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Late game errors doom Syracuse men’s basketball against North Carolina

Syracuse’s Joe Girard III (11, White) drives to the lane during a 72-68 loss to North Carolina on January 24, 2023.
Syracuse’s Joe Girard III (11, White) drives to the lane during a 72-68 loss to North Carolina on January 24, 2023.

The final minute and a half between Syracuse men’s basketball and North Carolina saw the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It started when Joe Girard III nailed a triple to give SU a two point lead. That margin was upheld until there were 21 seconds left to play. Then, everything went downhill. A pair of turnovers and fouls allowed the Tar Heels to score six unanswered points en route to a 72-68 victory.

“We did enough defensively,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “Our turnovers, the two charges, in a close game, you can’t have that.”

After a missed free throw kept UNC behind by one, Girard dove to save the ball from heading out of bounds. Instead, the senior passed it right to North Carolina’s Pete Nance, who converted an easy layup. At the other end of the floor, freshman Judah Mintz drove to the basket. The Maryland native collided with his defender and a charge was called. Upon further review, a flagrant foul was assessed and the Heels got two technical shots.

Subsequently, another Mintz infraction sent UNC back to the charity stripe. When both of those attempts connected, it became too late for the ‘Cuse. All of a sudden, the Orange suffered their second loss in just over a week where a lead was blown in the waning moments.

Despite the catastrophic errors at the end, it was a solid night for Syracuse’s backcourt tandem. Joe Girard led the team with 18 points and five assists. Meanwhile, Judah Mintz finished with 17 and had three steals. Fellow first-year, Chris Bell, was also productive. The forward tallied 15 points and tied a career-best with six made field goals. It was a much improved performance by the wing, who compiled a measly five points in the previous two contests combined.

One player who did disappoint was center Jesse Edwards. The senior scored just eight points to mark his second lowest total of the season. The Flying Dutchman also collected a season-worst seven rebounds in a highly anticipated matchup against North Carolina’s Armando Bacot. On the other hand, UNC’s big man notched 18 points and grabbed eight boards. Bacot’s frontcourt mate Pete Nance totaled a game-high 21 points and set a career-best with four takeaways.
A major factor in the game proved to be free throws. Even though the Tar Heels shot just 60% from the line, they had 23 tries. In comparison, the ‘Cuse had three attempts. That was its lowest number in at least a quarter century. It also didn’t help that SU committed 17 turnovers, which tied the team's most this year. It’s another frustrating loss for Jim Boeheim’s squad, which exemplified the team’s inability to finish late. Just like last week’s blown advantage to No. 17 Miami, careless play wrecked Syracuse's chances.

“We just got to be better in certain situations and we’ll learn from it,” Joe Girard III said.

The ‘Cuse dropped to 13-8 with a 6-4 record in the ACC. However, every conference defeat has come by seven points or less. Next up for Syracuse is a trip down to Blacksburg to face Virginia Tech (12-8, 2-7 ACC) at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The Orange have a chance to sweep the Hokies after they won 82-72 almost two weeks ago. WAER’s coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with McClurg Team Countdown to Tipoff.