The No. 9 North Carolina Tar Heels rode yet another dominating performance on the boards to defeat Syracuse 85-68 at the Dean Smith Center Monday and secure career victory No. 800 for head coach Roy Williams.
The Tar Heels (17-3, 5-1) outrebounded the Orange 44-24, with 18 of the 44 coming on the offensive end, leading to 20 second chance points.
Syracuse (11-8, 3-3) struggled all night against the Carolina bigs, giving up 46 points in the paint to an experienced Tar Heel frontcourt.
Kennedy Meeks and Justin Jackson each recorded a double-double, while Isaiah Hicks led UNC in scoring with 20 points and added eight rebounds.
“Last year, I think we averaged 44 points in the paint against those guys, so we wanted to keep pounding the ball inside,” Meeks said.
“I wanted to get Justin [Jackson] inside a little more just because he could shoot the floater and those kind of things. Other than that, our main goal was to dominate the offensive glass. To give our team more of an opportunity.”
The patented Syracuse 2-3 zone was no problem for the Tar Heels early on, as they attacked it perfectly to go on a 12-0 run in the game’s first few minutes.
The Orange cut what was as much as a 10-point lead down to two halfway through the first half, before ultimately Carolina’s rebounding took over, giving the Heels a 42-30 halftime lead.
“I thought that we got off to a bad start and made a good solid recovery, got in position in the first half,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said.
“I thought we played well, we did a lot of things well, mostly everything well except defensive rebounding. They were going to get rebounds, they’re strong physical guys. But, +16 for them in the first, that’s the difference between a ten-point game and a four or five-point game.”
Even with Carolina shooting 51 percent from the field, Syracuse was able to keep within striking distance for the majority of the game by shooting 10-for-24 from 3-point range.
Forward Tyler Lydon, who made numerous big shots to keep the Orange close, shot 11-for-14 from the field and 3-for-5 from beyond the arc to lead all scorers with 26 points.
Guard Andrew White III added 15 points for the Cuse, going 5-for-9 from deep.
Led by Lydon, Syracuse went on a 12-0 run of its own early in the second half, cutting the North Carolina lead to just three.
But once again, the Heels crashed the offensive glass and quickly extended their lead until it was out of reach.
“It was a great win for us,” Williams said.
“You take out three or four little 3 or 4 minute sections, we played really well. We didn’t get to the shooters one stretch there in the second half. They were 11-of-14 to start the second half and after that we played a little better defensively.”