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Don’t Close The Books Yet… Syracuse Stuns No. 7 North Carolina

What a difference a month makes. Exactly one month after North Carolina beat Syracuse by 36 points, the Orange got a taste of sweet revenge tonight inside the Dome. Syracuse gutted out an 86-79 victory over a top-10 team in the country. How can you not smile after that effort?

Let’s reiterate that when UNC and SU met in Chapel Hill a month ago, it was a 36 point game. About as noncompetitive an affair as you could’ve asked for. The Tar Heels dropped 103 points against a helpless Orange defense, it did not look at all like the two teams belonged on the same floor. The points in the paint difference in that game was 58-32, tonight it was even. North Carolina made 22 free throws a month ago, tonight just nine. This was a completely new version of Syracuse tonight.

Let’s give credit where credit is due and show some love to Judah Mintz and JJ Starling. Both members of the Orange front court played the full 40 minutes and it’s not hard to see why. Mintz and Starling combined for 48 points on a combined 17-26 shooting. That is efficiency at its finest. The chemistry between the two was the best we’ve seen all year.

For as well as both Mintz and Starling played, the MVP tonight is Maliq Brown. The sophomore had 14 points and six rebounds while making all of his shots from the field (including a pair of three-pointers), but it’s the defense where you’re really impressed. UNC was actively trying to get it down low to Armando Bacot early in the game. Brown’s tough defense, especially in the 2-3 zone, made life really difficult for him. Sure, Bacot still tallied 14 points and 10 rebounds, but both Adrian Autry and Hubert Davis had great things to say about Brown’s play. A difference maker for certain.

Show some love to Quadir Copeland, Chris Bell, and Justin Taylor too. Copeland had three monster defensive plays late that helped the Orange build momentum they wouldn’t relinquish. Bell knocked down a few key trifectas. And though the stat sheet won’t show it, Taylor was extremely active defensively and rotated well in the offense. Mintz and Starling may have been the offensive stars, Brown the defensive, but this victory was a total team effort.

While you can certainly soak in tonight’s victory (in some cases doing so by storming the court), but let’s not forget what the road ahead entails. Six games left, four on the road. Syracuse sits at 16-9 overall, 7-7 in ACC play. The Big Dance is still a long ways away, you probably can’t afford to lose a single game to make that even a remote possibility (you’ll also need a win in the ACC Tourney as well). Georgia Tech on the road is no cupcake. The Yellow Jackets knocked off both Duke and North Carolina at the McCamish Pavilion. NC State on the road will be tough as well. Notre Dame and Virginia Tech will be looking to spoil Jim Boeheim day and the final home game of the regular season respectively. Finally, Louisville took SU to the wire and Clemson already beat it, now the Orange have to play in their buildings. Not an easy path, but one that looks a lot less intimidating after tonight.

Who knows what the future holds, but enjoy tonight Orange fans. Not many saw that coming. With all the drama within the program over the last few weeks, all the heartbreaking losses of late (especially the blowouts), how can you not be feeling good tonight? Enjoy it as much as you can, Fizz Nation.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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