more game of the regular season. Win and you're in. Lose, and it gets cloudy. SU beat Florida State earlier, but they've had a week off. It should be interesting. Either way, SU missed their chance with UNC, which isn't that surprising. The problem was this one was close down to the wire. But they just couldn't finish.

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