September 21, 2020
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first_img Published on March 11, 2020 at 11:36 pm Contact Nick: nialvare@syr.edu | @nick_a_alvarez UPDATED: March 13, 2020 at 10:35 a.m.GREENSBORO, N.C. — As the world reacted to the most recent wave of coronavirus-related restrictions, Syracuse players warmed up in the underbelly of Greensboro Coliseum. Hours before game time, the NCAA issued an “essential-person” admittance edict for March Madness. Forty minutes before tip-off, fans huddled on phones in the concourse and in their seats, reading the latest news: The Atlantic Coast Conference won’t allow fans in the building starting Thursday morning. And minutes into SU’s game against North Carolina, the NBA announced that it was suspending its season.Through it all, in almost an afterthought amid all the uncertainty both in the sports and the world at-large, Syracuse managed one of its most impressive performances of the year. No. 6-seeded SU (18-14, 10-10 ACC) routed a red-hot 14-seed North Carolina (14-19, 6-14), 81-53, in the second round of the ACC tournament. Schematic switches from their first meeting on Feb. 29 — a 13-point Tar Heels victory — provided the blueprint. The defense constricted UNC star Cole Anthony (five points, six turnovers), and the Orange offense scored at will.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSyracuse never trailed, riding bench production and another highlight-filled performance by Elijah Hughes (27 points and seven rebounds). In what may be one of the last major basketball games played in the United States for a set time —certainly the last ACC tournament game played in front of a crowd — Syracuse did everything it could, and then some, to keep the NCAA Tournament in its sight. “It was a great win after what just happened very long ago in Syracuse,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. “We’ve been resilient. We bounced back.”From the start, SU’s energy was palpable. Marek Dolezaj took the opening tip into the lane and spun inside for two. Hughes sunk a 3 off a Buddy Boeheim pass from the post. And when Hughes drew a charge, Boeheim rose to his feet for the first time, arms extended. By the first media timeout, Syracuse led by nine, and Hughes already had totaled 11. UNC switched Andrew Platek and Anthony onto Hughes to mixed results. His point total receded, though the added pressure opened lanes for others.With an early lead, Boeheim emptied his bench sooner than usual. The lack of drop-off in production preserved SU’s advantage. Brycen Goodine picked off a pass to the high post and converted a layup. Howard Washington handled a full-court press with ease. And Quincy Guerrier was the most impactful, hauling in nine boards and scoring seven points in 19 minutes. Quincy Guerrier provided a spark off the bench for Syracuse, scoring nine points and grabbing seven boards against UNC.  Jordan Phelps | Staff PhotographerThe Tar Heels, meanwhile, stumbled offensively as Syracuse denied Anthony the ball. SU left UNC forwards on an island on the high post, and their decision-making wavered. North Carolina entered winning four of its last five but shot 33.3%. Head coach Roy Williams called the 2019-20 Tar Heels “the least gifted team I’ve ever coached in the time that I’ve been back here,” on Jan. 7. That team showed up on Wednesday night. Anthony scored his first bucket spinning around one white jersey and finishing over another. But he paired quick passes with mid-range airballs. He even committed a technical foul after clipping Bourama Sidibe with a high elbow. The ensuing free throws pushed the margin to 11 in the midst of a 15-0 SU run to end the half. “(The technical foul) was a big momentum switch,” Buddy said, “and then we took the game over.” Yet, the outside hysteria permeated inside the arena. At halftime, as both teams cleared the floor, ACC officials jogged on with disinfectant wipes. They scrubbed down each chair, a byproduct of the conference’s added security measures, an official said. “We don’t know the depth of what this is,” Boehein said. “… I just don’t know how we keep people safe.”Syracuse players were alerted of the NBA’s decision at halftime, players said. But the unease it caused didn’t affect the score. Guards created multiple alley-oop passes in the half court. The 2-3 zone forced 18 turnovers. The Orange prevented Anthony from dribbling to his right hand, Buddy said. From scoring 25 points on seven 3s in the Carrier Dome weeks ago, Anthony produced more turnovers than points. UNC employed a scissor-cut twice, creating looks for Anthony, but he couldn’t convert. When Anthony sank his first 3 with 15:18 remaining, it was UNC’s first in nine tries. The deficit was still 18. After Hughes fed Guerrier for an alley-oop, Anthony tried to respond with his own. But the UNC guard sailed the pass into the crowd and pockets of orange cheered. On the SU bench, Washington jumped and pointed toward Syracuse’s basket. Jalen Carey rose and wrapped two hands around his throat before shaking his head.“We took it personal,” Hughes said of the rematch with UNC. Dolezaj cracked a smile heading into the first media timeout of the second half as he grabbed a Gatorade bottle. Boeheim quickly snapped and said, “Listen up,” to the forward. The margin nearing 20 a few minutes later, Boeheim opened a huddle by telling Hughes to slow down. Syracuse needs to run the gauntlet this week for the conference’s auto-bid. Step one was the Tar Heels. And behind Hughes, among others, SU completed it with ease.  Yet, the hurdles will only grow. Tomorrow night brings No. 3 seed Louisville at 9 p.m.; potentially in an empty arena, if at all.“It’s difficult,” Boeheim said. “It’s difficult to know what the right thing to do is. … This could’ve been our last game.”CORRECTION: In a previous version of this post, Syracuse’s record was misstated. The Daily Orange regrets this error. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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