Syracuse had so many chances to snag a big-time win over the preseason top-ranked team in the country. After being down double-digits in the second half, SU scratched and clawed its way back into the game. Every single UNC run was answered by an Orange pushback. But the ‘Cuse would again falter in crunch time.
Joe Girard hit a massive three with 1:50 left, and the Orange were up two. But on the other end, Jesse Edwards committed his fifth foul as UNC forward Pete Nance cut for a layup. The fifth-year senior went to the line for two, made the first, missed the second, but then Girard dove underneath the basketball and saved the ball. It fell in Nance’s breadbasket, and he didn’t miss the point-blank layup.
So down one, with 17 seconds on the clock, the game came down to one drive. Judah Mintz streaked like a lightning bolt to the cup, but clattered into Tar Heel guard RJ Davis while attempting to rip through the defender. The referees called an offensive foul, and upgraded it to a flagrant one, effectively wrapping up the game.
Let’s get to the grades on the SU side.
Chris Bell: A
Bell was big when it felt like Syracuse had no other options. The freshman had 15 points on 6-of-9 from the field and made three of his five three-pointers. The most impressive thing was the degree of difficulty on some of his shots. No matter if there was a hand in his face, an expiring shot clock, or anything else, Bell was locked in.
He also had four rebounds! That’s an ACC best for Bell, who was fearless, jumping with UNC center Armando Bacot every chance he got. It seems like the big crowds, the primetime atmosphere and everything that built up this game made Bell better. Everyone’s just wondering if this performance can translate to the weekend.
Judah Mintz: A-
Everyone’s going to remember how the game ended, and rightly so. For some of the freshman, mainly Bell and Taylor, big games have led to highs and lows. The tweet above sums up Judah’s performance not only in the UNC contest, but seemingly every single hyped matchup since Illinois. He goes to the cup with his eyes on the rim, and everyone in the 315 loves that after watching a team last year that exclusively relied on the three. Even Jim Boeheim said postgame that he doesn’t want to limit Mintz’s aggressiveness. After going 3-10 from the field for seven points in the first 20 minutes, Judah continued to attack, going past Carolina’s guards and scoring 10 second-half points.
But after two late game situations in 10 days where Mintz has effectively ended the contest by playing hero ball, it’s time to wonder whether the ball should be in his hands with the shot clock off.
Joe Girard: B
Vintage Joe Girard tonight. In every way, shape and form. The highs of big threes, the lows of not scoring for nine minutes straight and the mind-numbing save underneath the UNC basket to give the ball to Nance and put the Heels in front. JG3 was cooking in the first half (12 pts, 5-6 FG), curling around screens at the top of the key, shaking 2021 ACC DPOY Leaky Black and his replacement D’Marco Dunn and getting what he wanted. Hubert Davis, a great coach, adjusted, helping off screens in the second half, knowing that Girard didn’t want to drive to the paint against Bacot (and that Jesse Edwards was a zero in the post…we’ll get to that). The double teams shut Joe down, and he deferred to Mintz and Bell.
The six turnovers to five assists aren’t great. Some weren’t his fault. But the play underneath the basket isn’t something anyone will forget anytime soon.
Maliq Brown: B
Brown did his thing for the last 12 minutes of the game. He finished his 20 minutes tied for the team lead in rebounds. But before that, he struggled to get in a rhythm. Most teams in the ACC play with three guards, a combo guard/forward and a center. UNC threw two 6-foot-10 guys out there and rocked out. Brown couldn’t get his usual lay-ins from the dunker spot, but at the end of the day, he defended well, and crashed the glass. He understands his assignment.
Jesse Edwards: C-
Instant thought from after this game. Nobody expected Jesse to dominate Bacot (nobody can), but the prevailing thought among fans was that these bigs battling down low should be a 12-round prize fight. Instead, Bacot got the knockout in the ninth after toying with Edwards for most of the game. UNC’s center finished with 18 points and 8 boards, and just out-muscled the Dutchman time and time again (apparently they’re both listed at 230 pounds…). On the other end, Jesse’s post moves were non-existent. With his back to the basket, Edwards was timid, taking his time before falling away from the basket and chucking prayers.
C’mon, man. You’re a senior.
Benny WIlliams: C-
We thought the energy was there today from Benny.
But again, things fell into disarray as the game when on. Williams missed a couple threes, made a couple of layups, but only snagged two rebounds, and the same old story played itself out. He ended up on the bench, and Maliq Brown finished the game. Our Carter Bainbridge does a better job of summarizing Benny’s issues than we can here, because this was not the story of the game last night.
Mounir Hima: C-
Watching Hima play basketball is a rollercoaster. One minute he’s blocking a shot after covering the floor in three strides, and the next he’s taking the ball off the face. Tonight he looked inexperienced and raw, and that’s probably supposed to happen against two three-year starters down low.
Symir Torrence: C
To be honest, it’s not that hard to forget Symir is on the team. He plays well, and doesn’t make mistakes, (13 minutes, 2 points, 2 points, 3 assists) but he never does anything to seemingly move the needle.
Justin Taylor: C
Bryant game is looking more and more like a one-off.
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